A Different Face of War (Hardcover)
Memories of a Medical Service Corps Officer in Vietnam (North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series #8)
University of North Texas Press, 9781574416176, 528pp.
Publication Date: November 15, 2015
A Different Face of War is a riveting account of one American officer in the Medical Service Corps during the early years of the Vietnam War.
Assigned as the senior medical advisor to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam in I Corps, an area close to the DMZ, James G. Van Straten traveled extensively and interacted with military officers and non-commissioned officers, peasant-class farmers, Buddhist bonzes, shopkeepers, scribes, physicians, nurses, the mentally ill, and even political operatives. He sent his wife daily letters from July 1966 through June 1967, describing in impressive detail his experiences, and those letters became the primary source for his memoir.
The author describes with great clarity and poignancy the anguish among the survivors when an American cargo plane in bad weather lands short of the Da Nang Air Base runway on Christmas Eve and crashes into a Vietnamese coastal village, killing more than 100 people and destroying their village; the heart-wrenching pleadings of a teenage girl that her shrapnel-ravaged leg not be amputated; and the anger of an American helicopter pilot who made repeated trips into a hot landing zone to evacuate the wounded, only to have the Vietnamese insist that the dead be given a higher priority.
About the Author
Praise For A Different Face of War: Memories of a Medical Service Corps Officer in Vietnam (North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series #8)…
"This is a fine memoir that will add significantly to the historiography of the Vietnam War. Van Straten witnessed more death and destruction than most combat soldiers, and his memories of those moments are riveting. No one can tell the story of the devastating effect of war on civilians better than a medical department officer."—Ron Milam, Texas Tech University, and author of Not a Gentleman's War: An Inside View of Junior Officers in the Vietnam War
“In this sensitive and compassionate account of his year as an advisor, Colonel Van Straten provides valuable insights into the lives and culture of ordinary South Vietnamese struggling to survive a hellish war. An important addition to the literature of the conflict. Highly recommended.”—Lewis Sorley, author of A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam
"The outcome of the Vietnam War might have been different if President Johnson had had the insights and information of then-Major Jim Van Straten, so thoughtfully shared in A Different Face of War. His stories of little Ho Thien, the gifted Dr. John Henry Giles and the German hospital ship, the Helgoland, presage what we know today as ‘medical diplomacy.’ He is inspired—and inspiring—as he describes ‘winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people’ through the best of medicine and education."—John P. Howe III, M.D., Former president and CEO of Project HOPE
"Van Straten was a very attentive observer and has thoughtful and detailed observations of numerous aspects of Vietnamese culture. The book is full of great snapshots of Vietnamese life during the war, and of many aspects Western accounts rarely discuss.”—James E. Westheider, University of Cincinnati-Clermont, and author of Fighting in Vietnam: The Experiences of the U.S. Soldier
“In stark, yet humane language, Jim Van Straten has rendered a great service for those who still seek to understand America’s failure to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Vietnamese people. In graphic detail he describes tragedies witnessed by few Americans, and provides clues for today’s leaders of America’s wars on behalf of, and against, indigenous peoples. He was true to the principle that a soldier is charged with protection of the weak and unarmed.”—Thomas M. Hatfield, Director, Military History Institute, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin
"For those interested in the medical care of a civilian population in a war zone, this book provides an excellent case study of the successes and failures of the U.S. Army and NGOs in trying to provide medical care to a third world country's army and civilian population during an insurrection. I believe that any account written by any medical officers concerning his or her service in Iraq or Afghanistan would contain accounts of the simpler problems Major Van Straten encountered in Vietnam."--Journal of America's Military Past
"Anyone wanting to broaden their understanding of our military’s service in foreign countries would appreciate this very personal book. . . . Van Straten displayed all of the qualities we desire to see in our field grade officers."--Military Review