Hattiesburg, Miss. – A University of Southern Mississippi history professor’s book on the Vietnam War has been reviewed by one of the top news publications in the country, The Nation.
Dr. Andrew Wiest’s book, “Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN,” is featured in an article written by Matt Steinglass in the April 21 edition of The Nation titled “Questions of Loyalty,” and draws some parallels to the current U.S. military operations in Iraq.
In his book, Wiest details how South Vietnam collapsed, partly under its own weight but also due to a wider American misunderstanding of the nature of the war.
“Not understanding the centrality of South Vietnam to the issue of the Vietnam War was a considerable problem at the time -- and Steinglass intimates that similar concerns are important to keep in mind during the present conflict in Iraq,” Wiest said.
Steinglass also places Wiest’s book into the revisionist school of thought concerning the Vietnam War, and concludes that South Vietnam and its military were much more central to that war than most American accounts allow, which Wiest asserts in “Vietnam’s Forgotten Army.”
The book primarily chronicles the lives of Pham Van Dinh and Tran Ngoc Hue, considered two of the ARVN’s best and brightest. 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 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 reflects the complexity of the war and the involvement by the U.S. government and military.
While he contends that the ARVN’s role is significant, Wiest says it was undermined by divisive politics both at home and abroad, suffered from tactical miscues and was heavily dependent on American support.
The review takes history and places it into the realm of present day policy debate by making comparisons, Wiest said. “As an historian, I can only comment on the past. Although there is useful wisdom to be gained from past events like the Vietnam War, it is not the historian's task to extrapolate the nature or meaning of that wisdom,” he said.
“A reviewer like Matt Steinglass can take my work and make comparisons, whether I agree with them or not, taking history and placing it into the realm of present day policy debate by historicizing the war in Iraq.”
Wiest said scholars are used to having their work reviewed in the appropriate academic journals of their field, making their work the subject of academic debate. With the review in The Nation, the academic subject at hand is made into a subject of broader notice and debate.
“Such notice gives one's work wider relevance, which is affirming after spending so long on a project, and is good not only for the individual academic but also his or her department and university - it is priceless coverage that helps to put us on the map,” Wiest said.
“For a well-respected publication such as The Nation to focus its attention on the fine book by Dr. Andrew Wiest is a great honor for us and for him,” said Southern Miss College of Arts and Letters interim dean Dr. Denise von Herrmann. “This article attests to the impact of his scholarly work on the Vietnam era.”
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.
To view the article online, visit http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080421/steinglass.
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.