Women and the Vietnam War

"By intervening in the Vietnamese struggle
the United States was attempting
to fit its global strategies
into a world of hillocks and hamlets,
to reduce its majestic concerns
for the containment of communism
and the security of the Free World
to a dimension where governments rose and fell
as a result of arguments between two colonels' wives."
--Frances Fitzgerald, 1972

Against the Vietnam War: Writings by Activists
by Mary Susannah Robbins (Editor)
The protest movement in opposition to the Vietnam War was a complex amalgam of political, social, economic, and cultural motivations, factors, and events. Against the Vietnam War brings together the different facets of that movement and its various shades of opinion. Here the participants themselves offer statements and reflections on their activism, the era, and the consequences of a war that spanned three decades and changed the United States of America. The keynote is on individual experience in a time when almost every event had national and international significance. This collection includes classic documents and new essays by Noam Chomsky, Arlene Ash, Howard Zinn, Staughton Lynd, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Fallows, Eugene McCarthy, Daniel Berrigan, H. Bruce Franklin, and Jane Sass. A foreword by Staughton Lynd considers the events of the Vietnam War in the context of the present war in Iraq.

Joan Baez
One of the leading antiwar activists.

Don't Mean Nothing: Short Stories of Vietnam
by Susan O'Neill
Former army nurse O'Neill's debut story collection captures the physical and psychological tensions of her 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam with refreshing maturity and a profound sense of compassion. This collection of short stories is unique in its representation of a group from whom we rarely hear in the literature of the Vietnam War: the women who were sent there.

Gloria Emerson
Emerson was best known for her award-winning reporting of the Vietnam War for the New York Times.

Fire in the Lake
by Frances Fitzgerald
This Pulitzer Prize-winning 1973 classic looks at U.S. intervention from the vantage point of Vietnamese culture and society.

Frances FitzGerald
Frances FitzGerald was not quite 32 years of age when her first book, Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam, was published to immediate and extraordinary praise.

Jane Fonda
Her trip to North Vietnam earned her the rage of American conservatives.

The Truth About My Trip To Hanoi by Jane Fonda
"Some people seem to need to hate and I make a convenient lightning rod. I think the lies and distortions serve some right-wing purpose--fundraising? Demonizing me so as to scare others from becoming out-spoken anti-war activists?"

Le Ly Hayslip
The author of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places.

Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam
by Lynda Van Devanter
"How Van Devanter survives all of this to become, incredibly, a stronger person for it is what makes her book so riveting."
--San Francisco Chronicle

In Country
by Bobbie Ann Mason
"In Country is both a powerful and touching novel of America that analyzes the impact of the 1960s on the culture of the 1980s and a beautiful portrayal of an often forgotten area of the country."
--Library Journal

Indochina's Refugees: Oral Histories from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam
by Joanna C. Scott
This poignant collection of oral histories tells the stories of nine Laotians, four Cambodians and nine Vietnamese: what their lives were like before 1975, what happened after the Communist takeover that made them decide to flee their native countries, and how they escaped. The storytellers (housewife, Amerasian child, schoolteacher, government clerk, military officer, security agent, Buddhist monk, artist) create a broad and moving picture of the new realities of contemporary Indochina.

Lodge in Vietnam: A Patriot Abroad
by Anne Blair
Part biography and part diplomatic history, this book focuses on Henry Cabot Lodge`s ambassadorship to South Vietnam from 1963 to 1964.

Memories Are Like Clouds
by Diana J. Dell
Set in the 1950s, Memories Are Like Clouds is a touching childhood memoir of a sister and her brother, who died in Vietnam. This poignant baby-boom story, filled with memorable characters, is a fond remembrance of growing up in small-town America when life seemed simple.

Memories of Maggie: Martha Raye: A Legend Spanning Three Wars
by Noonie Fortin
A wonderful book about a great American.

Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu
Madame Nhu saw herself as the reincarnation of the Trung sisters, ancient leaders in the struggle for independence from China.

