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"'You know you never defeated us on the battlefield,' said the American colonel. The North Vietnamese colonel pondered this remark a moment. 'That may be so,' he replied, 'but it is also irrelevant.'"
—Colonel Harry G. Summers Jr. and Colonel Tu, April 1975, described in the book "On Strategy."
The Indo-Chinese conflicts were the most controversial and divisive conflicts that the Anglosphere has ever been a part of, and are second only to Algeria in the Francosphere. Many Southeast Asian countries (plus Australia and New Zealand with South Korea alongside black ops support from Taiwan) took part alongside the nationalist South Vietnamese, against the Soviet- and Chinese-backed (With assistance from Cuba and North Korea) North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam (better known as the Viet Cong) a communist South Vietnamese armed insurgent force. But first, some complicated history.
Part I: Decolonisation
Vietnam was part of French Indochina from the 1880s onwards, with Siam being preserved as a neutral buffer state between them and the British Raj, which was being extended into modern-day Burma. When France surrendered to Nazi Germany Indochina was occupied by the Japanese military as a base from which to strike at Southern China. The USA used the occupation of Indochina as a pretext for embargoing Japan in the hope that this would bring Japan to the negotiating table... anyhow, the amazingly successful Japanese offensive into South-East Asia which followed — launched to seize strategic resources that the embargo had denied them — was a catalyst for nationalism in the region and worldwide, since it conclusively proved that a) the European Colonial Powers could be defeated in decisive battles by non-Europeans, and b) non-European powers could be bastards too, if not even bigger ones. When the Japanese realised that they were losing the war, they went about fostering nationalism and training militia and guerilla forces in earnest — partly as a final 'screw you' to the Allies, but also because they genuinely believed in pan-Asian anti-European solidarity on some level.
This all came to a head when the French puppet regime — which had nominally continued to run Indochina up 'til that point — were ousted on March 11, 1945. The Việt Minh, a party of Vietnamese Nationalists with Socialist leanings -modelled off and led by people associated with the early Guomindang of China — had successfully played the French and Japanese off against each other before seizing the day and taking them both out. The day the War formally ended — September 2 1945 — they declared the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, an independent and sovereign nation with its capital at Hanoi.
Of course, the French were not to be so quickly denied. Anglo-Sino-Indian forces had just months before broken the three-year deadlock in Burma, and were at that time marching into (formerly Japanese-Allied) Siam. When the Japanese surrendered the Anglo-Indian army pressed on into Indochina and aided French forces in restoring French control by the end of the month. France recognised the prevailing mood could not be denied entirely and created a French-associated government in Saigon — the 'State of Vietnam' — to rival the Việt Minh and their contemporaries. The State of Vietnam was led by former emperor Bảo Đại, who had abdicated his throne August 25, 1945.
For a while, an uneasy peace punctuated by low level fighting endured while talks were conducted between the two sides to try and resolve the issue peacefully, before the Viet Minh seized the initiative and launched another surprise offensive. The French fought back, hard, and the story of the First Indochina War (December 19, 1946 — August 1, 1954) was one of ever-escalating and intensifying conflict. When the Chinese Communists won their Civil War against the Guomindang on the Chinese mainland, they too committed forces (off the books) to supplement the USSR's (covert) aid to the Việt Minh. The Việt Minh were not the only ones stirring up trouble, either; several large left-wing nationalist (Pathet Lao, Khmer Issarak, United Issarak Front) groups entered the fight alongside the Việt Minh, alongside many smaller groups. Initially the French States of Indochina held their own, but increasingly they had to be propped up by direct intervention from France's government and military.
The result was a bloody, brutal war that led to an exhausted France — faced with a divided West and a United States whose somewhat sympathetic opinion stopped far short of directly intervening to support the government — withdrawing from Indochina after the bloody last stand at Dien Bien Phu .
Part II: Partition
After the Geneva Accords, Vietnam was partitioned into two countries: the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), and the State of Vietnam (South Vietnam), which became the Republic of Vietnam after a 1955 referendum, amidst claims of widespread electoral fraud on both sides, with the Communists accusing the Saigon government of cooking the books to retain power and partition the country and the Saigon government justifying partition because of Communist subversion attempts. As a result, the referendum was eventually scrapped, and open war broke out almost instantly thereafter. The United States replaced the French as political/military backing for the South Vietnamese regime after the French withdrawal, while the North Vietnamese regime was backed by the Soviet Union, People's Republic of China, and North Korea.
Relations in the South were dominated by the South Vietnam President Ngô Đình Diệm's increasingly repressive dictatorship and the rise of the Viet Cong (officially the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, which was largely a Southern auxiliary of the PVA). Which led to which (if either) is the subject of much controversy, but they would both go on to terrorize South Vietnam in the latter half of the Fifties. On November 2, 1963, the corrupt and increasingly unpopular President Ngô was overthrown and assassinated with the approval of the CIA.
