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The Soldiers' Story: Vietnam in Their Own Words

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In The Soldiers' Story, veteran journalist Ron Steinman has gathered the candid recollections of seventy-seven men who survived combat in Vietnam. Not a military analysis or political study, this oral history vividly conveys the hardships, friendships, fears, and personal triumphs of Marine, Army, Air Force, and Navy veterans, whose memories linger to this day. It is a val In The Soldiers' Story, veteran journalist Ron Steinman has gathered the candid recollections of seventy-seven men who survived combat in Vietnam. Not a military analysis or political study, this oral history vividly conveys the hardships, friendships, fears, and personal triumphs of Marine, Army, Air Force, and Navy veterans, whose memories linger to this day. It is a valuable frontline record of battle-torn Vietnam from the perspectives of those who lived it firsthand, giving us a window into the horror, intensity, and raw courage that the war engendered.About the Author Ron Steinman, an award-winning journalist, television producer, and news producer, was NBC Bureau Chief in Saigon for two years, leading American coverage of the Tet Offensive. His awards include a Peabody, a National Press Club Award, and five Emmy nominations. He lives in Rockville Centre, New York.


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In The Soldiers' Story, veteran journalist Ron Steinman has gathered the candid recollections of seventy-seven men who survived combat in Vietnam. Not a military analysis or political study, this oral history vividly conveys the hardships, friendships, fears, and personal triumphs of Marine, Army, Air Force, and Navy veterans, whose memories linger to this day. It is a val In The Soldiers' Story, veteran journalist Ron Steinman has gathered the candid recollections of seventy-seven men who survived combat in Vietnam. Not a military analysis or political study, this oral history vividly conveys the hardships, friendships, fears, and personal triumphs of Marine, Army, Air Force, and Navy veterans, whose memories linger to this day. It is a valuable frontline record of battle-torn Vietnam from the perspectives of those who lived it firsthand, giving us a window into the horror, intensity, and raw courage that the war engendered.About the Author Ron Steinman, an award-winning journalist, television producer, and news producer, was NBC Bureau Chief in Saigon for two years, leading American coverage of the Tet Offensive. His awards include a Peabody, a National Press Club Award, and five Emmy nominations. He lives in Rockville Centre, New York.

30 review for The Soldiers' Story: Vietnam in Their Own Words

  1. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    A really interesting and compelling book, this is an Oral history of America's Vietnam War- by the men who fought it. All the memories are by people who were at the sharp end of the conflict- and the effect is a little like jumping from one nightmare to the next. The author, Steinman, an NBC journo for decades, takes essentially the out-takes from an 80s Documentary- and goes much deeper. He suffers a little from "American Journalist Breathlessness", my pet peeve, but wisely gets out of the way A really interesting and compelling book, this is an Oral history of America's Vietnam War- by the men who fought it. All the memories are by people who were at the sharp end of the conflict- and the effect is a little like jumping from one nightmare to the next. The author, Steinman, an NBC journo for decades, takes essentially the out-takes from an 80s Documentary- and goes much deeper. He suffers a little from "American Journalist Breathlessness", my pet peeve, but wisely gets out of the way and lets his subjects tell the story in their own words. Also wisely he's made "chapters' out of major Campaigns the book addresses-Ia Drang, Khe Sanh, Tet 1968, The "Secret" War in Laos and Cambodia, The Air War, and then the Fall of Saigon in 1975. With this backbone and some really engaging interviews, the effect is quite compelling. Ia Drang is a violent battle of Contact, Sky Troopers (Helo borne Infantry) vs NVA regulars and VC in tight LZs, while Khe sanh is a siege - getting shelled and mortared every day, Tet was a surprise Urban assault- with massive VC atrocities. The Secret War saw Small American/Montagnard/ARVN teams raiding NVA logistics- and calling down the Air Power from the Air War. All these chapters have really interesting interviews- and some really impressive and scary tales. The American effort may have been misguided- but these young men's service was honestly given- and many of their actions were no less heroic. When the Fall of Saigon chapter comes, you can hear the anguish, anger and frustration of those who were left to "Close Up Shop". Again- some heroism shines at a dark time. I was in rapt attention to the end. There are lots of adult concepts- and some really frank injury discussions, so this is best for a Junior Reader over 12. For the Gamer/Modeller/Military Enthusiast, there's a lot to chew. Several stories in a couple of the Chapter lend themselves to Scenario/diorama development, and the enthusiast will really get good feel for the period, as a lot of stories are told in Jargon some may need to re-read. But any regular reader, without lots of military books under their belt, will still enjoy the frank discussion of a pivotal moment in our cultural history-by the people who made it. My inherent respect for the American fighting man was renewed- just as my distrust of Military Policy was reinforced. A good addition to the Vietnam reading list....

