Murray provides a fact-filled tour d’horizon of the wars suffered by Vietnam from World War II to the Paris Peace Accords.
In the familiar Eyewitness format, each (usually) two-page spread highlights a particular incident or element (the Indochina War of 1946, the Tet Offensive, the “Television War,” the fall of Saigon in 1975, etc.) with a paragraph to set the scene, surrounded by a swarm of photographs and maps. These are each carefully captioned, providing a sense of what people wore, the landscapes they moved through, the logistical and strategic considerations. The various military operations and weaponry are just old enough to convey the frisson of close-quarters fighting, but Murray covers the field hospitals and anti-war movement with an urgency that imbues the history with humanity. Until, of course, readers begin to understand the technological dominance of one side, the massive bombing missions designed at a distance, the pure viciousness of the defoliation and napalm campaigns. Geopolitics are touched on, but the emphasis here is to gain an appreciation of what it was like on the ground. The sheer amount of material presented requires a slow reading, and the proceedings are not strictly chronological, making for some jumping back and forth. But the big picture emerges with patience.
A powerful and illuminating overview of the war in Vietnam even though the facts fly like the detonation of an antipersonnel mine. (Nonfiction. 10-16)