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A Time for War

The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975

Robert D. Schulzinger

Publication Date - 28 January 1999

ISBN: 9780195125016

416 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

The first major full-length history of the Vietnam War based on primary sources


Even after two decades, the memory of the Vietnam War seems to haunt our culture. From Forrest Gump to Miss Saigon, from Tim O'Brien's Pulitzer Prize-winning Going After Cacciato to Robert McNamara's controversial memoir In Retrospect, Americans are drawn again and again to ponder our long, tragic involvement in Southeast Asia. Now eminent historian Robert D. Schulzinger has combed the newly available documentary evidence, both in public and private archives, to produce an ambitious, masterful account of three decades of war in Vietnam--the first major full-length history of the conflict to be based on primary sources.

In A Time for War, Schulzinger paints a vast yet intricate canvas of more than three decades of conflict in Vietnam, from the first rumblings of rebellion against the French colonialists to the American intervention and eventual withdrawal. His comprehensive narrative incorporates every aspect of the war--from the military (as seen in his brisk account of the French failure at Dienbienphu) to the economic (such as the wage increase sparked by the draft in the United States) to the political. Drawing on massive research, he offers a vivid and insightful portrait of the changes in Vietnamese politics and society, from the rise of Ho Chi Minh, to the division of the country, to the struggles between South Vietnamese president Diem and heavily armed religious sects, to the infighting and corruption that plagued Saigon. Schulzinger reveals precisely how outside powers--first the French, then the Americans--committed themselves to war in Indochina, even against their own better judgment. Roosevelt, for example, derided the French efforts to reassert their colonial control after World War II, yet Truman, Eisenhower, and their advisers gradually came to believe that Vietnam was central to American interests. The author's account of Johnson is particularly telling and tragic, describing how president would voice clear headed, even prescient warnings about the dangers of intervention--then change his mind, committing America's prestige and military might to supporting a corrupt, unpopular regime. Schulzinger offers sharp criticism of the American military effort, and offers a fascinating look inside the Nixon White House, showing how the Republican president dragged out the war long past the point when he realized that the United States could not win. Finally, Schulzinger paints a brilliant political and social portrait of the times, illuminating the impact of the war on the lives of ordinary Americans and Vietnamese. Schulzinger shows what it was like to participate in the war--as a common soldier, an American nurse, a navy flyer, a conscript in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, a Vietcong fighter, or an antiwar protester.

In a field crowded with fiction, memoirs, and popular tracts, A Time for War will stand as the landmark history of America's longest war. Based on extensive archival research, it will be the first place readers will turn in an effort to understand this tragic, divisive conflict.


  • The first major full-length history of the Vietnam War based on primary sources
  • Based on extensive archival research

About the Author(s)

Robert D. Schulzinger is Professor of History and Director of the International Affairs Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder.


"A sober, objective, detailed recounting and analysis of the American war in Vietnam."--Kirkus Reviews

"A valuble survey of the defining event in recent American history. Thoroughly researched, well written, and persuasive in its conclusions, it deserves a wide readership."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"An excellent survey of the U.S. commitment in Vietnam 1941-1975."--Dr. Steven Wagner, Missouri Southern State University

"Robert Schulzinger takes a fresh look at the Vietnam War by drawing on newly-opened archival materials and utilizing the already extensive bibliography on the war. His narrative is free from the passions of the day which continue to influence the works of many scholars."--Michigan Historical Review

"Schulzinger succeeds in recapitulating the political and social atmosphere of the 1960s in the United States, as its leaders and people coped with an increasingly frustrating conflict. Particularly useful is the author's examination, based on much new information, of the often acrimonious debates with the government. But the tone of the volume is not argumentative or strident; on the contrary, Schulzinger, a noted historian of twentieth-century U.S. foreign relations, shows empathy with all the actors in the drama. There are no particular heroes or villians in his story; they are all, in this book, ordinary human beings trying to do what is best but ending up with an increasing sense of helplessness. Thus the book offers a wonderfully crafted saga of the Vietnam war era."--Akira Iriye, Professor of History, Harvard University

"An exceptional study that shuld be the benchmark for further surveys."--Library Journal

"...A Time for War is a valuable survey of the defining event in recent American history. Thoroughly researched, well written, and persuasive in its conclusions, it deserves a wide readership."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Memories of the Vietnam War

    Part I: International Affairs
    1. Bitterness Between the United States and Vietnam, 1975-1980
    2. Estrangement and Détente, 1980-1988
    3. Normalization, 1989-2000

    Part II: Veterans and Vietnamese Americans
    4. Vietnam Veterans' Readjustment
    5. Vietnam Veterans Memorials and Memories
    6. The Vietnamese in America

    Part III. Cultural Legacies
    7. The Burden of Memory in Vietnam Literature
    8. Vietnam Memories Through Film

    Part IV
    Conclusion: Political Echoes of a War
    9. The Living Legacy of the Vietnam War


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