Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Book Review: 'A Gracious Enemy' by Michael G. Kramer

A Gracious Enemy

A fascinating and important survey

Australian author Michael Kramer is a Veteran of the Vietnam War, having served with the First Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) in the Vietnam War during 1968 and 1969, and has published five novels - FULL CIRCLE FOR MICK, FOR THE LOVE OF ARMIN, NOW WHAT?!! (and the version, ANGLO-SAXON INVASION), and A GRACIOUS ENEMY - a book he dedicates ‘to the Vietnam Veterans of all nations which took part in the Vietnam War…I have found myself wanting to tell readers about the Vietnam War as it was seen through the eyes of the Vietnamese people without any political hype.’

The exhaustively researched and documented content of this laudable book is impressive as a history resource, but one aspect that makes the book even more important is Michael’s humanitarian approach to all aspects of the scope of information of the Vietnam wars. The tenor of his book is suggested in his comment, ‘One thing that became very clear during my own war service is that those who are actively taking part in war-like activities very seldom hate their former enemies. The reverse is the case with a great respect developing among the veterans, even if they happened to be on opposing sides…the people of Vietnam have suffered much for what may best be described as political chess between superpowers…the Vietnamese people are a good and hard-working people who only ever wanted their own country to be free of outside interference and who are fiercely independent. ’

Granted, Michael’s words reflect the Vietnam War, ‘the Richard Nixon’s War’, he personally witnessed, but that degree of concern is felt throughout his excellent volume that covers the timeframe from 1770 to the present. Any attempt to condense the information of his book would pale beside his own summary: ‘The full story of the three Indochina Wars. Including warts and all. The first was the Indochinese People fighting against the French colonists and their suppliers and allies from the USA. The second was the people of Indochina (Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam) fighting against an allied coalition force made up of Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, South Vietnam and the USA. The Second Indochina War is usually referred to as the Vietnam War. This book examines the re-adjustment of Vietnamese society after the uprising of the Tay Son Brothers in 1770, their stopping of the Trin and Nguyen families oppression of the Vietnamese people. The coming of the Catholic Church and how this affected the people is examined. As well the activities of Pineau de Bahrain, who was a missionary and the Bishop of Adran - he did much to ensure the French takeover of the majority of South East Asia. That was followed by the French takeover and full colonisation and rule by France. To better control the people, the French forbade the use of Chinese characters in writing and transcribed the entire Vietnamese language into the Latin alphabet, which was then taught in all schools. During WW2, Asian people saw that the Caucasian people could be beaten. That resulted in the First Indochina War, which ended with the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu. The Second Indochina War ended in 1975 with the withdrawal of the last American soldier from Vietnam. The Third Indochina War ended when the Vietnamese Army invaded Kampuchea, resulting in Vietnamese tanks entering its capital while the Pol Pot administration fled into the jungle.’

Personal stories mixed with sound research of the other wars Indochina has suffered make this book not only educational, but also entertaining, as it is related in story format. This is probably the most sound condensation of the facts and history and implications of the Indochina Wars yet assembled. It is lengthy, but so rich in facts and in insights that it should be read by all people committed to understanding – and preventing – war. Highly Recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.