TEARS BEFORE THE RAIN: An Oral History of the Last Days of the Fall of Vietnam by Larry Engelmann

TEARS BEFORE THE RAIN: An Oral History of the Last Days of the Fall of Vietnam

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Here, Engelmann (History/San Jose State Univ.; Intemperance, 1979, and The Goddess and the American Girl, 1988) offers an emotionally intense recording of the voices of those who participated in the April 1975 fall of Saigon. In passage after passage, Engelmann's subjects describe the harrowing and often heartbreaking events that surrounded South Vietnam's apocalyptic collapse. South Vietnamese officers depict the nightmarish rout that signified a long war's ultimate denouement. Communist cadres recall the decades of incessant struggle that finally led to total victory. Boat people recount their travails at the hands of rapacious pirates and venal bureaucrats. It's an almost overwhelming panorama of pain, remorse, and revenge. (""Every night I cry for Vietnam,"" says one young Vietnamese who fled for his life as Vietcong troops advanced. ""I remember and I cry. In the darkness my memories turn into tears."") One major flaw mars Engelmann's report, however: his devoting an inordinate number of pages to the experiences of partisan Americans, whose memories tend to dwell on the same events again and again, and who invariably castigate US politicians and reporters for ""betraying"" South Vietnam. Despite the emphasis on Americans' experiences--a significant and frequently gripping (especially in the reports by Vietnamese, regardless of ideological bias) milestone in the ongoing reassessment of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press