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A Timeline of the Vietnam War Through Books

The most controversial war in American history spawned many gripping tales—from the first battle through the hard transition of returning home.

Vietnam war 1972

Photo: Vietnam War 1972 Courtesy of manhhai / Flickr

The Paris Peace Accords was signed on January 27, 1973. The intention of the accords was to establish peace between North and South Vietnam and end direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War.

Arguably the most controversial war of the 20th century, the conflict has inspired many great books and films. Below, we take a look back at the path to peace through nine Vietnam War books.


August 1965

First BattleThe First Battle, by Otto J. Lehrack

On August 18, 1965, the first major clash of the Vietnam War took place on the Van Tuong Peninsula near the new marine base at Chu Lai. The First Battle explores Operation Starlite and the start of America’s long involvement in Vietnam.

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November 1965

we were soldiers once and youngWe Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young, by Lt. Gen Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway

In November 1965, some 450 men of the First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Harold Moore, were dropped into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. Three days later, only two and a half miles away, a sister battalion was brutally slaughtered. We Were Soldiers Once … and Young and creates a vivid portrait of war at its most devastating and inspiring.

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hal mooreHal Moore, by Mike Guardia

This fully illustrated biography details the story of Lt. Col. Harold Moore: the hero of Ia Drang and one of the most admired American combat leaders of the last 50 years. Moore’s name became known nationwide after Mel Gibson portrayed him in the movie We Were Soldiers, although he was already known in certain circles as one of the country’s most celebrated military leaders.

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January–September 1968

river of perfumesRiver of Perfumes, by Michael Stokey

By 1968, opposition to the war had reached its height. The U.S. was immersed in the Age of Aquarius, the civil rights movement, the pill, and young girls in tall boots and short skirts. But life was completely different for those in the jungle and rice paddies of Southeast Asia during the 1968 Tet Offensive, one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War and the subject of River of Perfumes.

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August 1970

13th valleyThe 13th Valley, by John M. Del Vecchio

A classic novel of the Vietnam War, The 13th Valley is based on the real-life Operation Texas Star, which began on April 1, 1970. The story follows the strange and terrifying combat experiences of James Chelini, a telephone-systems installer, who finds himself an infantryman in territory controlled by the North Vietnamese Army.

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The End of the War

carry me homeCarry Me Home, by John M. Del Vecchio

Nixon’s policy of Vietnamization marked the beginning of the end for U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, and troop numbers started to decrease. In this third book in his trilogy about the Vietnam War, Del Vecchio transports soldiers to their final battlefield, the home front, and explores the challenges they faced in returning from the battlefield.

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starlightStarlight, by Scott Ely

During the Vietnam War, international law prevented U.S. forces from entering ostensibly neutral Laos. A secret war there commenced, as the U.S. tried to prevent Vietnamese forces from crossing the border. Historical novel Starlight focuses on a firebase not far from the Laos border, as a radioman and haunted sniper fight to survive.

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saigon illinoisSaigon, Illinois, by Paul Hoover

In order to avoid going to Vietnam, Jim Holder registers as a conscientious objector. He’s assigned to work as a unit manager at a downtown Chicago medical center, worlds apart from his rural roots, and winds up fighting the Vietnam War from a Chicago hospital. This novel spans the entire war, but from a totally different perspective.

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goodbye vietnamGoodbye, Vietnam, by William Broyles

Broyles was one of the very first combat veterans to return to the battlefields after the war ended. No American before or since has gone so deeply into the other side of the war: the enemy side. In this memoir, Broyles interviews dozens of Vietnamese nationals, from the generals who ran the war to the men and women who fought it.

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