South Vietnamese Soldiers

Memories of the Vietnam War and After

by Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen


By 1975, there were more than 6,000 women serving in South Vietnam's armed forces.

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Cover image for South Vietnamese Soldiers

March 2016


Pages 289
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Military History/Armed Forces
  World History/Conflict

Published on the 40th anniversary of the end of the war in Vietnam, this book brings to life the experiences and memories of South Vietnamese soldiers—the forgotten combatants of this controversial conflict.

South Vietnam lost more than a quarter of a million soldiers in the Vietnam War, yet the histories of these men—and women—are largely absent from the vast historiography of the conflict. By focusing on oral histories related by 40 veterans from the former Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces, this book breaks new ground, shedding light on an essentially unexplored aspect of the war and giving voice to those who have been voiceless.

The experiences of these former soldiers are examined through detailed firsthand accounts that feature two generations and all branches of the service, including the Women's Armed Forces Corps. Readers will gain insight into the soldiers' early lives, their military service, combat experiences, and friendships forged in wartime. They will also see how life became worse for most in the aftermath of the war as they experienced internment in communist prison camps, discrimination against their families on political grounds, and the dangers inherent in escaping Vietnam, whether by sea or land. Finally, readers will learn how veterans who saw no choice but to leave their homeland succeeded in rebuilding their lives in new countries and cultures.


  • Relates the stories of South Vietnamese soldiers through a compelling narrative driven by oral histories
  • Brings the experiences of these soldiers to life for the reader by sharing their compelling firsthand accounts
  • Draws on a key oral history collection newly established at the National Library of Australia in 2013–2014
  • Provides fascinating insights into the soldiers' early years, their military service and experiences, and their post-war lives
  • Conveys the strength of will and resilience that enabled these men and women to endure the hardships of war, the defeat of their armed forces, the loss of their country, and the challenges of becoming refugees and resettling in new lands
Author Info

Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen, PhD, is associate professor and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. Her published works include Praeger's Memory Is Another Country: Women of the Vietnamese Diaspora, the 2010 Choice Outstanding Academic Title; Voyage of Hope: Vietnamese Australian Women's Narratives, shortlisted for the 2007 New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards; and Vietnamese Voices: Gender and Cultural Identity in the Vietnamese Francophone Novel. She is editor of New Perceptions of the Vietnam War: Essays on the War, the South Vietnamese Experience, the Diaspora and the Continuing Impact. Nguyen holds a doctorate from the University of Oxford. Her previous fellowships include an ARC Australian Research Fellowship at the University of Melbourne, a Harold White Fellowship at the National Library of Australia, and a Visiting Fellowship at the University of Oxford.



"Nguyen's remarkable achievement is her ability to allow the veterans to speak for themselves in this groundbreaking study from that tragic conflict. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries."Choice

"[An] outstanding book. . . . The South Vietnamese military—which lost a quarter of a million men killed in action and nearly one million seriously wounded—has largely been ignored, forgotten or dismissed as irelevant. This excellent and much-needed book, however, gives voices to those unknown soldiers of the Vietnam War, and constitutes an important and necessary addition to the burgeoning scholarship of the war."Vietnam Magazine

"Nguyen's book is a welcome and important contribution to the study of the Vietnam War, the South Vietnamese state and society, and the post-1975 Vietnamese diaspora. It is also a fine example of the use of personal testimony to explore the complex and ongoing interplay between history and memory."Australian Historical Studies

"...Nguyen's book breaks ground with its broader societal focus, especially in its inclusion of the children of ARVN veterans, who for the most part do not reside in Vietnam...It is important not only for scholars of the war, but also for the veterans and their children and grandchildren who have long been robbed of the chance to commemorate the lives and struggles of their parents and grandparents..."Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

"...expands the circle of retrieved voices, making a very important contribution to our understanding of the ARVN and its soldiers...Nguyen's book is a very important step in retrieving the histories of the RVN soldiers."Cambridge Core

"This book does what oral history enables one to do: it adds to the historical record the experiences and perspectives of groups of people who might otherwise have been hidden from history. . . . South Vietnamese Soldiers thus provides new and valuable first-hand accounts by South Vietnamese soldiers about their service during the war and their lives in its aftermath."Oral History Review

"There is much to commend about this well researched book. It offers a rich and at times heart-wrenching reconstruction of the experiences of combatants whose efforts have been written out of national history by an authoritarian regime and are rarely acknowledged. . . . This book is a valuable addition to the historiography of the Vietnam War."History Australia

"A deeply profound work of both historical and current political significance. Nguyen's combination of oral and textual historical research, and her accessible delivery make this text a highly important work for advanced undergraduate students, graduate students and those more broadly interested in issues within Vietnamese history, colonial history, refugee studies, gendered histories and the politics of remembrance."Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific

"Nguyen uses oral histories to reveal a key facet of the Vietnam War in a way that challenges U.S.-centric narratives. . . . This work certainly helps to fill a gaping hole in the Vietnam War's historiography while better balancing recognition of who fought."Journal of Military History

"Nathalie Nguyen memorializes [South Vietnamese soldiers] stories in her astounding and remarkable book . . . a rare collection of the narratives of RVNAF veterans whose stories have mostly been shrouded behind a cloak of silence. . . . The most notable segment of the book are the oral histories of women who served in the Women's Armed Forces Corps (WAFC)—narratives that cannot be found anywhere else."diaCRITICS: Art & Culture of the Vietnamese & SE Asian Diaspora

"Nguyen provides a strong oral history in which those who were associated with the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) discuss in their own words their experiences during the war and its aftermath. . . . This work is strongly recommended."Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement

"Overall, Nguyen's book is a welcome addition to the literature on the Vietnam War that achieves its aim of writing the personal stories of South Vietnamese soldiers into the military history of the conflict."New Mandala: New Perspectives on Southeast Asia

"South Vietnamese Soldiers, by Monash University academic Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen, is . . . an unusual and welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on the war. The South Vietnamese soldiers in this book, and the hundreds of thousands whom they represent, were people not puppets, who fought for a country and a set of ideals in which they believed."The Strategist (Australian Strategic Policy Institute)

"As two distinguished historians, Peter Edwards and Jeffrey Grey, have separately noted this book recovers a dimension of the Vietnam War missing from the massive literature on the War: It provides the remembered perspective, albeit after 40 or more years and across a chasm of suffering and exile, of those who fought for the losing side."Australian Institute of International Affairs


"Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen has made a major contribution not only to the history of the Vietnam War but also to the history of wars and their aftermath. South Vietnamese Soldiers is both a scholarly and an emotive account of those who served in the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam. Based on extensive interviews with former service personnel, the book recovers an important dimension of the war, too often distorted or completely overlooked in the extensive literature on the war."—Peter Edwards, Official Historian of Australia's Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948–1975

"In a powerful and eloquent book, Nguyen rewrites the South Vietnamese back into their own history and gives them back their voices. This is an important and overdue treatment of the missing dimension of the Vietnam War. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with surviving veterans of the Republic of Vietnam's military, Nguyen restores a critical perspective to the study of the war and offers additional dimensions to our understanding. This often deeply moving study should be read by everyone with an interest in the subject."—Jeffrey Grey, Professor of History, UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy

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