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trayner Bane

    This was the hardest Vietnam War book for me to complete, and I read a lot of Vietnam war history books. I started reading this book three times. On the third pass, I finally made it to the end. Why? Because once the Air War chapter starts, ending with the Fall of Saigon chapter, the repetitive stories become just that – way too repetitive. And I hate to say that because each individual story is a first-hand account and I mean no disrespect to those who were there. It’s how the stories were put This was the hardest Vietnam War book for me to complete, and I read a lot of Vietnam war history books. I started reading this book three times. On the third pass, I finally made it to the end. Why? Because once the Air War chapter starts, ending with the Fall of Saigon chapter, the repetitive stories become just that – way too repetitive. And I hate to say that because each individual story is a first-hand account and I mean no disrespect to those who were there. It’s how the stories were put together that’s the problem. I will say that this repetitive nature during the fall of Saigon really pushed home the finality of US involvement in Vietnam and how it was a personally shocking, but totally expected outcome in between 1973 and 1975. The book’s strength is that the personal stories start in the Ia Drang Valley where it all began with direct involvement, and the stories end with the biggest helicopter to naval evacuation of Americans, South Vietnamese, etc. in history, where it all ended. For me, after reading all the first-hand accounts throughout the war you could feel the sentiment that what started with the best intentions (freedom) turned out to be a disaster for everybody involved. Freedom isn’t easy, people must want it, and it’s always under attack. I give the book five stars through the beginning to the Secret War chapter, but only three stars for the last two chapters: The Air War and the Fall of Saigon. These last two are just too repetitive and became overly monotonous to read within the context of the entire book. Overall though, it’s still a great book to have in a Vietnam war history collection.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This is an excellent collection of stories from those who served in Vietnam. As far as the scope of the book, The 1965 Battle of La Drang Valley, the Tet Offensive of 1968, and the Evacuation of South Vietnam in 1975 are the only major actions of the war covered. Two other chapters detail the air war and the special operations portion of the conflict. So while the book does not provide you with a comprehensive oral history of the conflict in its entirety, rest assured that the stories you read i This is an excellent collection of stories from those who served in Vietnam. As far as the scope of the book, The 1965 Battle of La Drang Valley, the Tet Offensive of 1968, and the Evacuation of South Vietnam in 1975 are the only major actions of the war covered. Two other chapters detail the air war and the special operations portion of the conflict. So while the book does not provide you with a comprehensive oral history of the conflict in its entirety, rest assured that the stories you read in each chapter capture, in essence, the horrific brutality of Vietnam.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Orlopp

    Excellent first hand accounts from those who served in Vietnam.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steve Madison

