Friday, 22/04/2011 09:36

US veteran tells new war story

by Le Hung Vong


Both sides now: The Vietnamese version of Bare Feet, Iron Will by James Zumwalt.

Both sides now: The Vietnamese version of Bare Feet, Iron Will by James Zumwalt.

HCM CITY — The Vietnamese translation of an American War veteran's book titled Bare Feet, Iron Will: Stories from the Other Side of Viet Nam's Battlefields was released in HCM City yesterday.

The author of the book is James Zumwalt, younger son of the commander of the US Naval Forces in Viet Nam.

The book is based on hundreds of interviews he conducted and presents a different perspective on the war from the other side of the battlefield.

The English version of Bare Feet, Iron Will was printed by Fortis Publishing in April 2010. The 400-page Vietnamese version, titled Chan Tran, Chi Thep, is published by First News and the HCM City Book Distribution JSC (Fahasa).

"Bare Feet, Iron Will takes the reader on a fascinating journey, providing stories – many never told before – as to how enemy ingenuity played a major role in the conflict, causing us not to see things that were there or to see things there that were not," publishing house representatives said at a press conference yesterday.

Chan Tran, Chi Thep includes commendations by Vietnamese generals like Senior Lieutenant General Phan Trung Kien, deputy Defence minister; and Lieutenant General Le Thanh Tam, deputy head of the Vietnamese Veterans' Association.

In his foreword, Kien says: "I admire the author's honesty and courage because he has expressed a point of view which is different from his former one and the US Government's view during the war time."

Lt Col James Zumwalt is a retired Marine officer who served in the American War, the 1989 invasion of Panama and Operation Desert Storm, the first Gulf War in Kuwait.

Now an author, speaker and business executive, he heads a security consulting firm named after his father–Admiral Zumwalt&Consultants, Inc.

James Zumwalt is the younger son of Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., who became commander of the US Naval Force in Viet Nam in 1968. James and his brother Elmo III served in Viet Nam under their father's command.

Admiral Zumwalt approved and directed Operation Ranch Hand that used vast amounts of Agent Orange over many parts of the country. After his eldest son succumbed in 1988 to cancer caused by dioxin contained in Agent Orange, the admiral became a leading advocate on behalf of US veterans afflicted with diseases stemming from exposure to the defoliant.

However, he expressed no regret for its use, seeing it as an action designed to save American lives.

Deeply affected by the loss of his brother, James Zumwalt overcame his internal conflicts and anger about the war by developing extensive relationships with his former enemies during 50 visits to Viet Nam from 1994 to 2004.

This launched him on an unexpected journey in an unexpected direction.

In Viet Nam, almost two decades after the fall of the Sai Gon regime that ended the American War, the author, in a private talk with a former enemy general, came to understand an aspect of the war he never before had.

In that talk, they shared personal insights about the war, discovering a common bond. It began a journey where he would meet hundreds of former North and South Vietnamese and fighters, listening to their personal stories of loss, sacrifice and hardship.

It opened the author's eyes to how a technically inferior enemy, beaten down by superior US firepower, was able to get back up – driven by an "iron will" to emerge triumphant. — VNS

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