2009 Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award for Biography
Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN chronicles the lives of Pham Van Dinh and Tran Ngoc Hue, two of the brightest young stars in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). Both men fought with valor in a war that seemed to have no end, exemplifying ARVN bravery and determination that is largely forgotten or ignored in the West. However, while Hue fought until he was captured by the North Vietnamese Army and then endured thirteen years of captivity, Dinh surrendered and defected to the enemy, for whom he served as a teacher in the reeducation of his former ARVN comrades.
An understanding of how two lives that were so similar diverged so dramatically provides a lens through which to understand the ARVN and South Vietnam’s complex relationship with Americas government and military. The lives of Dinh and Hue reflect the ARVNs battlefield successes, from the recapture of the Citadel in Hue City in the Tet Offensive of 1968, to Dinhs unheralded role in the seizure of Hamburger Hill a year later. However, their careers expose an ARVN that was over-politicized, tactically flawed, and dependent on American logistical and firepower support. Marginalized within an American war, ARVN faced a grim fate as U.S. forces began to exit the conflict. As the structure of the ARVN/U.S. alliance unraveled, Dinh and Hue were left alone to make the most difficult decisions of their lives.
Andrew Wiest weaves historical analysis with a compelling narrative, culled from extensive interviews with Dinh, Hue, and other key figures. Once both military superstars, Dinh is viewed by a traitor by many within the South Vietnamese community, while Hue, an expatriate living in northern Virginia, is seen as a hero who never let go of his ideals. Their experiences and legacies mirror that of the ARVNs rise and fall as well as the tragic history of South Vietnam.
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Andrew Wiest is Professor of History and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Southern Mississippi. He is 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 books, including Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land: The Vietnam War Revisited, Atlas of World War II, and The Vietnam War, 1959–1975. He lives in Hattiesburg, MS.Review:
“Wiest’s excellent book helps to fill a yawning void in the history of the Vietnam War.”
-Journal of Military History
“This is a fascinating study of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) the South Vietnamese army during America's involvement in the Vietnam War. . . . This well-written, compassionate study is a major contribution to most libraries.”
“While tactical history can seem stilted and dry at times, Andrew Wiest, in Vietnam’s Forgotten Army, presents an enriched and dynamic history of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) by chronicling the careers of two of ARVN’s best young officers, Tran Ngoc Hue and Pham Van Dinh, as they fought in the Vietnam War. Wiest seeks to dispel the myth of the ARVN as an ineffective fighting force... The value of Vietnam’s Forgotten Army lies in the author’s appreciation for ARVN fighting prowess and the book’s interesting perspective of the Vietnam War.”
“This sympathetic biography of Pham Van Dinh and Tran Ngoc Hue, mid-level officers in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), provides a unique perspective among American war histories. . . . [Readers] will gain new respect for the mishandled South Vietnamese army.”
“No book about the Vietnam War can be simply a book about the Vietnam War. Vietnam’s Forgotten Army appears in the midst of a raging debate over American armed interventions abroad and over the proper lessons to draw from Vietnam for the war in Iraq.”
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