Wiest's Vietnam Book Focuses on U.S.-Backed ARVN
Monday, January 14, 2008
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. – A University of Southern Mississippi history professor’s latest book takes a closer look at the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), often neglected or marginalized in accounts of the controversial Southeast Asia War, through the eyes of two of its soldiers.

“Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN,” published by New York University Press, tells the stories of two ARVN heroes and friends -- one who remained committed to South Vietnam and the other who switched sides. It includes a forward from U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, a Vietnam veteran and former U.S. Navy Secretary.

The book examines the ARVN’s role in the war as well as the U.S. and Australian soldiers who served with them as advisors. Wiest and other scholars believe that their part in the war has been largely forgotten or ignored.

“A great many veterans entrusted their stories to me, and I hope that those stories are able to reach the wide audience that they deserve,” he said.

“Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN” chronicles the lives of Pham Van Dinh and Tran Ngoc Hue, considered two of the ARVN’s best and brightest. Against long odds in what seemed an endless war, both are recognized for having fought with considerable bravery and determination.

But their respective paths would diverge dramatically. Hue was captured by the North Vietnamese Army and then endured 13 years of captivity, while Dinh later surrendered and defected, serving as a teacher in the reeducation of captured ARVN soldiers.

The story of how Hue and Dinh parted dramatically in their experience and outlook on the conflict reflects the complexity of the war and the involvement by the U.S. government and military, Wiest said.

“I utilized the investigation of their lives to tell the story of the ARVN and cast a new light on the Vietnam War,” he said. 

Wiest also explains how the ARVN was undermined by divisive politics both at home and abroad, suffered from tactical miscues and was heavily dependent on American support.

“This is a most important addition to the literature that addresses a long-past-due acknowledgement and accounting of an important element of the Vietnam War,” said Dr. Ray Scurfield, a Southern Miss professor of social work and a Vietnam veteran.

Wiest is also co-editor of “War in the Age of Technology: Myriad Faces of Modern Armed Combat” (NYU Press, 2001) and author or co-author of numerous other books, including “Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land: The Vietnam War Revisited,” “Atlas of World War II” and “The Vietnam War, 1959-1975.” He helped develop and has led the university’s award-winning international study abroad program in Vietnam.



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