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The Vietnam War

An Intimate History
Length: 31 hrs and 15 mins
5 out of 5 stars (24 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the award-winning historian and filmmakers of The Civil War, Baseball, The War, The Roosevelts, and others: a vivid, uniquely powerful history of the conflict that tore America apart - the companion volume to the major multipart PBS film to be aired in September 2017.

More than 40 years after it ended, the Vietnam War continues to haunt our country. We still argue over why we were there, whether we could have won, and who was right and wrong in their response to the conflict. When the war divided the country, it created deep political fault lines that continue to divide us today. Now, continuing in the tradition of their critically acclaimed collaborations, the authors draw on dozens and dozens of interviews in America and Vietnam to give us the perspectives of people involved at all levels of the war: US and Vietnamese soldiers and their families, high-level officials in America and Vietnam, antiwar protestors, POWs, and many more. The book plunges us into the chaos and intensity of combat, even as it explains the rationale that got us into Vietnam and kept us there for so many years. Rather than taking sides, the book seeks to understand why the war happened the way it did and to clarify its complicated legacy. Beautifully written, this is a tour de force that is certain to launch a new national conversation.

©2017 Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns (P)2017 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"Lucid, flowing, and dramatic...robustly detailed writing...eye-opening...powerful in its own right.... In their new 'intimate' yet capacious history, the award-winning, audience-enthralling duo of historian and screenwriter Ward and documentarian extraordinaire Burns investigate the complex, divisive, and tragic Vietnam War from a unique plurality of perspectives." (Donna Seaman, Booklist)

"The melancholy tone of Ken Burns's voice exactly suits the mood of this history of the Vietnam War... Burns adds no false drama but always reads with a tone of respect for the front-line combatants and the earnest opponents.... Overall, the audio does the print version full justice." (AudioFile)

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STUNNING

A bilateral, seemingly unbiased and in-depth review of the Vietnamese war saga. Listen and learn!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Tragic, beautiful, and thought provoking.

This book was beautifully written and the narration is suberp. It is a moving and thought provoking work, and well worth the time commitment to devote to it.

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  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 2017-09-14

Breathtaking In Scope; Heartbreaking In Reality

I bought The Vietnam War because I respect Ken Burns and, well, I wanted to make sense of what I saw on TV and in the newspapers when I was just a little kid.
This book is mindblowing in its scope, in the detail, in the amount of research that was poured into it. It covers about every viewpoint a reader/listener could ask for: background shenanigans at the White House, a grunt's view, the war back home (from peaceful demonstrators to those who made the peace movement something Nixon's public hated/feared); Vietnamese civilians trying to live in the midst of chaos, North Vietnamese and the NLF who were willing to sacrifice everything and kill every American they could.
And much, much more.
It's all delivered in the tones of skilled documentarians who sometimes skimp on the emotion but always, always, deliver blows with dead accuracy. Sometimes devastating, sometimes heartrending, the same tones are used.
And that's the only, only flaw I could find with this audiobook.
Everything else? Well, I'm still wondering how the heartbreak I saw on TV after watching Captain Kangaroo, after hearing at my grade school about POWs, happened: It's all so very tragic, and the fact that we can find lines that trickle their way through our current actions and inactions just about rips my heart out.
Listen to this if you want great history. You won't be disappointed.

26 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Arthur
  • 2017-10-13

Adds more detail to the PBS Documentary

I listened to this audiobook and watched the Ken Burns Documentary at the same time. Both were excellent. This audiobook tracks well with the Documentary through 1970 but it adds some more detail such as an analysis of what Kennedy would do if he wasn't assassinated which wasn't in the Documentary.
While the Documentary was excellent and by far the best I have seen on the Vietnam war - I was disappointed with the Documentary's coverage after 1970 - it appears that perhaps the TV producers ran short of funding and did a relatively cursory coverage of the last 4.5 years. That being said, the audiobook continued to have excellent coverage after 1970 and contains a lot that was obviously cut out of the Documentary and that I wish was in there. For example, the audiobook contains excellent analysis of the Vietnamese diaspora which was almost entirely missing from the Documentary.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Princeps P
  • The PHX
  • 2018-06-28

Good until late chapters


I found the listen to be very detailed with information from both sides of the conflict. I was looking for a good book on the Vietnam war, neither pro or con, just the facts. However, around chapter ten author becomes very preachy and makes it known he was anti-war and the tone became very biased. First 27 hours were very informative, last few hours became a Sunday service.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Kevin Warren
  • Nashville, TN
  • 2017-10-26

The usual Vietnam info delivered in the old prose

I've listened to and read many, many books on Vietnam and if you've done the same you'll likely not get many interesting new nuggets out of this book.