Part III: Escalation
American involvement was initially in the form of equipment, money and "advisors", but by the 1960s, these "advisors" were many thousands. Foreign countries began actively fighting on both sides of the conflict (most on the side of South Vietnam). American ships were supposedly attacked by North Vietnamese ones in 1964, and so President Lyndon Johnson ordered a massive military presence in Vietnam to "protect the freedom" of South-East Asia and curtail the advance of Communism. In strictly legal terms, the United States didn't enter a war, as Congress never wrote a declaration of war; the entire conflict was essentially an executive order. If you go into any U.S.-government-funded library, you'll likely have to search under "Vietnam Conflict". The Korean Conflict and the Overseas Contingency Operation are likewise not officially wars.
The United States COIN (counter-insurgency) methods left much to be desired initially. The frequent tactic, mostly in the 1966-7 period, is known as "search and destroy". This would involve forces entering hostile territory, destroying an enemy force, then leaving. However, these missions usually involved destroying houses and rice paddies, causing a considerable number of civilian deaths. The resulting destruction made the US forces unpopular. Many neutrals and even friendlies switched sides to the NLF. The US forces eventually switched towards a programme of "winning hearts and minds", but the damage had already been done.
The Anti-War Movement
Back in the United States, the population was getting increasingly unhappy with the war. The war was broadcast, uncensored, on US TV every night. It generally looked bad. The military would trumpet the "body count" (the number of insurgents they had killed), but these figures were subject to massive manipulation by both sides.
The nub of the issue was the draft. Selective Service (to give it the proper title), done on a lottery system, had been around in the past — Elvis Presley was famously drafted for two years in the 1950s. The draft had some exemptions. You would not be drafted if you were in college. Since poor people couldn't afford college, you can guess how that went. This was changed at the end of the war. Being married meant you were not drafted. Later, they changed the rule so you needed to have a child.
In any case, this meant that poor Americans were being sent off to South-East Asia for a cause they didn't understand. For many, the US was just as bad as the Soviet Union, who'd invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 for similar reasons. A large-scale anti-war movement set itself up. They engaged in civil disobedience, sit-ins and peace rallies. There were also more violent demonstrations, such as the activities of The Weather Underground. People burned their draft cards in public. One of the most infamous events on the homefront was the Kent State Shootings. On 4 May 1970 the National Guard opened fire on a crowd of dubiously peaceful protesters at Kent State University in Ohio for unclear reasons. 4 people were killed, 9 wounded. It is worth noting that two of the 4 killed were not part of the protest but were merely innocent passersby (including, in a tragic case of irony, an ROTC student) trying to avoid being tardy for their next classes.
Jane Fonda, a major anti-war activist, went to North Vietnam and was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese antiaircraft gun, an act she later apologised for. It severely damaged her career, and the undying hatred of more than a few.
Ironically, the majority of those who were sent to Indochina were volunteers of one shade or another, and the war was not *entirely* responsible for the draft, but as a way to make manpower ends meet when faced with the "long night" of Soviet supremacy following 1954 and especially 1956. Most draftees were sent abroad to places *other* than Vietnam both because it got to a point that the military viewed them as unreliable liabilities and the fact that the manpower crunch was that severe. However, in some ways, these facts were far outweighed by everything else, and the draft became arguably the deciding issue that tipped the balance against the war.
Part IV: Endgame
Despite winning every major battle, the American-led Western Allies never seemed to make much progress in the war. As the war dragged on and graphic new reports appeared on TV, the war grew increasingly unpopular among Americans at home, giving rise to Nixon's ordering of massive bombing campaigns to force the North to the peace table.
In the end, there was a tentative deal reached with the North for American forces to withdraw as the South Vietnamese government would bolster its' forces. This backfired, as when the North invaded, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam crumbled without support in the face of an onslaught by the North's Vietnam People's Army.
The war ended April 30, 1975 with the PVA rolling into Saigon, forming the new South Vietnamese government, which unified with North Vietnam the following year. It should be noted, however, that some sources state that America had effectively won the war by that point, as the bombing raids issued by Nixon had actually sealed the coffin on North Vietnam, and the only reason why the South Vietnamese lost and was overwhelmed is because certain members of Congress deliberately held back relief aid efforts to the South Vietnamese.
The War in Popular Culture
It was a very popular area for war films from the late '70s to the early '90s. American films may show the war from an exclusively American perspective. Many American films are opposed to the war, with John Wayne's The Green Berets being the only real exception.
