A reporter’s love for the wounded people of Vietnam
By Uwe Siemon-Netto
Đức is the Vietnamese word for German, and Đức was Uwe Siemon-Netto’s nickname during his time as a Vietnam War correspondent. Exactly four decades after America’s withdrawal from that conflict, Siemon-Netto has chosen Đức as the title for his book about his five years of covering the war for Germany’slargest publishing house.
In the words of Peter R. Kann, the former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, “Uwe Siemon-Netto, the distinguished German journalist, has written a masterful memoir… He captures, as very few others have, the pathos and absurdities, the combat, cruelties and human cost of a conflict, which -- as he unflinchingly and correctly argues -- the wrong side won.
“From the street cafes of Saigon to special forces outposts in the central highlands, from villages where terror comes at night to the carnage and war crimes visited on the city of Hue at Tet, 1968, Uwe brings a brilliant reportorial talent and touch. Above all, Uwe writes about the Vietnamese people: street urchins and buffalo boys, courageous warriors and hapless war victims, and the full human panoply of a society at war.
“As a German, Uwe had, as he puts it, ‘no dog in this fight’, but he understood the rights and wrongs of this war better than almost anyone and his heart, throughout the powerful and moving volume, is always and ardently with the Vietnamese people.”
Bestseller author Barbara Taylor Bradford called Đức “one of the most touching and moving books I have read in a long time. It is also hilarious… I did cry at times, but I also laughed.” Former UPI editor-in-chief John O’Sullivan, described Đức ” as an “angry account of a betrayal of a nation,” adding, “But there is hope about people on every page too.”
Partly as a result of his Vietnam experiences, Siemon-Netto turned to theology, earning an MA and a Ph.D. in this field and writing a textbook on pastoral care to former warriors, titled, “The Acquittal of God, A Theology for Vietnam Veterans.”
Written in English, Duc will be available on Amazon.com by the end of May. It is also on offer in Vietnamese and a German edition is expected to be ready by early 2014. “This brilliant book reminds me of Theodore White’s In Search of History,” commented Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. “Uwe Siemon-Netto challenges facets of our flawed historical memory of the Vietnam War,” McMaster continued.
In his epilogue, Uwe Siemon-Netto raises the timely question of whether contemporary democracies are politically and psychologically equipped and patient enough to fight guerrilla wars to a victorious conclusion. Citing the former North Vietnamese defense minister Vo Nguyen Giap’s assessment that they are not, Siemon-Netto observes in Đức with an eye on Afghanistan, “Even more dangerous totalitarians [than the Vietnamese Communists] are taking note today.”