I also have to mention that there is a one-sidedness to this book that at times makes me visualize Burns posing right along side Jane Fonda or waiving his own NLF flag while marching down Pennsylvania Ave. When speaking of protestors and violence in the US it was common of him to say that protestors "occupied" buildings but when the construction workers took over buildings they "invaded" them. Many times the words of events were not his own but were borrowed from others but the selection of those stories was at times curious. For example, he seemed to like to advance the theory that the reason people were so mad at Jane Fonda was not as much what she said and/or where she said it but more that she was so desirable at the time her betrayal or treason was that much more pronounced. I would say that the amount of outrage any celebrity generates tends to be in proportion to his popularity and the outrageousness of his actions or statements.

As the book goes on we see things like My Lai being referred to, appropriately, as a "Massacre" but for whatever bizarre reason the massacre at Hue was (borrowing a term, again), a "stain on the rebellion." When speaking of the killing of 100 civilians by the NVA at a prayer service in An Loc he told it with a degree of flatness that would've impressed McNamara but any time the US soldiers did something it was brutal, merciless, horrific, etc. Any US action received plenty of adjectives. I certainly have no problem with speaking of the horrors of war by both sides and on equal terms as it is important to paint it as horribly as it was. One certainly appreciates that in the context of discussing the political evolution of the war back home specific US actions of war are in fact relevant but the specifics of the words that are chosen and the language that is used is terribly asymmetric.

The author's passions start to become apparent at the end when speaking of the protestors and the peace movement and he abandons any degree of objectivity at this point, though I found it amusing he worked hard to separate himself from the Weathermen.

I wanted to listen to this audiobook before watching the PBS special but now I don't think I want to watch the PBS show. Also, I take back anything bad I said about Sheehan and Halberstam. Their works stand like beacons of examples of centered analyses by comparison.

25 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • Brian Abel Ragen
  • St. Louis, MO USA
  • 2017-10-19

An Excellent Extension of the TV Series

There is much that is hard to bear in this book, but I can’t think of anything that did not seem to need to be said or that was put in a way
that seemed unfair to me. I wish American presidents didn’t come off so badly—but it is their own words that convict them. There are, on the other hand, many moments that move one to admiration for those who did what they saw as their duty. This is a just and compassionate book. It it also very well read. I am glad no attempt was made to introduce the sounds and music that help make the film so powerful. Watch the film for that. This book will give a fuller, more detailed view.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Salon Adelle
  • Greenville, South Carolina, US
  • 2017-09-12

HANDS DOWN BEST BOOK

Wow, I'm blown away. I listened to this 30 hour book in 4 days. It is insane. The amount of lies, corruption, deceit, loss of honor that our leaders had is hard to listen to. There is so much information provided in this book. I though I knew a lot about the Vietnam war. I DID NOT! Buy this book now!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Flyboy
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • 2017-09-07

Provacitive, compelling and often disturbing

For many who believed the Vietnam war was to contain communism this will find this a disturbing story. Hidden whitehouse doubts of four Presidents, tensions at home and abroad, unstable leadership, nuclear brinkmanship, “The Vietnam War” presents a divided USA too ready to employ the military without an end game.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark W Matthews PhD
  • Fort Worth, Texas
  • 2019-03-20

Adds depth and breadth to the documentary

Following the same timeline and high points as the television documentary, the book provides breadth and depth too many of the interviews and accounts not able to be fully unwrapped on film. In particular there are essays discussing topics such as, a comparison and contrast between Ho Chi Minh and president Diem and the fate of many South Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon. In sum, if you liked or loved documentary, I highly recommend this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • dave warren
  • 2019-03-10

Best Ever !

Best book on the Vietnam war I've read and I've read 30+. Well written and narrated. Definitely recommend it.


1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amy Roberts
  • 2018-12-19

Its thorough, but perhaps a bit biased.

I learned a lot about a war I didnt know much about, Vietnam. I feel that the book is a biased in favor of the communists. However I still enjoyed it overall and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning about Americas least favorite war.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful