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Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam

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Nearly forty years after the official end of the Vietnam War, Dear America allows us to witness the war firsthand through the eyes of the men and women who served in Vietnam. In this collection of more than 200 letters, they share their first impressions of the rigors of life in the bush, their longing for home and family, their emotions over the conduct of the war, and Nearly forty years after the official end of the Vietnam War, Dear America allows us to witness the war firsthand through the eyes of the men and women who served in Vietnam. In this collection of more than 200 letters, they share their first impressions of the rigors of life in the bush, their longing for home and family, their emotions over the conduct of the war, and their ache at the loss of a friend in battle. Poignant in their rare honesty, the letters from Vietnam are "riveting,... extraordinary by [their] very ordinariness... for the most part, neither deep nor philosophical, only very, very human" (Los Angeles Times). Revealing the complex emotions and daily realities of fighting in the war, these close accounts offer a powerful, uniquely personal portrait of the many faces of Vietnam's veterans. 


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Nearly forty years after the official end of the Vietnam War, Dear America allows us to witness the war firsthand through the eyes of the men and women who served in Vietnam. In this collection of more than 200 letters, they share their first impressions of the rigors of life in the bush, their longing for home and family, their emotions over the conduct of the war, and Nearly forty years after the official end of the Vietnam War, Dear America allows us to witness the war firsthand through the eyes of the men and women who served in Vietnam. In this collection of more than 200 letters, they share their first impressions of the rigors of life in the bush, their longing for home and family, their emotions over the conduct of the war, and their ache at the loss of a friend in battle. Poignant in their rare honesty, the letters from Vietnam are "riveting,... extraordinary by [their] very ordinariness... for the most part, neither deep nor philosophical, only very, very human" (Los Angeles Times). Revealing the complex emotions and daily realities of fighting in the war, these close accounts offer a powerful, uniquely personal portrait of the many faces of Vietnam's veterans. 

30 review for Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam

  1. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    This book is not for the faint hearted, but what could paint a more accurate picture of war than the letters of soldiers. They range from hopeful and beautiful to heart rending. Youll find yourself smiling at the tenacity of the human spirit, and alternately crying at the futility of it all sometimes. The letters are fair in their representation of the men (and occasional woman) that served our nation, and fair in representation of the Vietnam. There are letters from soldiers writing about the This book is not for the faint hearted, but what could paint a more accurate picture of war than the letters of soldiers. They range from hopeful and beautiful to heart rending. You’ll find yourself smiling at the tenacity of the human spirit, and alternately crying at the futility of it all sometimes. The letters are fair in their representation of the men (and occasional woman) that served our nation, and fair in representation of the Vietnam. There are letters from soldiers writing about the beauty of the country, the kindness of the people, and others that think the place is disgusting and should be left to the dogs. It’s a real, unbiased, and in depth cover of a war, more than you’ll ever get in a history book. I highly recommend it. It’s such a complex social event, and this books confronts it full on, often with notes on the outcome (and sometimes tragedy) of the lives of the authors of the letters.

  2. 5 out of 5

    jeremy

    this collection is incomparably moving and utterly compelling. it was adapted for the stage when i was in high school, and on opening night we had a large number of vietnam veterans in the audience. following the performance, we met privately with them, and we all sat stunned as grown men wept hysterically on account of the memories it brought back for them, as many of the veterans were the same age we were at the time of the performance when they first saw combat overseas. it was in that moment this collection is incomparably moving and utterly compelling. it was adapted for the stage when i was in high school, and on opening night we had a large number of vietnam veterans in the audience. following the performance, we met privately with them, and we all sat stunned as grown men wept hysterically on account of the memories it brought back for them, as many of the veterans were the same age we were at the time of the performance when they first saw combat overseas. it was in that moment that evening, perhaps more than in any other, that i realized the real, life-long consequences of armed conflict. seeing us in full fatigues with actual weapons in hand made their recollection of the experience frighteningly powerful. this war, and all others, happened to actual people (whom had friends, lovers, siblings, and parents), and the sight of those men crying haunts me still. while the letters home to loved ones differ from those of any other war solely on account of the details, and never the sentiments expressed, there could easily be a limitless collection of books such as this one for every war ever fought (and, sadly, for those to be fought yet).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    As a lover of history, this book moved me to tears at some points, frightened me at others, and angered me at yet others. The reality of war is a severe and brutal one, and seeing the point of views of so many who experienced it firsthand was utterly thrilling and terrifying.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark Fallon