Novel Without a Name
by Duong Thu Huong
"Vietnamese novelist Huong, who has been imprisoned for her political beliefs, presents the story of a disillusioned soldier in a book that was banned in her native country."
--Publishers Weekly

A Piece of My Heart: The Stories of 26 American Women Who Served in Vietnam
by Keith Walker
"Records the memories of a war in the words of those women courageous enough to walk into hell."
--San Francisco Chronicle

The Phoenix Trip: Notes on a Quaker Mission to Haiphong
by Elizabeth Jelinek Boardman

Regret to Inform
This beautiful, shattering documentary by photographer Barbara Sonneborn began production in 1992 but was spiritually born in 1968 with the death of her husband and high school sweetheart, Jeff Gurvitz. Eight weeks into his tour of duty in Vietnam, Gurvitz was killed during a mortar attack at Khe Sanh while attempting to rescue a comrade. A tape-recorded letter he had just sent to his wife appeared in Sonneborn's mailbox some time after his awful sacrifice. Sonnenborn put it away and did not listen to it until her decision to make this film, which concerns the losses and agonies endured by women on both sides of America's disastrous military campaign in Southeast Asia.

A Saigon Party:
And Other Vietnam War Short Stories

by Diana J. Dell, USO Vietnam 1970-72

David A. Willson's review: "I served in Vietnam in the rear with the beer and the gear for 13 1/2 months, 1966-1967. No better book has been written about that Saigon experience than Dell's A Saigon Party. If a reader is curious about what kind of tour of duty most had who served in the military during the American war in the beautiful country of South Vietnam, Dell's fine book is the place to start. A Saigon Party is a book of great wit and compassion, and Dell is brave, resourceful, and successful in her use of the many voices of the Vietnam War. Dell gives Robert Olen Butler's Vietnamese voices in A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain a run for their money. I am now a librarian who spent much time in libraries in Vietnam (both for the books and the air conditioning) so I especially enjoyed Dell's story 'The Library Card.' I also loved the Ken and Barbie stories and wish there was an entire book of them. The 'CIA Wife' story is a great story and very funny. The CIA deservedly gets rough and witty treatment. For those of you still wondering why we lost our war in SE Asia, these stories provide the reasons."
--David A. Willson, author of REMF Diary, The REMF Returns and In the Army Now.

Shrapnel in the Heart : Letters and Remembrances from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
by Laura Palmer
"Thousands of letters and messages have been left at the Vietnam Memorial Wall since its dedication in 1982, many preserved by the National Park Service as part of a planned museum collection. Palmer, who worked in Saigon as a reporter in the early '70s, found and interviewed many of the people who left them. The resulting book combines the messages with the comments of those who wrote them, and one would have to look far to find a work that stirs deeper emotions. Reading it is a cathartic experience rather than a depressing one. The bodies of the fallen are buried elsewhere, but as far as the surviving family members, friends and comrades are concerned, the spirits of the dead seem to dwell in and around the monument itself. Shrapnel in the Heart is in its own way as awesome a memorial as the wall."
--Publishers Weekly

Station Hospital Saigon: A Navy Nurse in Vietnam, 1963-1964
by Bobbi Hovis, Shea Buckley (Illustrator)
"A competently written, understated, detailed account by a nurse assigned to the first military hospital in Vietnam. Interesting not only because her tour was early, but because Hovis was a Navy nurse."
--Marilyn Knapp Litt

Thich Nu Thanh Quang
Her death triggered a series of mass Buddhist protests throughout Vietnam.

Unfriendly Fire: A Mother's Memoir
by Peg Mullen
"The author's son died in an artillery attack fired by his own side in Vietnam in 1971. That tragedy and its aftermath at home were recounted in C.F. Bryan's Friendly Fire (1976), the basis for a made-for-TV movie starring Carol Burnett."
--Library Journal

Vietnam War Books
by Women Writers

The war through the eyes of women.

Visions of War, Dreams of Peace
by Joan Furey, Lynda Van Devanter
First Sentence: "I will never forget Vietnam . . . It is always there, and until the day that I am six feet under, Vietnam will always be there: the sights, the sounds, the smells, the happy times and the bad times . . . It is as real now as it was when I was there."

The War Cradle
by Shirley Peck Barnes
The untold story of "Operation Babylift," the heroic evacuation of thousands of abandoned orphans during the last days of the Vietnam War.

