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Nam: The Vietnam War in the Words of the Men…

Nam: The Vietnam War in the Words of the Men and Women Who Fought There (1982)

by Mark Baker

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I don't really know what to say about this particular book. Please forgive me but I'm still in a bit of shock. These are REAL stories of the war in Vietnam told by REAL people who were there and experienced it. The things that our troops had to endure are just unbelievable. And if their physical situation wasn't bad enough, their mental and emotional states were worse. And then to have gone through all that just to come home unwanted, unloved, unvictorious and even branded as a murderer... just heart wrenching. These veterans we're (and are) shunned by the very government and country they fought for. Simply unbelievable.
As for the book itself, it is very well written and easy to get into. The author did a great job compiling these testimonies. I highly recommend this book to anyone. ( )
  TheReadingMermaid | Dec 21, 2017 |
There are still a lot of questions about the Vietnam War. Why we were there in the first place, what went wrong, could we have won? This book answers none of them. Instead, this book is a deftly edited narrative based on interviews with Vets. Nobody is named, and their stories from Vietnam are raw, gritty, profane, and horrifying. This is the phrase “War is hell” personified. However, it does provide some insight into how good people, when put into horrifying situations, can allow themselves to do horrifying things. I think we’d all be better off if we tried a little harder to stop putting our military into horrifying situations. ( )
  chrisod | Aug 15, 2010 |
At times harrowing, brutal, and deeply disturbing, Baker's oral history of Vietnam paints a bleak picture of the conflict through the accounts of unnamed participants in the action. Focusing heavily on the experiences of the front-line troops, Nam can be an overwhelming book in its presentation of the brutality and horrors of the war. Full of graphic recollections of massacre, violence, degradation, inhumanity, and suffering, the unflinching tales make it powerful statement on thewar's cruelty and pointlessness. Comprised of interviews with dozens of veterans, the book as a whole focuses inordinately on a grunt-level view of the action. The personal histories are presented without attribution or any suggestion of rank, service, or operational role. Instead of recounting each individuals tale in its own narrative arc, Baker has pulled sections from each interview and arranged them under broader headings, like "Initiation," "Operations," "War Stories," and "The World." The book isn't intended to illustrate a panoramic view of the conflict through the stories of a variety of veterans. Instead, while containing the stories of a few medical, aviation and supply officers, the book's overwhelming focus is on the infantry privates and non-coms that served on the front lines of the battles.

The author has no doubt intended the tales to serve as a contrapuntal barrage to the hollow, romanticized notions of duty, honor, and sacrifice that pervade so many accounts of this and other conflicts. And with its nebulous political justifications, shifting, contradictory strategies, and cynical moral affectations, Vietnam was arguably a darker and more terrible conflict than others in recent American history. It was, no doubt, a military enterprise which deserves the evisceration of the patriotic hogwash and sentimental propaganda that normally attends -- and serves to buttress -- such martial undertakings. Yet Baker's near obsession with the inhumanity of the action and his repeated return to ghastly and sickening episodes can sometimes undermine the power of the book. The anonymity of the narrators and the heavy editing and arrangement of their stories sometimes reduces the personal impact of their tales into a long wash of horror stories. Even when grouped under the somewhat abstract and nebulous "subject headings" provided by the author, the stories invariable revert to the tales of murder, desecration, and other shocking and repellent occurrences. Just as one grows suspicious of mendacious tales of endless bravery, honor, and inhuman courage, in a view of war free of blood and suffering, so do the endless heinous stories and graphic accounts of savagery sometimes incapacitate the reader's ability to understand the multiplicity of emotions and experiences of the combatants. Nam feels, at times, as one-sided and blinkered as the putrid political propaganda to which it intends to serves as a corrective. Still, parts of the book, especially the final section when veterans recount returning to a country which had forgotten them and offered virtually no aid in re-assimilation, are quietly devastating. Though Baker has edited the transcripts and removed much of the conversational syntax and feel, the disorientation and incomprehension felt by the narrators rings clear, and the book can never betray their bewildering sense of loss and waste.

In the end though, Nam, despite its flaws, is still a disquieting, powerful document and a crystalline account of how the war effected those who served in Vietnam. The immediacy of the veterans' experiences contained in Nam overshadows any shortcomings the book may have. As the narrators depict countless personal stories of the pain, trauma, and confusion of war, time and again they remind us of the monstrous and agonizing consequences of fighting. ( )
  j.j.bailey | Mar 23, 2009 |
This book is interviewing and having reall vietnam vets tell their story.
  ehsadventurelit | Sep 9, 2008 |
Very moving collection of essays, comments, and real stories from the people who were in the Vietnam war. This book will make you cry but it's really informative. Highly recommended. ( )
  TheScrappyCat | Sep 19, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0349102392, Paperback)

Even now something is missing from the history of Vietnam. Behind the burning sense of horror and betrayal the personal stories remain untold. No one has bothered to talk to the men and women who went to Vietnam and fought the war. What happened to boys and girls straight out of school who were plunged from the basketball park into the napalm jungle? Who were they fighting for? How did conscripts and volunteers live through the war and how can they live with the scars? Mark Baker recorded conversations with dozens of Vietnam veterans. NAM is a unique and harrowing collection of those interviews, as raw and shocking as an open wound. This is the story of the human cost of a war that had no survivors, only veterans.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:16 -0400)

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