    "The Soldiers' Story" is a collection of personal interviews of American veterans of the Vietnam war for the six-hour ABC News documentary series of the same name. My interest in the war purely personal at first. I was 19 years old in 1970 when I failed my induction physical and was released from my military obligation. Not being "good enough" to serve has always stung. Through the years, I developed a sharp sense of guilt for not serving with other men in our generations' war. And so, the origin "The Soldiers' Story" is a collection of personal interviews of American veterans of the Vietnam war for the six-hour ABC News documentary series of the same name. My interest in the war purely personal at first. I was 19 years old in 1970 when I failed my induction physical and was released from my military obligation. Not being "good enough" to serve has always stung. Through the years, I developed a sharp sense of guilt for not serving with other men in our generations' war. And so, the origins of an interest that inspired a seriously research effort into the war and its political origins in 2012. A decade at war in a country as small as South Vietnam (less than a quarter the size of Texas) means necessarily that multiple battles were fought over the same ground.I have cousins, uncles, and friends who served in the early, middle and late stages of the conflict and the stories they tell are so different that it is as if they served in completely different wars and when I began my research, I believed that the duration of the conflict must contribute to the differences. Not an entirely accurate assumption. The book is organized around pivotal actions: The Battle of the la Drang Valley (that Mel Gibson dramatized in the 2002 movie "We Were Soldiers") in which 430 troopers of the 7th Air Calvary were delivered by helicopter into a force of over 2000 communist soldiers; The Siege of Khe Sanh; The Tet Offensive; The Secret War in Laos (I had no idea!); The Air War; The Fall of Saigon. The absolutely stellar quality of the young soldiers shown through every page of this book as did the unworthiness and base criminality of the civilian leadership that put them in harms way, tied their hands, and left them twisting in the wind. If you are an American and you care about your country, then and now, you really must read "The Soldiers' Story".

  6. 5 out of 5

    José

    This book was a bit of a disappointment. If it was the author's intention to present the veterans' story in their own words (literally), his approach backfired with me. A tiny bit of editing might have made these gripping stories of fear, confusion, courage under fire, and camaraderie much more tolerable to get through. To anyone that hasn't been in combat, the stories themselves open a tiny window into the total chaos that ensues as soon as the metal starts flying. Other common themes (especial This book was a bit of a disappointment. If it was the author's intention to present the veterans' story in their own words (literally), his approach backfired with me. A tiny bit of editing might have made these gripping stories of fear, confusion, courage under fire, and camaraderie much more tolerable to get through. To anyone that hasn't been in combat, the stories themselves open a tiny window into the total chaos that ensues as soon as the metal starts flying. Other common themes (especially with Vietnam vets) is the total commitment (and some insight into the reasons why) to the guy next to you, as well as the total absence of what one might describe as feelings of patriotism. The mix of grunts, flyboys, marines, MPs, officers, and enlisted made each chapter (which center around a major battle or key event) a collage of disjointed glimpses retold at varying levels of abstraction and through each specialist's professional lens. I recommend it as a firsthand account in the veteran's own words, but I'd look elsewhere for a more complete picture.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Bingham

    A book of personal narratives about the Vietnam War as told by US soldiers on the ground and in the air. The author interviewed many soldiers about their experience in Vietnam. He focused on ones who lived through 1) the Tet offensive, 2) the siege at Khe Sahn, 3) the battle of the Ia Drang Valley, 4) the air war or 5) the fall of Saigon. The war is compellingly captured by ordinary people trapped or caught up in it. The book pointedly avoids any political discussion of whether the war was a good A book of personal narratives about the Vietnam War as told by US soldiers on the ground and in the air. The author interviewed many soldiers about their experience in Vietnam. He focused on ones who lived through 1) the Tet offensive, 2) the siege at Khe Sahn, 3) the battle of the Ia Drang Valley, 4) the air war or 5) the fall of Saigon. The war is compellingly captured by ordinary people trapped or caught up in it. The book pointedly avoids any political discussion of whether the war was a good idea or not. Especially moving were the descriptions of the fall of Saigon, when the remaining US personnel tried valiantly to extricate themselves and the loyal Vietnamese who also wanted to go. All of this was going on in the midst of chaos as the city was being invaded by the North Vietnamese Army.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary Grassia