    This beautiful book from 1985 is a collection of letters from soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen that they sent home while in Vietnam. Some of the letters read lie poetry, while others simply share the danger and drudgery of being in a combat zone. At the end of each letter, the editor included a brief note of when the writer wrote, where they were assigned and, in too many cases, how they died in Vietnam. Should be mandatory reading for every member of Congress when they take office, and This beautiful book from 1985 is a collection of letters from soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen that they sent home while in Vietnam. Some of the letters read lie poetry, while others simply share the danger and drudgery of being in a combat zone. At the end of each letter, the editor included a brief note of when the writer wrote, where they were assigned and, in too many cases, how they died in Vietnam. Should be mandatory reading for every member of Congress when they take office, and every member of any administration. We must never forget the humanity of those we send to war. Reading their own words is a powerful reminder. And, I'm hoping that the families and friends of our currently deployed forces are saving their emails and letters. And hopefully someday choose to share those in a similar fashion.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I thought the book was very good. It was different, but good. The book was basically just a collection of letters from hundreds of soldiers during the vietnam war. What i really liked about it was that some of the letters were from the same people, so you could kind of follow the soliders and really get get a good perspective of what it was like over there. The letters where divided up into different chapters in the book based on what the soldier was doing at the time, for example, there would I thought the book was very good. It was different, but good. The book was basically just a collection of letters from hundreds of soldiers during the vietnam war. What i really liked about it was that some of the letters were from the same people, so you could kind of follow the solider’s and really get get a good perspective of what it was like over there. The letters where divided up into different chapters in the book based on what the soldier was doing at the time, for example, there would be a whole chapter of letters written by wounded soldiers, and another from soldiers on the front line. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the vietnam war. Its a good book for picking up and setting down, since there is no real story line, you can read just a few letters at a time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Started reading this book on my summer vacation and couldn't put it down. I was sitting in this beautiful beach house, crying my eyes out at times because of the stories these letters told. A great book to read if you want to hear some of the real stories from the war.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nick Plutchak

    Read this, do it now.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This is definitely a more interesting take on the vietnam war than a straight history book. The interesting thing about this book is that after each letter it tells you the fate of the soldier who wrote it. So sometimes theres a letter of the "USA USA, I killed 20 gook commies yesterday and I'm damn proud of it. I'm reenlisting" variety which is followed up by a " ______ Is now president of an investment banking firm in New York". And sometimes there is a "Dammnit why did I have to get drafted? This is definitely a more interesting take on the vietnam war than a straight history book. The interesting thing about this book is that after each letter it tells you the fate of the soldier who wrote it. So sometimes theres a letter of the "USA USA, I killed 20 gook commies yesterday and I'm damn proud of it. I'm reenlisting" variety which is followed up by a " ______ Is now president of an investment banking firm in New York". And sometimes there is a "Dammnit why did I have to get drafted? This is so screwed up, I saw a kid get napalmed yeserday. I just wanna go home" variety letter followed by a "_____ was killed by a landmine on Jan 3 1966". Sometimes it's the reverse, but if you have any sense of "karma" or cosmic justice this will shatter it for you. Each chapter focuses on a different subject, which is nice. The reason why I gave it only 3 stars is that even though the letters themselves are mostly compelling the entire book plays strongly on this annoying, bullshit "wise warrior philosopher poet" mythology. Its evident on the cover, and in the intro-epilogue bits and its annoying as hell. Packaged in there as well are these anti-rational collectivist notions of an "America" which doesn't exist. Also the intro was (probably ghost) written by John McCain. Wtf?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    I was first introduced to this book my junior year of high school. We watched the video version of Dear America in my American history class. At the end of the video, it talks about the book. I went out and picked up a copy shortly thereafter. This book is one of the most loved in my collection. I can't tell you exactly how many times I've read it, but it's at least once a year since I bought it (in 2003). Even after having read it so many times, Dear America is no less poignant and powerful. I I was first introduced to this book my junior year of high school. We watched the video version of Dear America in my American history class. At the end of the video, it talks about the book. I went out and picked up a copy shortly thereafter. This book is one of the most loved in my collection. I can't tell you exactly how many times I've read it, but it's at least once a year since I bought it (in 2003). Even after having read it so many times, Dear America is no less poignant and powerful. I find myself experiencing a wide range of feelings: happy and sad, laughing and crying, angry and hurt. But I think that the letters and the impact of this book is best summed by the final words in the last letter of the book. A letter from a mother to her son 15 years after his death in Vietnam; a letter left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. "They tell me the letters I write to you and leave here at this memorial are waking others up to the fact that there is still much pain left, after all these years, from the Vietnam War. But this I know. I would rather to have had you for 21 years, and all the pain that goes with losing you, than never to have had you at all."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Much has been made of the Vietnam War being the first shown to the American public on television and in relatively uncensored photographs, so maybe it's that narrative that prompts this feeling, but: as touching and painful as these letters are, they simply aren't as powerful alone as the HBO special (same name) for which the letters, read by actors, provide the only narrative over film and pictures of the war and the boys (the children) who fought it. I will finish reading this, and I will Much has been made of the Vietnam War being the first shown to the American public on television and in relatively uncensored photographs, so maybe it's that narrative that prompts this feeling, but: as touching and painful as these letters are, they simply aren't as powerful alone as the HBO special (same name) for which the letters, read by actors, provide the only narrative over film and pictures of the war and the boys (the children) who fought it. I will finish reading this, and I will continue to be moved by it, but I urge anyone who hasn't seen the documentary (very literally a documentary)to see it ASAP. Um, I'm actually going to go buy it on Amazon right now. Having finished it, I'm ready to admit that finding the visual version more moving was shallow -- on my part, and maybe also on the part of film as a medium, since it's defined by parameters, framing, cutting. The sheer volume of letters, of words and sentiments and fears and deeply felt losses, in the book could not be matched by a movie (at least not one that people would go to see).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sheela Word

