Korea was just a country after that conflict, but Vietnam is still a war 40 years later—that is the assertion and question of Radford University professor Brown in her encyclopedic dictionary comprising various concepts and terminology of the conflict.
The A-to-Z coverage includes entries of military hardware, lingo, culture, politics, personalities and geography. The sum of over 500 items “chronicles the 60s culture and the hostile environment of Vietnam and how that affected the United States Infantry,” the author writes. This perspective includes numerous quotes from vets and the wives they left behind, reporters covering the war, USO workers, politicians and medical personnel. The entire volume is assembled from the perspective of those who were there or affected, but the entries are sometimes wide ranging and varying. Some terms are merely defined in one line, such as “Bagged and Tagged. Processing a dead body at Graves Registration.” Other terms are defined the same way, but then followed by detail and quotes, like the entries for “Immersion Foot,” “Hanoi Hilton,” “Donut Dolly” and “Slicks.” There are also terms that are so general that they are appropriately not defined, but rather discussed in context, such as “Courage,” “Monsoon” and “Boot Camp.” There are few entries dedicated to people and place, since the focus is on the participants and their language. Brown has spent of a lot of time with Vietnam vets in her classroom and elsewhere. She notes that many have yet to share their story with loved ones, so her format and acknowledgments are a concerted effort to give voice to those who experienced an event. Quotes and material are attentively cited in the text. Historians and military buffs will certainly recognize sources such as Michael Herr and James Dunnigan; however, the approximately 200 works consulted represents scholarly endeavor, including the author’s hours of conversation and correspondence with vets. The dictionary format, several insightful appendices and personal voices converge to create a somewhat unique offering.
Casual and scholarly interests alike will find this book useful as a desk reference or a non-continuous read.