Notable Documents: The Navy and Indochina, 1945-1965

Continuing with my review of Library Journal’s 2009 Notable Government Documents, today’s selection is The Approaching Storm: Conflict in Asia, 1945-1965. This first volume in a new Naval History and Heritage Command  series is designed to present “well-illustrated, engagingly written, and authoritative booklets that detail the Navy’s major involvement” in the Vietnam War.

The Approaching Storm is an auspicious beginning to this series. Its concise text places the Navy’s Southeast Asian operational activities in the post-World War II decade into the context of American and international politics. It’s instructive to follow internal political developments in South Vietnam, particularly during the Ngo Dinh Diem regime, and its effects on U.S.-Vietnamese naval collaboration. Despite the Navy’s best professional efforts in both riverine and blue water operations, “the greatest drawback to the development of the navy and other South Vietnamese armed forces was the involvement of their officers in plots, coups, and other political intrigues.” The book also presents a clear account of the Tonkin Gulf incident – a classic example of how the fog of war can obscure the facts for even the participants most closely involved in the action.

Profusely illustrated by photographs and useful maps, The Approaching Storm also includes accounts of individuals involved in the events of the time. I was particularly interested in “Escape from Laos”, which tells the story of Navy Lieutenant Charles F. Klusmann, whose reconnaissance aircraft was shot down over central Laos in 1964. After almost three months of captivity, Lieutenant Klusmann and a number of others escaped from their Pathet Lao prison camp. After three days, Klusmann and one other escapee made it to friendly lines – one of the few American flyers to escape from captivity in Laos during the entire course of the war.

Like Navy Medicine in Vietnam, a previous volume in this series that I’ve blogged about, The Approaching Storm is an excellent brief account of one aspect of the Vietnam War – still perhaps the most controversial armed conflict in American history –  whose story is neither well-known nor well-understood. You can get a copy here, browse through it here, or find it in a library here.

10 Responses to Notable Documents: The Navy and Indochina, 1945-1965

  1. Roseanna Kercheval says:

    I truly appreciate this article.Much thanks again. Fantastic.


  2. Stanley Tom Mamela says:

    Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher! I tried to cover the same thing here about Stanley Tom Mamela


  3. Sam McGowan says:

    Escape From Laos is not about Klussmann, it was written by Lt. Dieter Dengler, who spent almost six months in Laos in the spring and early summer of 1966 then escaped from a POW camp and was ultimately rescued.


  4. Vietnam Booking says:

    This could be a good read but it would be better if both sides were well researched and not based on assumptions or hearsay. Vietnam is forever merged with the US in a history of blood and war but the progress of Vietnam today is shouldered by it’s desire to place the sadness and turmoil of the war behind her.


  5. HERCE Jean says:

    C’est vraiment très “courageux” de la part des USA de bien vouloir décrire et parler de “la Navy et Indochine”. Je constate une fois de plus que les “Américains” ne cachent rien des évènements concernant les guerres menées, et c’est tout à leur honneur.
    Merci de nous instruire de cette sorte.
    Jean Hercé


  6. Jim Harding says:

    Carrier Air Wing Six flying from USS America, we bomb dirt because we had a no win at any cost strategy. Policy makers in the 1960s should never sleep.


  7. Gerardo says:

    Rectifico donde dice SIN tiene que decir UN gracias y perdon.
    Atte gerardo


  8. Gerardo says:

    Muy bueno es un punto de vista muy completo y complejo


  9. Daniel Cornwall says:

    I’m glad to see you promoting these military histories. Of the few dozen DoD histories I’ve read of various periods from WWII through the invasion of Iraq, I’ve found them to be mostly even handed. I think this stems from a “lessons-learned” mentality that understands that you can’t do better next time if you’re not honest about what went on before.

    And naturally I’m very happy to see you consistently providing library links along with other ways of getting this book. Thanks for the work that you do!


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