    I haven't read much about the Vietnam Nam War, not because I wasn't interested but because I knew guys who had been there. This is a book that reflects many first-hand accounts from soldiers who were in Nam. They tell of their experiences being in battle for the first time, what it felt like to feel safe in a bunker only to watch it get bombed and decimated, and it tells of some of the funny things they did to each other to pass the time. The overall theme of the book is the commraderie the sold I haven't read much about the Vietnam Nam War, not because I wasn't interested but because I knew guys who had been there. This is a book that reflects many first-hand accounts from soldiers who were in Nam. They tell of their experiences being in battle for the first time, what it felt like to feel safe in a bunker only to watch it get bombed and decimated, and it tells of some of the funny things they did to each other to pass the time. The overall theme of the book is the commraderie the soldiers felt toward each other and how there is no greater love for a man than toward his fellow soldiers who were in battle with him.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daryl

    For anyone who has ever asked "What was the war in Nam like" I can only say "Read this book!" While I spent all of '67 in Nam, my experience was at a far remove from the first-hand accounts in this collection, which offers an unvarnished, horrifying look at the hideous face of war--any war. From my perspective, it is also an indictment of those in positions of authority--military and non--who sent a generation of young, naive American boys to the slaughterhouse for no discernible reason other th For anyone who has ever asked "What was the war in Nam like" I can only say "Read this book!" While I spent all of '67 in Nam, my experience was at a far remove from the first-hand accounts in this collection, which offers an unvarnished, horrifying look at the hideous face of war--any war. From my perspective, it is also an indictment of those in positions of authority--military and non--who sent a generation of young, naive American boys to the slaughterhouse for no discernible reason other than the fact that they could.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julia Kline

    I bought and started to read this on my Nook, and I just don't think it was the right format - I want to give it another go on paper. I also don't think it's a read cover to cover story - I got pretty burnt out reading all the stories in order. I will definitely keep going back to it between other books and eventually finish. But if you're as interested in the Vietnam War as I am, you should definitely check this out. The stories are fascinating, and it's a very personal look at a war that's bee I bought and started to read this on my Nook, and I just don't think it was the right format - I want to give it another go on paper. I also don't think it's a read cover to cover story - I got pretty burnt out reading all the stories in order. I will definitely keep going back to it between other books and eventually finish. But if you're as interested in the Vietnam War as I am, you should definitely check this out. The stories are fascinating, and it's a very personal look at a war that's been fictionalized so many times in both film and book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Hoffler

    I took a class on Vietnam and have read several books regarding the era. Having that background knowledge on the war really made me appreciate this book. At times it helps you feel the emotion of these men who fought this historic war. I rated it a four because I felt that it could have been edited better in parts but over all a very enjoyable read. At times saddening and at times humorous you will learn to feel a little of what was felt by these soldiers from their stories.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Seth Jones

    The only reason I rated this as highly as I did is because the bulk of the book is composed of veterans' own words. The editing is terrible. The organization is mediocre and the pages are rife with misprints. The heroes who appear in the book deserve better. In all honesty, a middle schooler could have cut and pasted together a book just as good if they had access to the veterans and a tape recorder.

  13. 5 out of 5

    SirLordBaltimore

    Read if you want to know what it was like to be a soldier in Vietnam. It's just a retired news anchor who was out there during that time, sitting down with a microphone and asking vets to share some of their experiences. It's tastefully done and covers most of the major conflicts in connection with the chronology of events that comprised the war. I've read this several times and it never gets boring.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Can someone actually like a collection of personal reflections on war? What I came away with was the daily fear each and every soldier experienced, but I also saw the valor in that despite fear, there was not one soldier who would leave a comrade. Dead or alive. Whole or in pieces. I also liked the biographies at the end that let the reader know what became of those profiled.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I love history told through the voices of those who actually experienced it. This is the companion book to a documentary produced by ABC and The Learning Channel.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Excellent compilation of oral histories spread throughout the Vietnam War.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jim Perkins

    Great book with incredible first-person stories of soldiers who fought in Vietnam.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    The entire book is comprised of 77 different individual accounts of personal experience's during the major events of the vietnam war.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shirley

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joe Amber

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rick

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marilynn

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kendall Hampton

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karmavet

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pete Weston

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alice

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tomi

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bob

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