Expect a bunch of drugged-up draftees (which wasn't actually the case for everyone, since 2/3s of the American soldiers were volunteers, including three future major party US presidential nominees) who will shoot anyone who looks South-East Asian, whether they are the enemy, their own side, or civilians. Also expect an emphasis on American casualties, even though 5,000,000 civilians died compared to 58,000 American soldiers. Expect incompetent officers, stuffed-up academy cadets being "fragged" (killed with grenades) by their own soldiers, various wanton atrocities, and even Catch-22 explanations about "having to destroy the village in order to save it".
According to Hollywood, Vietnam Veterans tend to be old, grizzled, and broken from their experience. But in reality, things are more complicated. Many people believed they were doing their patriotic duty to stop the Communist MenaceTM, especially in the early years of the war. It wasn't until 1968 that public opinion, or at least media opinion, started turning against the war in large numbers, although the majority of civilians nonetheless felt that regardless of whether they liked it, they should vote for the war to continue.
National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam insurgents (known as Vietcong — a derogatory term meaning "Vietnamese Communist", VC, Victor Charlie, or just Charlie) and NVA soldiers don't feature very much, except as sources of weapons fire, evil torturers, punji trap layers or occasionally corpses. But of course, all of these are reversed in their war movies... when produced in Vietnam itself, given rather iron-fisted censorship that would not cop well to voicing the complaints the South and other non-Communist Vietnamese had.
Expect much use of napalm, because it smells like the victory the Americans allegedly never got. It's worth noting, however, the North Vietnamese forces never won a major battle themselves — in the Tet Offensive, a military campaign by the Viet Cong, the VC actually took so many losses they played no further major part in the war. Their secret is in part that no matter what the Americans threw at them, the North Vietnamese took the blows willingly as part of the price to pay for the cause and just kept coming; they wanted to win more than the Americans wanted them to lose. This is the only way insurgencies are ever resolved.
This is also the first American war (the French first used them to great effect in Algeria) to feature helicopters as a weapon and primary transport; in Korea they were very small, and limited to recon and light medical evacuation. The UH-1 Huey, with both side doors open, flying low over the canopy of a jungle with a grizzled soldier manning the door gun is one of the war's most enduring images.
Someone will use the word "klick" at some point, meaning a kilometre.
The Hollywood-Approved SoundtrackTM to the Vietnam War is Creedence Clearwater Revival. "Fortunate Son" is the most popular, but "Who'll Stop the Rain," "Run Through the Jungle," "Have You Ever Seen The Rain," and "Suzie Q" will also show up. One has to wonder what CCR's legacy would be without Vietnam-Era films. The Rolling Stones and The Doors will also occasionally play. In terms of other songs, expect "For What It's Worth," and Jimi Hendrix's version of "All Along the Watchtower" to play somewhere. If it's a protest movie, also expect "Ohio" by Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Garfunkel, Oates, and Cher. The song is about four students that were killed by the National Guard during an anti-Vietnam War protest on the campus of Kent State in Ohio, and is the go-to song to highlight how divisive the war was back in America. On the other hand, if you see choppers, expect "Ride of the Valkyries", because you're probably watching Apocalypse Now or something making a Homage to it.
Because this was both an insurgency and a conventional war, you can also set air combat stories here. The F-4 Phantom II, the MiG-17 and the MiG-21 feature heavily here, with the war also seeing major use of the S-25/SA-2 "Guideline" SAM (although the bulk of shoot-down were due to conventional AAA fire).
If the work involves secret operations, expect to become familiar with MAC-V SOG (Military Assistance Command-Vietnam, Special Operations Group, later Studies and Observations Group) and Project Phoenix (an assassination campaign aimed at killing civilians that supported the NVA). Both were black ops run by the CIA, and kept very secret since the Phoenix Program was illegal in international law, and the Studies and Observations Group really didn't just study and observe.
The Vietnam War has also provided the backstory for a number of other works of fiction, including The A-Team, Airwolf, Magnum, P.I., Rambo, Taxi Driver, The Bourne Series and Jon Sable Freelance. Leo McGarry in The West Wing was a Vietnam vet.
In fact, any grizzled action hero during The Eighties has a fair chance of being a Vietnam veteran — it became such a common source of angst that some movie reviewers took to abbreviating it to "Vietvet."
Compare Holiday in Cambodia.
Important Note: As if you couldn't tell by this article, this war and its outcome is still a very strong point of contention in America over 40 years later (even among people who weren't even alive at the time). Along with hippies and all the lingering cultural debates of The Sixties and The Seventies, it was one of the key base breakers in modern American politics Communists, socialists anarchists and most liberals as well as most libertarians, paleoconservatives, moderate right-wingers and the far right John Birch Society still consider the war a Senseless Waste of Human Life and point to My Lai, Diem's dictatorial rule and Operation Phoenix as evidence that there wasn't much difference between the "good guys" and the Dirty Communists, while conservatives still hold that the West- first with France and then with the US- was not "allowed" to win, that even the Banana Republic dictatorships were a Lighter Shade Of Gray than their Communist counterparts, and that the following massacres that ensued after the collapse of the former- most infamously in Cambodia- could have been avoided if they had "stayed the course"). To not get into it in much detail, most of the above points have at least some semblance of truth. In short, the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement applies in the non-YMMV discussions.
