24 August 2011
An overlooked and long-forgotten military handbook, which sheds interesting light on the US involvement in Vietnam, has just been reissued by Bodleian Library Publishing.
Originally written and published during the war, the pamphlet presents a compelling snapshot of Vietnamese culture, history, politics, infrastructure, geography, and people.
Intended as a crash course for GIs, many of whom had never been out of their state let alone the US, the pocket guide set out ‘Nine Rules’ for military personnel and aimed to encourage friendship with the Vietnamese, and to demystify an unknown country perceived as mysterious to many in the West. An excellent primer to Vietnamese culture, it offers a highly sympathetic account of the country’s historical context.
Viewed from the intervening distance of four decades, the Pocket Guide to Vietnam provides a fascinating historical insight into the American mindset during the Vietnam War, and some of the central issues surrounding the conflict. A candid foreword by a Vietnam veteran puts the publication into context, offering a recruit’s perspective on the culture shock of arriving in such foreign surroundings, and underscoring the role of the Guide as a superb introduction to Vietnam.
This publication makes for captivating reading for anyone interested in Vietnam and its cultural, social, political and military history. The text is accompanied by 32 black and white illustrations reproduced from the original pocket guide.
The production of pocket-size pamphlets for armed forces involved in an international conflict used to be common practice in the 20th century. This sort of publication became a very popular means of instruction and preparation for servicemen during the Second World War, and continued to be used afterwards in successive conflicts.
‘You will fulfil your duty… best by remembering at all times that you are in a land where dignity, restraint and politeness are highly regarded.’
‘Do learn and respect Vietnamese customs.’
‘Don’t think Americans know everything.’