Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “Vietnam War”

Iraq And Vietnam: Differences, Similarities, And Insights

Iraq And Vietnam: Differences, Similarities, And Insights (2004) – http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/00367.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How did the scale of the Vietnam War compare to that of the Occupation of Iraq?
  • What tactics did the US use under the pacification of Vietnam?
  • Who were allies of North and South Vietnam?


This 76 page study from the Strategic Studies Institute is a compare and contrast to the wars in Iraq and Vietnam and provides a useful background to each conflict. From the introduction:

The authors conclude that the military dimensions of the two conflicts bear little comparison. Among other things, the sheer scale of the Vietnam War in terms of forces committed and losses incurred dwarfs that of the Iraq War. They also conclude, however, that failed U.S. state-building in Vietnam and the impact of declining domestic political support for U.S. war aims in Vietnam are issues pertinent to current U.S. policy in Iraq.

Pages 64-76 of this volume consists of endnotes and references to other works.

Vietnam-Era Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Database

The Vietnam-Era Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Database – http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/pow/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find stories of alleged ham radio contact with POWs?
  • What were military letters to spouses and parents like?
  • What stories were told about Vietnam POWs after the end of the war in 1975?
  • Where can I find a map of a POW camp?
  • Where can I learn about Korean War MIAs?


As the title of this resource indicates, this is a database of documents related to POWs and MIAs. What the database doesn’t indicate is that it has some records relating to the Korean War. Most of the the documents appear to evaluations of various reports of POWs and MIA soldiers. The original reports do not appear to be in the database, only the summary and responses. Correspondence to families is included in the database. Maps and low quality photographs are also contained in the database.

The database has a simple search box with no opportunity for fielded searches. Searching by name will often by useful. Terms are searched against brief database catalog records which are usually, but not always linked to PDFs files. The PDF files themselves have no searchable text.

The front page of the database also contains links to a number of documents of general interest relating to the Vietnam War, including:

  • Updated Casualty List
  • Estimative Products on Vietnam, 1948-1975 (PDF)
  • Peers Inquiry (My Lai)
  • The “McCain Bill” (PDF)
  • U.S. Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
  • U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia

Search Tips:

Although this database is a free text search, you can use the headings of records to narrow your results or focus on an area of interest. Some useful terms are:

  • [Country Name] – North Vietnam (NVN), South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Soviet Union, Laos
  • field investigation report
  • Korean War
  • Letters to wife and parents
  • Group photograph
  • Ham radio
  • Photograph
  • Post-1975 Vietnam
  • PW camp

Vietnam Studies (series)

Vietnam Studies (series) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/vn-studies.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What was the role of Australians and New Zealanders in the Vietnam War?
  • How did the military blood program work in Vietnam?
  • Where can I find an account of the battles of Prek Klok?
  • What was the role of Army intelligence in Operation Cedar Falls?


Another online bookshelf of Vietnam-related materials from the Center of Military History. From the series introduction at the beginning of each volume:
“At the request of the Chief of Staff, a representative group of senior officers who served in important posts in Vietnam and who still carry a heavy burden of day-to-day responsibilities has prepared a series of monographs. These studies should be of great value in helping the Army develop future operational concepts while at the same time contributing to the historical record and providing the American public with an interim report on the performance of men and officers who have responded, as others have through our history, to exacting and trying demands.
All monographs in the series are based primarily on official records, with additional material from published and unpublished secondary works, from debriefing reports and interviews with key participants, and from the personal experience of the author.”

Notable works in this series are:

  • Allied Participation in Vietnam
  • The Development and Training of the South Vietnamese Army 1950-1972
  • Division-Level Communication 1962-1973
  • Field Artillery, 1954-1973
  • Medical Support of the U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965-1970
  • The Role of Military Intelligence, 1965-1967
  • U.S. Army Special Forces in Vietnam: 1961-1971

Most of the books in this series are arranged in chronological order and have tables of maps, charts, illustrations and photographs.

U.S. Marine Corps Civic Action Effort in Vietnam, March 1965-March 1966

U.S. Marine Corps Civic Action Effort in Vietnam, March 1965-March 1966. Capt Russel H. Stolfi, USMCR. 1968. 96 pp.

(Paper:  http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/2616463)

(PDF: http://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p4013coll11/id/1456)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What was in a US issued midwifery kit? A blacksmith kit?
  • Where can I find maps of civil action activities?
  • What was the character of the South Vietnamese government in 1965?
  • What was the role of the US Marines in providing medical services?


From the foreward: “This pamphlet tells the story of the first formative year of civilian-aid policies, programs, and actions of the III Marine Amphibious Force.” This 133 page document was based on records, interviews and correspondence. The book is mostly arranged chronologically. Chapter two is a helpful summary of the government and institutions of both parts of Vietnam up to 1965.