For Vietnam the country, click here.
Anime and Manga
- The Sankei Newspaper comic strip version of Astro Boy had a Time Travel plot that involved Astro being captured by arms dealers who tried to sell him to one or more of the participants in the war. After he escapes he tries to save a small village from being bombed by the US military. This is probably the darkest storyline in Astro's long career & possibly one of the darkest in Osamu Tezuka's as well. Not only was this one of the few times Astro actually kills humans beings, blowing up several tanks & bombers, but it's all in vain, as more show up the next day & kill everybody anyway, with Astro running out of energy & sinking to the bottom of the Mekong river, where he remains until The Nineties.
- Dutch from Black Lagoon is a Vietnam veteran. Also, Yallow Flag, the Bad Guy Bar the cast go to was built by South Vietnamese refugees.
- Evidence points to Dutch lying about being in Vietnam. He claims to have participated in an operation that his supposed division never saw action in, and doesn't understand codes that any Vietnam vet would pick up on instantly.
- The Vietnam War features into the backstories of several characters inAnime/BloodPlus. David and Akihiro Okamura both had parents in the jungle, while Saya, Haji and Karl fought one another there.
- The original Blood the Last Vampire was actually set immediately before the war on an American base in Japan.
- The manga Cat Shit One, a.k.a. Apocalypse Meow; The Vietnam War WITH FUNNY ANIMALS!!
- In the original Cyborg 009 manga, the protagonists attempted to stop their enemy, the evil Black Ghost organization's War for Fun and Profit plans to escalating the war in order to sell advanced weapons & mass-produced Super Soldier versions of the titular character to both sides. In the newer anime, settled several decades later in time, this was changed to the fictional country in Darkest Africa that was the homeland of 008.
- The relatively obscure manga series Dien Bien Phu (named after the decisive battle in the war of independence) is set in the Vietnam War. While focusing on Americans (with the main character being a Japanese-American photographer), it also includes Vietnamese civilians and insurgents, including a mysterious but deadly hot fighter chick.
- Check out the no-holds-barred Punisher miniseries "Born" (I'm not kidding!) for a taste of what Vietnam was meant to be like. Garth Ennis throws every single criticism there is in the books, and then some
- Captain Atom was the leader of an American special ops unit in the Vietnam War before the experiment that gave him his powers.
- The war is used as a plot device in one story of Hellblazer called "When Johnny Comes Marching Home".
- Iron Man's original Super-Hero Origin story involved Tony Stark being injured and captured in Vietnam, while demonstrating a new weapons system developed for the Americans to use in the war.
- Jon Sable Freelance: Jon served in Vietnam (as a clerk/typist) before the events that led to him becoming a mercenary. One story arc involved him returning to Vietnam in search of missing POWs.
- In Ms. Tree, Mike Sr., Roger and Dan's brother Victor all served in the same unit in Vietnam. In "To Live and Die and Vietnam", Michael, Roger and Dan travel to Vietnam in search of Victor's remains.
- Marvel had The 'Nam, a series that was originally intended to be a seven year Myth Arc of soldiers trying to do their duty through the major years of the United States' involvement in Vietnam.
- Frank Castle aka The Punisher was a Vietnam veteran with the special forces before he became a vigilante. Mentioned often in the MAX-series, as well as in the above mentioned mini series "Born," marking one of the turning points for Castle.
- Flynn "Flyin'" Ryan from Steelgrip Starkey And The All-Purpose Power Tool was taken prisoner in the Vietnam war. He sports a scarred "R" in his forehead from an act of unified defiance when he and his fellow prisoners were ordered to make an anti-American propaganda video.
- In the background of the Watchmen comic, the Vietnam War ended with a decisive American victory. This was due to the godlike super-being Doctor Manhattan showing up at the request of Richard Nixon and transmuting all the jungles into poison gas, forcing the insurgents to surrender or face complete genocide.
- In Spider-Man: Life Story, the issues set in the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s focus on the heroes' reaction to the Vietnam War. Captain America goes rogue to protect the innocent Vietnamese people caught in the crossfire while Iron Man and Giant Man fighting for America causes the conflict to escalate into a longer war.
- In Superman Red Son, Hal Jordan was an American soldier during the Vietnam War, surviving the prison camps by embodying what it meant to be a Determinator.
