American and Vietnamese Transnational Peace Efforts since 1975
Hang Thi Thu Le-Tormala
Postwar Journeys: American and Vietnamese Transnational Peace Efforts since 1975 tells the story of the dynamic roles played by ordinary American and Vietnamese citizens in their postwar quest for peace—an effort to transform their lives and their societies. Hang Thi Thu Le-Tormala deepens our understanding of the Vietnam War and its aftermath by taking a closer look at postwar Vietnam and offering a fresh analysis of the effects of the war and what postwar reconstruction meant for ordinary citizens. This thoughtful exploration of US-Vietnam postwar relations through the work of US and Vietnamese civilians expands diplomatic history beyond its rigid conventional emphasis on national interests and political calculations as well as highlights the possibilities of transforming traumatic experiences or hostile attitudes into positive social change. Le-Tormala’s research reveals a wealth of boundary-crossing interactions between US and Vietnamese citizens, even during the times of extremely restricted diplomatic relations between the two nation-states. She brings to center stage citizens’ efforts to solve postwar individual and social problems and bridges a gap in the scholarship on the US-Vietnam relations. Peace efforts are defined in their broadest sense, ranging from searching for missing family members or friends, helping people overcome the ordeals resulting from the war, and meeting or working with former opponents for the betterment of their societies.
Le-Tormala’s research reveals how ordinary US and Vietnamese citizens were active historical actors who vigorously developed cultural ties and promoted mutual understanding in imaginative ways, even and especially during periods of governmental hostility. Through nonprofit organizations as well as cultural and academic exchange programs, trailblazers from diverse backgrounds promoted mutual understanding and acted as catalytic forces between the two governments. Postwar Journeys presents the powerful stories of love and compassion among former adversaries; their shared experiences of a brutal war and desire for peace connected strangers, even opponents, of two different worlds, laying the groundwork for US-Vietnam diplomatic normalization.
“Postwar Journeys fills a significant gap in the literature regarding post–Vietnam War efforts at creating peace and normal relations between the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam by examining nonstate groups and people and demonstrating how they influenced their governments’ policies. Employing a framework of transnationalism, Le-Tormala skillfully weaves together powerful stories with international politics to demonstrate how ‘hidden historical actors’ were able to make two hostile governments in Washington, DC, and Hanoi engage with each other to solve problems that were being ignored. There is no comparable study that has the breadth and depth in examining the efforts of veterans, peace groups, and individuals that ultimately helped forge peace between the United States and Vietnam.”
—David F. Schmitz, Robert Allen Skotheim Chair of History, Whitman College, and author of Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War: The End of the American Century
“Much has been written about the normalization of US-Vietnamese relations in the 1990s. Far less attention has been given to the decades of grassroots peace efforts that led to and followed that normalization. Hang Thi Thu Le-Tormala has now beautifully excavated this history. Through poignant stories and incisive analysis, Postwar Journeys provides a much-needed examination of the ongoing importance of people-to-people diplomacy.”
—Scott Laderman, author of Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides, and Memory and The “Silent Majority” Speech: Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War, and the Origins of the New Right
“Postwar Journeys is an impressive study that details the transnational interactions between ordinary Vietnamese and American citizens who helped reshape the struggle for peace and reconciliation after the end of what the Vietnamese call the ‘American War.’ Addressing the efforts of Vietnamese refugees, Amerasian children of American GIs, American and Vietnamese veterans and their families, relatives of fallen soldiers on both sides, and other citizens who experienced the war in one way or the other, the author examines the journeys of individuals from varied political, cultural, and social backgrounds. In doing so, this book bridges a gap in the scholarship that often overlooks the role of individual citizens on both sides in the postwar effort that led to reconciliation between the former foes. Far-ranging in scope and impressively researched, this book is a valuable addition to the ever-growing historiography of the war.”
—James H. Willbanks, professor emeritus of military history, US Command and General Staff College, and author of Abandoning Vietnam: How America Left and South Vietnam Lost Its War
“A remarkable study that assuredly deserves the accolade of ‘groundbreaking,’ Hang Thi Thu Le-Tormala’s carefully crafted narrative documents the decades-long efforts of private citizens and groups in both Vietnam and America to bring an end to the hostile relations between their nations. Especially notable are the stories and insights gained from mining an astonishing range of sources, including oral history interviews of Vietnamese and Americans engaged in the efforts toward reconciliation.”
—Theodore A. Wilson, professor emeritus of history, University of Kansas
“A wide-ranging and amply researched account of the long and complex process of reconciliation between the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and of the growing amity of their people. Hang Thi Thu Le-Tormala shows how individuals and grassroots groups with deep personal, emotional, and humanitarian motives led this process rather than waiting for government institutions to normalize relations. One story, of an American veteran’s return to Vietnam decades after the war, to give the daughter of a Vietnamese man he killed the photograph that had once belonged to the dead man, moved me to tears. This book broadens our understanding of the human costs of war, and of the human endeavors that pave the path to peace.”
—Patrick Hagopian, author of The Vietnam War in American Memory: Veterans, Memorials, and the Politics of HealingSee fewer reviews...