The United States didn’t fight the North Vietnamese all alone, although most of the scholarly work and entertainment media based on the subject may lead one to think so.
The Army of the Republic of Vietnam fought long and hard alongside U.S. troops to keep communists from the north from subjugating them, said Andrew Wiest, an author and professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Wiest will tell the story of the ARVN at noon on Nov. 10 at the University of Houston-Victoria. The free event will be in the Alcorn Auditorium of the University West building, 3007 N. Ben Wilson, and light refreshments will be served.
He is the first guest lecturer brought to Victoria by the Society for Critical Exchange, a scholarly society dedicated to theory that recently relocated to UHV.
Wiest wrote about the role of the ARVN in his 2007 nonfiction book, "Vietnam''s Forgotten Army: Heroism & Betrayal in the ARVN."
"Most books that look at Vietnam only look at the North Vietnamese. It turns out the South Vietnamese were there too," he said.
"To put it bluntly, the standard way to look at the South Vietnamese was that they were so bumbling, so inept, that in some way, they caused us to lose the war,” he said. “It’s real easy to scapegoat a country that doesn''t exist."
But the truth is quite different. While the U.S. fought for eight years and lost more than 50,000 men, the South Vietnamese fought for more than 20 years and lost more than a million lives.
"That certainly indicates that they fought long and fought hard," Wiest said.
Wiest recounts the story of the ARVN through the eyes of two war heroes that saw it firsthand. Tran Ngoc Hue fought the war until his battalion was wiped out at the end of the conflict. He later spent 13 years as a North Vietnamese prisoner.
Fellow war hero and compatriot Pham Van Dinh surrendered and eventually wound up working for the communist Vietnamese regime.
Wiest''s book follows the path of these two men through the war that led them to very different philosophic conclusions and outcomes in the end.
His paradigm-shifting presentation is what the Society for Critical Exchange is all about, its leader said.
"The Society for Critical Exchange seeks to examine everything through different lenses to expand our understanding of the world in which we live," said Jeffrey Di Leo, executive director of the society and dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. "Dr. Wiest''s lecture is a wonderful example of expanding the way we look at history."
Wiest said he was honored to be invited to speak by such an organization.
"It''s definitely a privilege to get the chance to present my work under the banner of the SCE," he said. "We share a common goal to expand understanding and broaden horizons."
Wiest has written 11 books about military history and is in the process of writing his 12th. Since 1992, he has taken students on international trips to visit the key sites that were part of different conflicts, including World War II and the Vietnam War.
For more information about Wiest’s presentation, contact the Society for Critical Exchange at (361) 570-4178.