Everything We Had (aff) brings together the oral histories of 33 men who completed tours of duty, from ordinary private-level soldiers to commanding officers. It is this variety and personal focus from man to man which makes this work so readable – each soldier has a different story to tell and the experiences one man had varies wildly from the next.
The time scale is pretty impressive as Santoli has looked at men who were there right from the start in the military advisers phase, around 1962, to those who were present at the end in the mid-70s when America made final attempts to extricate itself from Indo China. Here you’ll find the story of a platoon leader who despite winning awards for valour told his men to do nothing from the book to stay alive, the man who fell in love with a Vietnamese women only to lose her to the VC who saw her as a sympathizer and a nurse who found herself delivering a baby instead of bandaging wounds in a battlefield hospital.
Everything We Had (aff) is a recommended alternative to the straight history book in that is presents a concept of history as a collection of individual experiences which taken together present a kaleidoscope. Surely this is a better way in which to understand the human experience and the past. This is a great read as it crosses all genres and there’s something quirky and powerful about each person’s personal story. Throw out the dry history texts – this expertly picked and highly personal oral history collection has become a Vietnam favourite of mine.