- Across the Universe
- Air America
- Apocalypse Now — possibly the Trope Codifier
- Don't Cry, It's Only Thunder
- Full Metal Jacket
- Oliver Stone's Vietnam trilogy:
- Born On The Fourth Of July
- Heaven & Earth
- Good Morning Vietnam
- The Deer Hunter
- Hamburger Hill
- Casualties of War
- We Were Soldiers
- John Woo's Heroes Shed No Tears and Bullet in the Head
- Go Tell the Spartans
- The Boys in Company C
- The Hanoi Hilton
- Flight of the Intruder.
- A Bright Shining Lie, adapted from Neil Sheehan's nonfiction book
- Who'll Stop the Rain aka Dog Soldiers
- Coming Home (about a paralytic Vietnam vet returning to civil life)
- Part of Forrest Gump
- Portions of American Gangster
- The film-within-a-film Tropic Thunder features a cast of dim-witted actors (including Robert Downey Jr. as a very dedicated white actor who plays a black character via surgery), which is The Film of the Book. However, the author never went to Vietnam.
- Rambo: First Blood Part II, which is about John Rambo going back into Vietnam to rescue American POW-MIAs who had been left behind.
- Uncommon Valor and the Chuck Norris film Missing in Action had similar plots to the above.
- The Odd Angry Shot about Australian soldiers in Vietnam.
- The John Wayne movie The Green Berets. Its unabashedly pro-war tone and such technical and narrative goofs as having the sun set in the East in the final scene make this an example of 'Nam Narm for many.
- The film Coming Home deals with an injured Vietnam vet's attempts to re-enter civilian life after the war.
- Big Wednesday involves the attempts of a close-knit group of California surfers to avoid fighting in the war.
- The Killing Fields deals with the Cambodian civil war that erupted in the wake of the Vietnam conflict.
- Originally intended to be mentioned in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. Bond was warned that if he was caught scuba-diving in Vietnamese waters, he could provoke another war with Vietnam — 'only this time, we might win.' The US military requested the line be censored from the film.
- Taking Woodstock (referenced many times)
- Referenced in Three Seasons: one of the characters is a former GI who comes back to Vietnam looking for the daughter he had with a local prostitute during his tour of duty.
- The War, starring Kevin Costner, and if This Troper remembers correctly, Eli Wood's first film.
- At end of American Graffiti the Where Are They Now stated that Terry became missing in action in Vietnam. In More American Graffiti it is revealed he faked his own death and went AWOL.
- R-Point, a 2004 South Korean horror film, centering on a squad South Korean troops in the war.
- For the Boys (1991) was the saga of a singing-and-dancing comedy team (played by Bette Midler and James Caan) whose partnership originated in USO shows in World War Two. During this war, they perform at a base where her son is one of the soldiers. Right after she wins over the jeering, rowdy crowd with "In My Life", the enemy attacks with an airstrike and admist the carnage, her son dies in her arms. Since her partner was partially responsible for inspiring him to join the Army in the first place, she blames him for the tragedy, and the climax (set in what was then the present) hinges on whether or not they can reconcile in time for a televised reunion.
- The Fog of War provides first-person commentary on the Conflict from Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who along with Presidents Johnson and Nixon was seen by anti-war protesters as a face of The Establishment. Among other things, he states that the U.S. saw themselves as liberators, saving South Vietnam from Communism. The Vietnamese saw the U.S. as another in a long line of invaders. According to McNamara, it was only years after the war's conclusion that he finally learned from a senior Vietnamese commander just how determined North Vietnam was to win at all costs.
- George R. R. Martin's The Armageddon Rag features a main character who was anti-Vietnam, and got married to avoid the draft. One of his friends was less lucky.
- Robert Mason's autobiography Chickenhawk tells of his time as a UH-1 pilot in Vietnam.
- Run Between the Raindrops (aka Citadel) a novel by Vietnam veteran turned Hollywood actor/advisor Dale Dye, and inspired by his own experiences in the Battle for Hue.
- Just about anything written by O'Brien, but most notably The Things They Carried.
- The Executioner. Vigilante Mack Bolan was a Vietnam veteran (the series of action novels was started in 1969) and later Gold Eagle publications had origin stories set during that era.
- In Country, a Bobbie Ann Mason novel later adapted to film.
- Over The Wall, a children's book by John H. Ritter in which overwhelming Vietnam guilt haunts every major character in the book. There's also an incest plot involving the loose cannon main character and his Soapbox Sadie cousin, in case the book might have seemed too juvenile for its audience.
- The Quiet American is about Vietnam before American intervention.
- In the novel (and film) Firefox, Michael Gant is a Vietnam veteran hired by British intelligence (with US help) to steal a Soviet superfighter. He suffers from flashbacks. At really inconvenient moments.
- The Forever War: Vietnam. In space.
