The Corner

National Security & Defense

Uncommon Knowledge: James Wright on Enduring Vietnam

Historian James Wright, author of Enduring Vietnam: An America Generation and Its War, joins me on Uncommon Knowledge to discuss the challenges and successes of the Vietnam War. We discuss why the Vietnam War mattered, how the United States entered the war, the changing feelings of Americans at the time of the war, and much more.

Wright expands on how the Vietnam War fit into the greater strategy of the United States in the Cold War and why the United States entered it. He argues against the common idea that the Baby Boomer generation was the “Me Generation” in that 40 percent of them enlisted or were drafted into combat.

Wright interviewed more than one hundred people for the making of this book; in it, he discusses some of the stories he learned from the many soldiers who fought in the war. He tells the story of Hamburger Hill and how the Americans fought to take and then hold the A Sau valley in South Vietnam, which he believes was important even though many at West Point and the Army College do not teach it.

Wright discusses how, as the number of people drafted and the number of casualties increased, Americans began turning against the war after four years. He goes into detail about the strategies Nixon began to implement a phase-out for Americans in the war and start handing more combat and control over to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.

Finally, Wright argues that — even though the U.S. pulled out of the war — because Communist Vietnam did not prove to be a threat afterward due to their long-standing mistrust of China, the United States didn’t fully lose.

Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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