During the War, Vietnam's coast had to be protected against Viet Cong ambushes and smuggling. The U.S. forces had destroyers, cruisers and gargantuan aircraft carriers, none suited for inshore patrol. This is the story of the ""Brown Water Navy,"" the garage-band flotilla assembled to do the job. Douglas Branson has been to Vietnam several times, including trips in 1966, 1995 and 2011. The first time, he was a 22-year-old, ""Brown Water Navy"" lieutenant JG. Subsequent visits were as a consultant/tourist. Here, Branson recounts three of his Vietnam adventures with humor, detail and insight into the economic, political and gastronomic forces at work.
Branson, the W. Edward Sell Chair of Law at the University of Pittsburgh, shares his changing impressions of Vietnam based on three visits to the country over a period of 46 years. The book is both a memoir of the author's participation in U.S. Navy efforts during the Vietnam War, 1966-67, and a travelogue reflecting his experiences on subsequent visits in 1995 and 2011. In the book's first half. Branson provides insights into the nature of Navy coastal operations gleaned from his military service, though his understanding of broader military affairs is limited and several times he errs when referencing specific military units. His description of the war's end is notably weak, and his understanding of U.S. political and military policy from 1969 to 1975 is simplistic. The book is strongest in its second half, where Branson contrasts the poverty evident in 1995 with the visible progress and increased prosperity of 2011. Overall, this account is not without interest but there are better choices for readers curious about the operations of the Brown Water Navy, Vietnamese history, and postwar Vietnam. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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October 01, 2012
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