The narrative section is followed by an appendix of “Contents of CARE kits provided through Reserve Civic Actions Fund for Vietnam.” The pamphlet is well illustrated but has no index, a special burden because the Table of Contents provides no real clues about what constituted “civic action” in Vietnam.

USCG in Vietnam Chronology (Coast Guard)

USCG in Vietnam Chronology (Coast Guard) – http://www.uscg.mil/history/uscghist/USCGVietnamChronology.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • When was the US Coast Guard (USCG) first involved in operations in Vietnam?
  • What USCG ships were transfered to the South Vietnamese Navy?
  • When was the largest naval engagement of the war?


A four page PDF file chronicling milestones of Coast Guard involvement in Vietnam. Document notes creation and disbanding of units, ships lost or transferred and Coast Guard members killed in action.

US Coast Guard Cutter Campbell Cruise Book 1967-1968

US Coast Guard Cutter Campbell Cruise Book 1967-1968 – http://www.uscg.mil/history/WEBCUTTERS/Campbell_VTN_Cruise_Book.pdf  (site currently down 8/25/17)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What sort of background might the captain of a 1960s USCG cutter have?
  • What operational sections did a Coast Guard Cutter have during Vietnam?
  • What sort of nicknames did enlisted men get on a cutter?
  • What did Guantanamo Bay look like in the late 1960s?
  • What did replenishment-at-sea look like?
  • What did the “crossing the equator” ceremonies look like?


From the introduction: “This is a story of a ship, and the men who serve aboard her. A remembrance of one year in the lives of the officers and crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter in Viet Nam.”

The book opens with a brief history of the ship, then has biographies of the captain and executive officer who served on the cutter during the year being documented. The biographies include state of origin, education and previous assignments. This section is followed by photographs of officers with notations of their assignments on the Campbell. Following photographs of the officers come descriptions of the ship’s different departments, including photos of enlisted and sometimes some personal detail about them.

The description of ship’s departments is followed by a large number of photographs broken up into sections, but minimal annotation and virtually no identification.

The sections are (pages refer to PDF file):

  • Departure and Training (p.27)
  • Operation Market Time (p. 30)
  • Replentishment at Sea (p. 37)
  • Gunfire Support (p. 50)
  • Medical Assistance Aboard (p.57)
  • Med Caps Ashore (p. 61)
  • Work Parties Ashore (p. 63)
  • Boardings (p. 67)
  • The Off Hours (p. 72)
  • Harold’s Night: Gambling in the Campbell’s Plush Floating Casino (p. 75)
  • Crossing the Equator (p.78)
  • Cookouts (p. 81)
  • Ships Parties (p. 83)
  • Personnel Inspection (p. 87)
  • Destruction of a Derelict (p.90)
  • Home Stretch (p. 92)

While the book definitely suffers from the lack of an index, table of contents or careful annotations of photos, writers ought to be able to construct a reasonable “life aboard” story from this cruisebook. At 102 pages, this is short enough to be browsable.

US Army in Vietnam (series)

US Army in Vietnam (series) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/usavn.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What were US forces doing in Vietnam before the handover in 1954?
  • How did US reporters tackle a story about malfunctioning M16s?
  • How did lack of Vietnamese language skills hamper US efforts to train the South Vietnamese Army?


Online library of books relating to the Army’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Notable titles in the series include:

  • Advice and Support: The Early Years, 1941-1960
  • Public Affairs: The Military and the Media, 1962-1968
  • Public Affairs: The Military and the Media, 1968-1973
  • MACV: The Joint Command in the Years of Withdrawal, 1968-1973
  • Images of a Lengthy War
  • Engineers at War

Most books are well illustrated and consist of chronological chapters followed by an index. These volumes will be helpful for scene setting and may provide guidelines for media coverage of fictional wars.

Images of a Lengthy War was not freely available online as of December 2013, but it is available at many libraries. Visit http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/13003872 to see if there is a copy near you. The work covers three decades of photographs and includes early French involvement in Vietnam.

Navy medicine in Vietnam: Passage to Freedom to the fall of Saigon

Herman, Jan K. 2010. Navy medicine in Vietnam: Passage to Freedom to the fall of Saigon. Washington, DC: Naval History & Heritage Command, Dept. of the Navy.

(Paper – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/458583716)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What was life about a hospital ship like?
  • How did American doctors and nurses interact with ordinary Vietnamese?
  • What was it like to have to triage dozens of wounded soldiers?
  • What was the life of a medical corpsman like?
  • Why would you toss a perfectly good Huey helicopter into the sea?


This 50 page book documents the US Navy’s medical experience during its time in Vietnam from the somewhat quiet beginnings in 1954 to the mad evacuation of Saigon in 1975. Medical environments from the fox hole to major hospitals are covered in story and with photographs. A list of suggested readings appears on page 50. All of the graphics are acceptable for all ages. Some of the personal accounts are harrowing.


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