- The eponymous story in Stephen King's Hearts in Atlantis covered the college protest angle of Vietnam, while "Blind Willie" and "Why We're In Vietnam" covered two soldiers' lives after the war.
- Flight of the Intruder, also adapted as a film, involving A-6 Intruder strike fighters.
- Forgotten Honor, by Eric Poole, is the biography of Sgt. Leslie Sabo, who was killed on Mother's Day 1970 and recommended for the Medal of Honor, after which the Army lost his paperwork for 30 years.
- John Clark's background in Tom Clancy's work. Detailed in Without Remorse. He was a member of 3rd SOG, a SEAL before they were public, and participated in the Phoenix Program. Includes the Tom Clancy staple Strawman Political liberal in the form of an America-hating drug addict who got a government job just to have secrets to sell to the Soviets.
- We Were Soldiers Once...And Young, the inspiration for the Randall Wallace-Mel Gibson film We Were Soldiers, and the follow-on We Are Soldiers Still; both were co-authored by Harold Moore, the most well-known American commander in the battle depicted, and Joe Galloway, a reporter who covered the fighting from the thick of the action.
- Some Kind Of Hero James Kirkwood's tragicomic novel about a Vietnam veteran and his time as a P.O.W. and his adventures after his release. Good book.
- In The Guardians, Jake Hawkins fought in the war and died there, though he was murdered by a nosferatu enjoying the chaos of war.
- The John Le Carre novel "The Honourable Schoolboy" is set in the closing weeks of the war.
- "Devil's Guard," by George Robert Elford, is about a former Waffen SS (he fought guerrillas) and his old Nazi buddies fighting in the French Foreign Legion.
- The Things They Carried. It's a memoir of the narrator's time in The Vietnam War, and discusses the realities and sentiments of his platoon.
- Ellen Emerson White's The Road Home, while officially classified as a young adult novel, is a darkly compelling fictitious account of a young woman who decides the serve in Vietnam as an Army nurse — and the physical and mental aftermath of coming to terms with her year there.
Live Action TV
- The A-Team was one of the first shows to use Vietnam as a backstory, and possibly the first one to present it in a positive light.
- In Quantum Leap, Al was a POW in Vietnam. Also, one episode had Sam leap into the body of one of his brother's squadmates and save his life during the war.
- In fact, Sam's actions during this episode led directly to Al's capture (and in turn the formation of much of Al's character when his wife moved on after presuming Al was dead.) The series finale redeems matters when Sam is able to contact Al's wife and inform her that Al was safe and would return home, thus saving their marriage and resulting in a completely different Al--from lecherous old man to devoted father of four daughters.
- The TV series Call of Duty, China Beach and Tour of Duty. The latter was quite well-liked because of its realistic view of the war (at least at the beginning), and was pretty popular in Europe and Latin America as well.
- The Graham Greene novel (and subsequent films) The Quiet American.
- In Airwolf, Vietnam vet Stringfellow Hawke refused to return the helicopter to the F.I.R.M. until his MIA brother was found.
- Lexx's characteristically Dadaist take involved unexplained time travel, countless golf puns, a sexy aerobics lesson, and a trip upriver to eat the Pope.
- Detective Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice is a Vietnam vet. It's also hinted that his boss Lt. Castillo served in Cambodia with the DEA. Castillo also served in Vietnam.
- A major element in Magnum, P.I.
- Glenn Corbett played Vietnam vet Linc Case on Route 66 in 1963. He also played a Vietnam vet as guest star on a 1965 episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
- The Twilight Zone episode "In Praise of Pip". Notable for possibly being the first television program to mention a Vietnam casuality. Originally it was supposed to be Laos, but the show's fact-checkers pointed out that hostilities in Laos had recently ceased, suggesting South Vietnam instead. Which led to the following speech (from a bookie who has received word his son was severely wounded in action):
"He's dying. Pip is dying. In a place called South Vietnam. There isn't even supposed to be a war there, but he's dying. My boy is dying... It is to laugh. I swear to God it is to laugh."
- Another episode features a man who meets an Alternate History version of himself, who went to Vietnam and lost his legs.
- Blue Heelers used Vietnam as part of the back story for Tom and several episodes revolve around the conflict.
- While the 1999 miniseries "The Sixties," focuses on many events of that decade, a large portion of the plot revolves around Jerry O'Connell's character joining the U.S. Marine Corps, serving in Vietnam, and coming back a rather Shell-Shocked Veteran.
- Law & Order's Captain Cragen and Lennie Briscoe are both mentioned as veterans of the war.
- In the pilot of Angel, Angel mentions fighting in fourteen wars but not Vietnam as "They never declared it".