    4.5 stars. A well-organized and diverse collection of letters written by Vietnam soldiers and rear-echelon and medical personnel. Some are eloquent, others less so. Some try to tell the truth, others to conceal it. I found myself jumping first to the italicized paragraph following each letter, so that I could learn the fate of the correspondent prior to engaging emotionally with the material. The collection has a cumulative effect. For me, it was particularly sad to learn that many of those who 4.5 stars. A well-organized and diverse collection of letters written by Vietnam soldiers and rear-echelon and medical personnel. Some are eloquent, others less so. Some try to tell the truth, others to conceal it. I found myself jumping first to the italicized paragraph following each letter, so that I could learn the fate of the correspondent prior to engaging emotionally with the material. The collection has a cumulative effect. For me, it was particularly sad to learn that many of those who survived the war and went back to the family and friends they had missed so badly, did not survive peace. For every returning soldier described as alive and gainfully employed, there seemed to be a counterpart who died in his 30's, was incapacitated with PTSD, or was jobless. The book is not polemical, but to me seemed a very effective indictment of this war.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This book is a compilation of letters (and some poems) written by Americans in Vietnam during the war. Each letter is followed by a brief description of when the person served and either what they were doing at the time of publication, or how old they were when they were killed. It was sad to read comments about these guy's future plans only to find out that they never made it that far. However I found it very interesting to read about the varying thoughts that went through these young men's This book is a compilation of letters (and some poems) written by Americans in Vietnam during the war. Each letter is followed by a brief description of when the person served and either what they were doing at the time of publication, or how old they were when they were killed. It was sad to read comments about these guy's future plans only to find out that they never made it that far. However I found it very interesting to read about the varying thoughts that went through these young men's (and a few women's) minds while they were there. It ends with a very touching letter written by a mother to her dead son. Great book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    The book is exactly what the title says -- actual letters home written by the men -- boys, really -- who served on the front lines of Vietnam. After each letter there is biographical information about the writer, including his fate. The letters are so honest and compelling, and so wrenching that I can hardly wait to get to the end to see the author's fate. And there's the double-edged sword -- it's heartening to read that he came home, heartbreaking to read that he was killed in combat. The book is exactly what the title says -- actual letters home written by the men -- boys, really -- who served on the front lines of Vietnam. After each letter there is biographical information about the writer, including his fate. The letters are so honest and compelling, and so wrenching that I can hardly wait to get to the end to see the author's fate. And there's the double-edged sword -- it's heartening to read that he came home, heartbreaking to read that he was killed in combat. Collectively the soldiers provide a view of the war that was never reported on the news or in the textbooks.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I've never known much about the Vietnam War, but this incredibly moving, raw perspective of the war from the voices of actual soldiers though their letters home left me with an incredible sense of admiration and gratitude for the courageous sacrifices of those who defend and fight for freedom. I loved reading about the heroic acts and demonstrations of loyalty and bravery, but even more so, the admissions of genuine fear, anger, insecurities, and confusion about the purpose of what they were I've never known much about the Vietnam War, but this incredibly moving, raw perspective of the war from the voices of actual soldiers though their letters home left me with an incredible sense of admiration and gratitude for the courageous sacrifices of those who defend and fight for freedom. I loved reading about the heroic acts and demonstrations of loyalty and bravery, but even more so, the admissions of genuine fear, anger, insecurities, and confusion about the purpose of what they were doing. It is a completely honest account that is both sobering and inspiring.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sherrie

