Goodbye VietnamIn this gripping memoir, a former marine returns to Vietnam to try to make sense of the war. Previously published as Brothers in Arms, this edition includes a new preface by the author.
When William Broyles Jr. was drafted, he was a twenty-four-year-old student at Oxford University in England, hoping to avoid military service. During his physical exam, however, he realized that he couldn’t let social class or education give him special privileges. He joined the marines, and soon commanded an infantry platoon in the foothills near Da Nang. More than a decade later, Broyles found himself flooded with emotion during the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. He decided to return to Vietnam and confront what he’d been through. Broyles was one of the very first combat veterans to return to the battlefields. No American before or since has gone so deeply into the other side of the war: the enemy side. Broyles interviews dozens of Vietnamese, from the generals who ran the war to the men and women who fought it. He moves from the corridors of power in Hanoi—so low-tech that the plumbing didn’t work—to the jungles and rice paddies where he’d fought. He meets survivors of American B-52 strikes and My Lai, and grieves with a woman whose son was killed by his own platoon. Along the way, Broyles also explores the deep bonds he shared with his own comrades, and the mystery of why men love war even as they hate it. Amidst the landscape of death, his formerly faceless enemies come to life. They had once tried to kill each other, but they are all brothers now.
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“An astonishing story.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“One of the finest books of the decade.” —Washington Monthly
“A wonderful book—fresh and intelligent. Broyles’s eye for Vietnam, then and now, is unerring.” —Peter Jennings
“A first-rate piece of work, infused with an ideal American common decency and common sense.” —Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
“Exceptional and memorable.” —Gay Talese
“Few books capture the essence of the Vietnam War and its aftermath so vividly as this one.” —Publishers Weekly
“[A] superbly written, often moving story of Broyles’ journey back to the killing ground in Vietnam where he once served as a Marine lieutenant. A cool, clear meditation that stings the heart.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A remarkable and often unexpected picture of Vietnam . . .” —Los Angeles Times
“I read Goodbye Vietnam when I was seventeen and about to join the Corps. I didn’t then understand the lessons that Broyles was trying to teach me. I read it again in my twenties after having gone to war, a few times in my thirties, and now it’s generally a fixture on my desk when I am writing about men and war, which is nearly always. This is an essential piece of American combat literature. Broyles captures the dizzying highs and crushing lows of small unit warfare, the camaraderie, the sacrifice, and the long trippy road home toward some kind of inner peace for the individual soldier. Read it. Read it. Read it.” —Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
“A book as important as this . . . called for an author young enough to have fought in Viet Nam, lucky enough and cool enough to survive, brave enough to go back and face his old foes and able to write well enough to capture the paradoxes, terrors and beauty of that land and its abominable war.” —Norman Mailer
About the author
William Broyles (b. 1944) was born in Houston, Texas. After studying as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, he served with the marines in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971, an experience he would write about in Brothers in Arms: A Journey from War to Peace (now titled Goodbye Vietnam). After his tour of duty, Broyles became a journalist, contributing to many publications including the Atlantic, the Economist, and Esquire. His essay “Why Men Love War” was included in The Eighty Greatest Esquire Stories of All Time. Broyles was the founding editor of Texas Monthly as well as editor in chief of Newsweek. He is also renowned as a screenwriter, having co-created the television series China Beach—which was inspired by Goodbye Vietnam—and written or co-written such films as Apollo 13, Cast Away, Flags of Our Fathers, and Jarhead.