- Andy Sipowicz of NYPD Blue fought in the war, as did his actor Dennis Franz. He didn't speak of it often but did become enraged at a fellow officer who lied about serving.
- Stu Gharty in Homicide Life On The Street fought in Vietnam and was somewhat traumatized by it. One episode had detectives investigating a case, based on a true story, of two men killing each other in an argument over which was more important, the Air Force or the Marine Corps. It is later revealed that both were too young to have served.
- John Winchester of Supernatural dropped out of high school and joined the Marines, fighting in Vietnam.
- Lieutenant John Stillman on Cold Case dropped out of high school to join the Navy and served in Vietnam as a river rat.
- Mad Men takes place during the Sixties. Joan Holloway Harris's husband, a doctor, joins the Army Medical Corps and is sent to Vietnam at the end of the fourth season(set in 1965).
- The patriarchs of Modern Family, Parenthood, and Blue Bloods are all Vietnam veterans.
- Billy Joel's "Goodnight Saigon".
- The song and video of Alice in Chains' "Rooster"
- German Thrash Metal act Sodom derived lots of inspiration from its mainman's Tom Angelripper's fascination with the Vietnam conflict. As a German teenager in the 70s Tom was quite used to the sight of US military personnel (stationed in German NATO bases), in the songs and albums devoted to the topic the band manages to denounce the many horrors of the conflict while also expressing understanding and a kind of human piety for the soldiers having to navigate that hell. The album Agent Orange is the best-selling German thrash metal platter ever.
- Their 2001 album M-16 is an another take on the subject.
- "Big Time in the Jungle" by Old Crow Medicine Show is the story of a young man from "Utah, Alabama" (no, it doesn't make any sense) who gets duped into volunteering to serve in Vietnam. He dies, apparently from Friendly Fire.
- For clarification's sake, it does make sense. It's Eutaw (not Utah), Alabama.
- Sabaton Sabatons songs "Purple Heart" and "Into the fire" are about the horrors of the Vietnam war.
- Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA, which despite some Misaimed Fandom is quite ironic with the whole "born in the USA" thing.
- Jimi Hendrix's song "Machine Gun" is about the war, although it's more about the horrific nature of war in general.
- His iconic cover of "The Star Spangled Banner" is also recognized as an anti Vietnam message as well, since the song features heavily manipulated feedback and guitar noise that horrifically evokes the sounds of an air raid.
- Although it's originally a Bob Dylan song, Hendrix's cover of "All Along The Watchtower" is pretty ubiquitously known as the theme song to Vietnam.
- Orange Crush by R.E.M. Probably.
- Australian rock group Cold Chisel's "Khe Sanh", which is about a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD.
- "Wild Irish Rose" by George Jones is a about a homeless, alcoholic Vietnam vet.
- Also by The Possum: "50,000 Names" is about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
- "More Than A Name On The Wall" by The Statler Brothers.
- "Still in Saigon", by the Charlie Daniels Band, is about a Vietnam veteran finding he can't truly go back home.
- "19" by Paul Hardcastle was a huge hit when it came out in 1985.
- "Sam Stone (The Great Society Conflict Veteran's Blues)" by John Prine.
- The ridiculously lethal RPG Recon is set in the Vietnam War, and is a great way for a group to play a really, really short game, because I assure you, nobody will be left alive by the third encounter.
- The Musical Miss Saigon, which is Madam Butterfly IN VIETNAM!
- The musical Hair, which is more about The Sixties but does include the shadow of Vietnam.
- A Piece of My Heart, a play about the experiences of women serving (or otherwise involved in) the Vietnam War.
- Battlefield Vietnam from the Battlefield series is a team-based First-Person Shooter set in Vietnam. It brought some important things to the combat model established in the WWII-set Battlefield1942, notably the rise of the helicopter, boat combat on inland waterways, jet aircraft, and jungle fighting. Competitive Balance concerns kept it from accurately simulating asymmetric warfare. Despite not having very high sales numbers, the industry smelled a trend, and a wave of Follow the Leader games set in 'Nam arrived, most of them Shovelware; but, unlike the still-ongoing endless parade of WWII shooters, this trend fizzled when everyone remembered that almost no one actually liked this war. It is fondly remembered for the ability to blast period appropriate music whenever you were in a vehicle. If you hopped into a helicopter, you could start playing "Ride of the Valkyries" and other players could hear you coming.
- The Vietnam expansion pack for Bad Company 2 has been very well received.
- Vietcong series of First-Person Shooter, quite notorious for its high difficulty, managed to capture the atmosphere of Vietnam War. The game is notable for quite realistic portrayal of hardened soldiers and their environment as well as for including less popular themes, such as supporting the Montagnard tribes and urban combat during the Tet Offensive. With helicopters, plethora of military tropes and music from the '60s added for good measure.