    As a college student in the Vietnam era, this war and the events around it shaped my entire life. Not because I was there, but because it changed so many outlooks in the US. This book followed the same pattern--from unquestioning service to questioning everything we stood for. "Dear America" started a little slowly, but gained speed, and more than once in the second half of it, I found myself tearing up, thinking of all the people of my generation who were scarred by it, and (as is numbingly As a college student in the Vietnam era, this war and the events around it shaped my entire life. Not because I was there, but because it changed so many outlooks in the US. This book followed the same pattern--from unquestioning service to questioning everything we stood for. "Dear America" started a little slowly, but gained speed, and more than once in the second half of it, I found myself tearing up, thinking of all the people of my generation who were scarred by it, and (as is numbingly apparent by reading) all the people who didn't come back. It was, for me, a deeply affecting read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Al

    I love to just walk around in book stores and look for treasures. I found this book in Half Price Books, and I knew I had hit gold. I was just a little bit younger than the guys that served in Vietnam. However, I have worked with, and known, too many of them to count. This book gave an insight into their world that I had never been privileged with until now. I respect and appreciate these wonderful Americans of my generation.

  17. 4 out of 5

    RYCJ

    This is one of the very few books where I've both read the book and watched the movie. Both were equally powerful. One of the most difficult things to do is to stand in another man's shoes. That's what reading this book felt like. Men sharing parts of what serving in Vietnam was like through letters written home; many of them letters they never expected to be published. Another part of history that has touched me for a very long time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brook

    This is a really bare-bones book. At the beginning of each chapter is a description of the letters contained therein (last letters home, "cherries", etc), and a little bit of melodrama. But after that, it's just letters home, with very helpful footnotes as to who each soldier was, what became of them, and where they are "now" (the book was published a while ago) if they survived the war. Very straightforward, and very, very moving.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    This book was incredible. It was so heartbreaking and raw and beautiful. I usually don't like books assigned for school, but this was such an important read. This book sparked so many emotions in me and taught me so much about the Vietnam War and soldiers on the battlefield. I'm sobbing. Everyone needs to read this.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gayle

    I read this as part of the POPSUGAR 2017 Reading Challenge ("a book of letters"). This is not a book I would normally read, but my husband recommended it. This book is incredibly sad. I have come away with a new appreciation for veterans of Vietnam after getting a glimpse of what they went through.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Ward

    Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam by Bernard Edelman, Editor (W.W. Norton & Co. 2002)(959.70438). More than 200 letters home from Vietnam era servicemen to family, friends, and others have been selected for publication in this volume about the most intimate thoughts of the soldiers who served in Vietnam. My rating: 7/10, finished 2005.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    each of us is a can of tomato paste and though we may not all have the same label as we spin thru the air, when we land too hard or get torn, from the outside or within, we spill out and stain the hands of everyone who knew us - Capt. Michael O'Donnell, MIA, shot down near Ben Het March 24, 1970

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cassidy

    This book takes a long hard look at wartime and how if affects the soldiers living it. Each chapter filled with letters that have a specific theme, be prepared to cry, cringe, and cheer your way through it. It made me more grateful for the sacrifices made by not only the soldiers during war, but their families as well.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tamara

    The only reason that I did not give this book five stars is that it has been heavily edited. The editor stated as much in the beginning of the text. So I imagine that a less censored compilation would have produced a more representative picture. but the caution is understandable since this book was published in conjunction with the opening of a new Vietnam memorial.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    This book is incredibly powerful. It is a compilation of correspondence sent home from soldiers serving in Vietnam. To read their thoughts, desires, concerns, passions, etc. with the understanding of the circumstances underwhich they wrote them is very impressive.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    This book is a collection of letters that were written home from soliders during the Vietnam War. This book does a really good job of showing what the troops were feeling while in the Vietnam. It is very sad but a must read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I read this in the 6th grade when I was obsessed with the Vietnam war. Reading the letters sent home will tear your heart out. It gives an individual and human voice to those who are often thought of as a collective, rather than real people who lead real lives.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Susie

    It's been awhile since I've read it, but I recall that it was a collection of real letters from soldiers fighting in Vietnam. It was moving to see how ordinary people had to deal with the horrors of war...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    This book is compiled of letters written by American soldiers fighting in Vietnam. It shows what American soldliers'lives were like during Vietnam, and how they coped with what they were going through by writing letters home to friends and family.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brit McCarthy

    Absolutely no words can describe exactly how this book made me feel. Not having much knowledge on the Vietnam war, this book really opened my eyes and my heart - it really made me feel something, just reading these simple letters home. I'm very, very glad I read this book.

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