Entwined with Vietnam

A Reluctant Marine’s Tour and Return


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About the Book

In 1968, Theodore Hammett entered a war he believed was wrong, pressured by his father’s threat to disown him if he withdrew from a Marine Corps officer candidate program. He hated the Vietnam War and soon grew to hate Vietnam and its people. As a supply officer at a field hospital uncomfortably near the DMZ, he employed thievery, bargaining and lies to secure supplies for his unit and retained his sanity with the help of alcohol, music and the promise of going home. In 2008, he returned to Vietnam for a five-year “second tour” to assist in improving HIV/AIDS policies and prevention programs in Hanoi. His memoir recounts his service at the height of the war, and how the country he detested became his second home.

About the Author(s)

Theodore M. Hammett served as a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam in 1968–1969. Between 2008 and 2018, he spent five years living in Vietnam and working on HIV/AIDS projects. He lives in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Bibliographic Details

Theodore M. Hammett

Foreword by W.D. Ehrhart
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 287
Bibliographic Info: 42 photos, maps, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8601-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4615-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiii
Foreword by W.D. Ehrhart 1
Key Dates 5
Acronyms 9
A Note on the Music, Vietnamese Tone Marks, and Names 11
Introduction 13

Part I: My First Tour
1. Going to a War I’d Come to Think Was Wrong 21
2. Supplying 3rd Medical Battalion 46
3. Being Apart 57
4. The Politics of the War 61
5. The Vietnamese People 68
6. Culture from Home 74
7. LRP Rations and Warm Beer 82
8. Seeking Danger 87
9. Coming Home 92

Part II: Between My Tours
10. Detachment 99
11. Returning to Vietnam for the First Time 108
12. The ­­Cross-Border Project 115

Part III: My Second Tour
13. Living in Vietnam 123
14. Birds and Animals 134
15. Thoughts on Vietnam Since the War 138
16. Working on HIV/AIDS Policies with Vietnamese Institutions and People 162
17. Getting to Know Vietnamese Culture 179
18. Bún Chả và Bia Hõi 191
19. Crossing the Street and Breathing the Air 203
20. A Second Homecoming 209

Part IV: After My Second Tour
21. Basic School Reunion 215
22. Vietnam Battlefield Tour 218
23. Last Hurrah in Hanoi 225

Epilogue: A Life of Memories, Dreams, and Doubts 233
Author’s Military History 241
Chapter Notes 243
Bibliography 255
Index 259

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Theodore Hammett’s poignant, bittersweet memoir, Entwined with Vietnam, is a story about two nations, two cultures, and one man who devoted a significant part of his life trying to understand the conflicts and commonalities that characterized the relationship between them. A gifted, truth-telling writer, Hammett explores the complexities of personal identity, family, war, tragedy, reconciliation, and redemption with consummate clarity and engaging wit. Written more than 50 years after his initial encounter with Vietnam as a young Marine, this unforgettable book joins the short list of indispensable literature on the war that changed America—and Southeast Asia—forever.”—Raymond Arsenault, historian and author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice and Arthur Ashe: A Life

• “Ted Hammett, at his Marine father’s command, joined the Corps and, although he thought the war was wrong, went to Vietnam soon after his Harvard graduation—as the very height of America’s military disaster there was approaching. Loafing off, boozing it up, and learning to despise the Vietnamese, he was a less than stellar supply officer and a quintessential version of the Ugly American. Years later, he returned to this scene of youthful disillusion, first as a tourist and then as an idealist bent on halting the spread of AIDS/HIV in the country. His success in this endeavor, his burgeoning stature among Vietnamese officials, and his increasing love for the country and its people provide a stellar example of the dictum one character cites that ‘Bad things can lead to good.’ To borrow a phrase from Bob Marley, this book is a ‘redemption song,’ not only for its author but for America itself.”—Win McCormack, editor in chief, The New Republic

• “Engaging right off the bat, compelling, astonishing for its honesty as well as the author’s breadth of knowledge about the war and the country and culture of Vietnam. Both a page-turner and a thought-provoker, Ted Hammett’s memoir, which is as much a love story as a war story, is suffused with both knowledge and joy. Never heavy but always true, this book is an eye-opener as well as a delight.”—Edward Hallowell, M.D., psychiatrist and New York Times bestselling author of 20 books on multiple psychological topics

• “Hammett has an interesting, if offbeat, tale to tell…[his] diverse experiences enlightened me. They are well worth reading.”—VVA Veteran