- Shellshock: Nam '67 portrayed several elements of the war, from torture and butchery to going into towns and visiting hookers.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops has missions that take place during the Battle of Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive, as well as a Death From Above segment over the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
- The first expansion for Magicka is Magicka: Vietnam. Since Magicka is a humorous send-up of the high-fantasy genre, the expansion's tagline of "You didn't see this coming, did you?" is pretty accurate.
- The Battlefield 2 mod Project Reality had a Vietnam-themed version named Project Reality: Vietnam released in April 2012.
- Red Alert 3 Paradox, being the deconstructive Game Mod that it is, has the Vietnam War in its Cold War setting.
- Despite his various back stories being retconned (just trust me, too long to list here), one constant fact that stays true throughout the Metal Gear series is that Big Boss served in the Vietnam War, for three different parts of the US Army, no less. Big Boss's involvement in Vietnam started first as part of a top secret mission in the early 1960s which isn't given much detail on what it was about, then as a Military Adviser assessing the progress of the war in its early days, and then as an actual commander in the field. In addition, during the Big Boss section of the Metal Gear Solid saga (ie, Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops and Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker), there were references to Vietnam throughout the story, namely in regards to weapons of the era and the war's relationship to the Quagmire of the Cold War as a whole. Peace Walker also implies that several of the soldiers within the Peace Sentinels had just gotten out of Vietnam, and some of their statements (when recruited into the Militaires Sans Frontieres) imply that they only served the Peace Sentinels/the MSF because they had nowhere else to go thanks in part to their being told down by the people.
- Principal Skinner is a Vietnam veteran.
- American Dad!:
- In "42-Year-Old Virgin", Roger reveals to Stan that he fought in the war for the Viet Cong. In his own words: "I fought in the Viet Cong in the late sixties. I've told you that story, right? Well the end of it is we won."
- In "In Country...Club". Stan has his son Steve join him in participating in Vietnam War reenactment at the local golf club. Steve then gets post-traumatic stress disorder afterwards.
- In the Christmas Episode of Hey Arnold, Arnold notes that his neighbor Mr. Hyunh seems kind of sad, and asks him about it. Mr. Hyunh tells Arnold about how his village was attacked, and soldiers were airlifting civilians to safety, but they could only take one villager with them. He gave up his then two-year-old daughter Mai. Arnold then sets out to find Mai and reunite her with her father as his Christmas present to Mr. Hyunh.
- In the 1970s segment of the Family Guy episode "Family Guy Through the Years", Peter tries to get Chris to enlist to fight in the Vietnam War, over Brian's protests that it's a hellish landscape littered with innocent Vietnamese deaths. When Quagmire returns from his own tour of duty and is found to be a Shell-Shocked Veteran, deeply traumatized by "the incessant use of Fortunate Son", Peter, in a moment of Didn't Think This Through, saves Chris by taking his place on the draft. Peter ends up dying in combat after being stabbed by a lady boy.
- the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which, to this day, does not have an official version of what happened. Sailors claimed they were attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on two separate days, but the details were so widely varied that Johnson himself said "They might have been shooting at flying fish out there".
- It is important to remember that the USA was not just involved in a counter-insurgency operation in Vietnam, but also a conventional war, particularly in the air. The North Vietnamese had access to a number of Soviet-built aircraft, including the Mach 2 capable MiG-21 "Fishbed". While the aircraft were not as capable as the US ones, a number of factors evened things somewhat. Firstly, the US rules of engagement limited them to firing only at targets identified first, removing the long-range advantage of the US aircraft. The -21 was very good in a dogfight and the other North Vietnamese aircraft weren't that bad. Secondly, US air combat training was poor until the creation of Red Flag and TOPGUN, direct results of this war. Pilots had no experience of combat against types different from their own and were making bad mistakes in their early sorties. Red Flag, on discovery that if you got through 10 missions, you'd probably get through the rest alive, aimed to giving pilots "the ten" in the form of as close to reality as possible training missions. Thirdly, the USA had decided that missiles were the way of the future and decided to remove cannons from their aircraft. They were swiftly put back in. Fourthly, there was the S-75/SA-2 "Guideline" (see above). This Soviet-built surface to air missile led to early missions being aborted by its very presence, tying up aircraft on jamming missions and reducing bomb loads to fit countermeasures. Even still, it claimed a fair number of aircraft, as did conventional AA guns. The US was fighting the air war in order to keep the skies clear for their bombers, which dropped 6 million tons of explosives, more than 5 times the amount used in World War II.
- "But the truth is that my career, far from being destroyed after the war, flourished with a vigor it had not previously enjoyed." Fonda received two Oscars during the 1970s
- obviously Truth in Television; the youngest men subject to the Vietnam draft were born in 1952, and most veterans are up to a decade older