Book explores treatment of Vietnam War veterans

Book explores treatment of Vietnam War veterans
Historian James Wright will be visiting the Buena Vista Branch Library April 6 to talk about his upcoming book, “Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and Its War.” (Courtesy Scott Manning & Associates)

A historian from New Hampshire is hoping to start a dialogue about the Vietnam War and its impact on American soldiers.

James Wright, 77, president emeritus at Dartmouth College, is looking to start that conversation when his upcoming book, "Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and Its War," is released April 4.

He will be on tour with his new book and visit the Buena Vista Branch Library in Burbank at 7 p.m. on April 6.

Wright, a Marine veteran who served in the late 1950s, said he had been interested for years in American soldiers who have fought in various wars and how the public treats them. In 2012, he published a book titled "Those Who Have Borne the Battle: A History of America's Wars and Those Who Fought Them."

However, Wright wanted to know more about the effects the Vietnam War had on the Americans who fought in it and how they were treated when they came back to the states.

"Vietnam continues to be a war that's marked by controversy," he said. "People debate angrily about the origins of the war, about the conduct of the war, about the way that the war was ended and about the consequences of the war. But I think that in this negative fog over the national narrative, we haven't done a good enough job in understanding those kids who fought in Vietnam."

Wright said he spent a few years interviewing veterans who served during the Vietnam War and learning about their experiences during and after their service. He even talked with families who lost a family member during the war and what they went through.

He learned that, unlike for World War II veterans or those currently serving who receive praise and support from the public, some Vietnam veterans were either not respected when they came home, or no one wanted to talk to them about the war.

"Most people did not encounter hostility when they came home, but they encountered more of an embarrassed indifference," Wright said. "People really didn't want to talk to them about it. I remember one person told me that their dad, who fought at Iwo Jima, never once asked him about the war."

Though it has been more than 40 years since the Vietnam War and more people generally thank veterans for their service, Wright said he thinks there should be a greater understanding of what Vietnam veterans have gone through.

"I think it's time to have a conversation about that," he said.


Anthony Clark Carpio,

Twitter: @acocarpio