Edwin E. Moïse

Historical Dictionary of the Vietnam War

Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press (Rowman & Littlefield), 2001. l [that is roman numeral 50], 493 pp. ISBN 0810841835.

A revised and updated edition, The A to Z of the Vietnam War, was published in 2005.


Editor's Foreword, by Jon Woronoff   (vii-viii)
Notes for the Reader   (ix-xi)
Acronyms and Abbreviations   (xiii-xviii)
Maps   (xix-xxiii)
Photographs   (17 photos on nine un-numbered pages)
Chronology   (xxv-l)
Introduction   (1-18)
      Overview of the War   (1-4)
      Debates over the Origin of the War   (4-5)
      The Nature of the War: Political   (5-7)
      The Nature of the War: Military   (7-8)
      The Air War   (8-10)
      War between Unequal Powers   (10-13)
      The Poor and the Uneducated?   (13-15)
      The Role of the Media   (15-17)
      Aftermath   (17-18)
Bibliography   (437-480)
Name Index   (481-488)
Operations Index   (489-491)
About the Author   (493)


Chronology: The Chronology begins with the Geneva Accords of 1954, and runs to 2001, but coverage of the years 1954-1958 and 1976-2001 is brief. Twenty-one pages are devoted to the years 1959-1975.

Introduction: Comments on the war, with particular reference to issues that are in dispute.

The Dictionary: The 622 articles in the main body of the dictionary (see list below) provide strong coverage of military and paramilitary forces, military operations, weapons and technology, major and minor ethnic groups, the politics of the war, and its diplomatic environment. The greatest focus is on Vietnam and the United States, but there is also significant coverage of Laos and Cambodia, and of the other countries that were in various ways involved in the conflict.
        The main thing I chose not to cover at length was order of battle. Several existing historical dictionaries and encyclopedias provide orders of battle--lists of military units, at least down to division level, with the names of their commanding officers--of ARVN, PAVN, and sometimes other forces. I could have spent a great deal of time compiling orders of battle no better than those in the existing works. I thought my efforts would be better devoted to matters I could cover significantly better than the existing works did.

Name Index: I felt this index was important partly because it allows the reader to look up people who are mentioned in the dictionary but not given a separate entry. Perhaps more important, it allows readers who have seen a name in abbreviated form to look up the individual. The entry in the dictionary for Nguyen Khanh (the ARVN general who became Premier of the Republic of Vietnam early in 1964) is alphabetized under his family name Nguyen; this follows the best practice for dealing with Vietnamese names. But he is often referred to as General Khanh or Premier Khanh. A reader who has seen such a reference can find him in the index under Khanh, and from this can learn that his full name is Nguyen Khanh.

Operations Index: Many named operations and projects that were not important enough to be given a separate entry are mentioned at various points in the dictionary. The operations index allows the reader to locate these references.

Errata: A historical dictionary of this sort is usually written by dozens of authors, sometimes rather carelessly chosen. I have written this one entirely by myself. I believe that having a single author has allowed this volume to have more coherence than competing works, and also I am confident that it is more accurate. But while I am sure that my dictionary contains fewer errors than the competing works, it has to contain some; it covers far too wide a range of material for me to have gotten everything right, especially in the technical specification of weapons systems that often existed in many variants. I would be grateful if readers who spot some of the errors would point them out to me. My e-mail address is:

Errors found so far include:

c.v. for Edwin E. Moise

Revised April 11, 2021.

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