War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters who Covered Vietnam
by Tad Bartimus, Tracy Wood, Kate Webb, Laura Palmer, Edith Lederer, Jurate Kazickas, etc.
"Often only hours before you took that first sip of ricard or your martini... you had been watching a medic give up on a kid of eighteen or nineteen and flip a cold poncho over his face. Often you could hear the artillery of a battle across the Saigon River." So Kate Webb, a former UPI correspondent, recalls her days as a reporter in Vietnam, moving back and forth between the devastation of the field and the decadent and chaotic nightlife of Saigon. Her story is part of War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam, written by former correspondents including Denby Fawcett, Jurate Kazickas and UPI's Webb and Tracy Wood. The book collects nine reporters' memoirs that recall the period of 1966-1975, when women's reportage, as Gloria Emerson notes in her introduction, was much rarer than today.

War Without A Front, The Memoirs of a French Army Nurse in Vietnam
by Elisabeth Sevier
The Memoirs of A French Army Nurse serving in Indochina (Vietnam) from 1950-1953.

Kate Webb
War correspondent Webb was captured by North Vietnamese troops operating in Cambodia.

When Duty Calls
by Faith DeVeaux
What would it take for you to appreciate what you have in life? The near-death of the one you love? Anita Anderson, married for over thirty years, was becoming bored with her life. Then the unthinkable happened; her husband had a heart attack, then fell into a coma. Her estranged children come home, and she decides to reunite her family once and for all. Anita brings out her beloved letters that she saved from when her husband fought in Vietnam. After rediscovering her buried passion for life, she decides to share them with as many people as possible.

Faith DeVeaux was an Army brat, living in Germany as well as in several different states in the U.S. She graduated from Loyola Marymount University, and has worked a variety of jobs in public relations. She has produced two short films. When Duty Calls is her first novel.

When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace
by Le Ly Hayslip
A Vietnamese woman describes her journey from war-torn central Vietnam to the United States, recounting how she endured imprisonment, torture, rape, near-starvation, and the deaths of members of her family.

Winners and Losers: Battles, Retreats, Gains, Losses and Ruins from the Vietnam War
by Gloria Emerson

Women at War: The Story of Fifty Military Nurses Who Served in Vietnam
by Elizabeth Norman

Women in Vietnam: The Oral History
by Ronald Steinman
In one of the great ironies of the Vietnam War, the United States government has no idea how many women actually served. Record keeping at the time did not reflect a person’s gender, so the numbers vary from a low of 8,000 to a high of more than 12,000. Most of these women served as nurses, but they also served in the Women’s Army Corps, the Red Cross, and other government and related agencies. They nursed soldiers in field hospitals, served as intelligence analysts, and performed for the troops on stage and television to help them escape the horrors of war. All were volunteers; none were drafted. When they returned home, many of them suffered not only the psychological hardships of surviving the conflict, but the added indignity of not being recognized as “real” veterans by their male counterparts. They have remained essentially invisible to the public.

In Women in Vietnam, veteran journalist Ron Steinman, author of The Soldiers’ Story, collects the testimonies of sixteen remarkable women who served, and provides an unflinching account of this crucial and long-ignored part of the war. In powerful first-hand accounts, we read of their experiences on the front lines, on the bases, and in the cities, towns, and villages. Whether working in the heart of triage or helping to dispense good cheer and raise morale, all of these women served with honor, without complaint, and with distinction. Women in Vietnam is not only a unique historical document, but a powerful record of extraordinary accomplishment.

Women War Correspondents in the Vietnam War
by Virginia Elwood-Akers
More than 75 women served as war correspondents in the Vietnam War, covering every aspect of the war from human interest to combat. They worked for major news media and won major journalism awards, including a Pulitzer Prize. Several women reporters were wounded in combat, three were taken prisoner, and two were killed.

Women's Perspectives on the Vietnam War
by Mary E. Haas
A broad and colorful overview of the diverse roles played by American and Vietnamese women during the war as combatants, nurses, social workers, politicians, journalists, entertainers, wives and mothers. Challenges the reader to appreciate the vital role of women in what typically is considered a young man's affair.

A World of Hurt: Between Innocence & Arrogance in Vietnam
by Mary Reynolds Powell
Mary personifies the tender mercy of all nurses thrust into combat.