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Vietnam Voices

Memories of the Vietnam War are still seared in the minds of Americans who witnessed it firsthand, lost friends or family or from watching and reading forty years of reporting. The PBS  series that started on September 17  is becoming an epiphany of what was really going on in the military and the governing bodies of the United States, China and Vietnam. It also captures the war experience of the Vietnam people, North and South.

Teens have a secondhand knowledge of the war either from family members that served in the military or participated in the resistance or from classroom studies. Watching the series might awaken new interest and the Teen Collection of the Niles-Maine District Library offers additional resources for teens to explore.

Authors Philip Caputo and Tim O’Brien are featured in the PBS series. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a collection of fiction short stories that are based on his service in Vietnam, He examines life before, during, and after the war but aims his main focus on the war experiences of Alpha company. The memoir by Philip Caputo, A Rumor of War, is a basic text on the war and as Caputo explains of “the things men do in war and the things war does to men”. Caputo’s 10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of War presents a pictorial view of the war from French colonialism, through the Fall of Saigon and ends with the normalization of diplomatic relations between the US and Vietnam in the 90s.

Women also played their roles in the conflict. In The Road Home, Ellen Emerson White tells the fictionalized account of Rebecca Phillips who served as a nurse whose helicopter crashes in the jungle and must fight for survival. Last Night I Dreamed of Peace is a diary of Dang Thuv Tram a 27-year-old North Vietnamese doctor who was killed by the Americans while defending her patients. Fred Whitehurst, a US intelligence officer on the scene of her death, found the diary, took it home, had it translated and returned it in 2005 to Thuy Tram’s family in Vietnam. The diary was later published in Vietnam.

In Fallen Angels, Walter Dean Myers covers the fictionalized life of black soldier Richie Perry who along with most of his unit enlists, faces the wrath of the Vietcong, questions why black troops are given the most dangerous assignments and why they are fighting.  In a collection of more than 200 letters, Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, men and woman soldiers share their experiences and emotions and provide a personal and sometimes heartbreaking portrait of Vietnam veterans.

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