Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam
The history of this era is complex; the cultural impact extraordinary. But it's the personal stories of eight people—six American soldiers, one American military nurse, and one Vietnamese refugee—that create the heartbeat of Boots on the Ground. From dense jungles and terrifying firefights to chaotic helicopter rescues and harrowing escapes, each individual experience reveals a different facet of the war and moves us forward in time. Alternating with these chapters are profiles of key American leaders and events, reminding us of all that was happening at home during the war, including peace protests, presidential scandals, and veterans' struggles to acclimate to life after Vietnam.
With more than one hundred photographs, award-winning author Elizabeth Partridge's unflinching book captures the intensity, frustration, and lasting impacts of one of the most tumultuous periods of American history.
Excellent Discussion of the Vietnam Conflict
The conflict in Vietnam was horrible, contentious, and defined the 1960s in many ways. In order to give an all-inclusive look at the many facets of this era, Partridge has arranged interviews with a wide variety of people who were actively involved at the time. There are also chapters relating to people who have since passed away but were essential to what was going on; Nixon, Johnson, Walter Cronkite, and others. This offers a lot of interesting perspectives, from soldiers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds to medics, nurses, protesters, and even Country Joe McDonald.
Flipping perspective from the home front to the battle front we hear how events abroad were received and interpreted by those involved, and those who were witnessing events through television or campus activity. Arranged in chronological order, we are able to see the changes in the political administration, the opinions of citizens, and the conditions for soldiers as well as ordinary people trying to survive in Vietnam. This historical progression continues up until the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. in the early 1980s.
No one I knew voiced strong opinions because they didn't want to cause people to feel bad. The book did a great job at pointing out that California did have a lot of tension, because the population included both university protesters as well as service men and women shipping out. I was about Partridge's age when the memorial was built, and even though I read the paper every day, I don't remember much about it at all, even though it was quite the ordeal for the organizers to get it approved, designed, and built.
This is an essential purchase for middle school and high school libraries. It is readable enough for students who are interested in military events to read for pleasure, and a wealth of information for research. Along with Russell Freedman's Vietnam: A History of the War, Boots on the Ground is hugely helpful in understanding both the events and the emotional environment of the US during this time.