"Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam" by Elizabeth Partridge, List 1

In this acclaimed book, Elizabeth Partridge combines meticulous research, photographic records, and personal accounts into a vivid history of the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

This list covers Prologue (November 1968) – America: President and Commander in Chief John F. Kennedy (November 1963).

Here are links to our lists for the book: List 1, List 2, List 3, List 4, List 5
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definitions & notes only words
  1. vigilant
    carefully observant or attentive
    But inches away, he felt tense and vigilant.
  2. warily
    in a manner marked by keen caution and watchful prudence
    He looked at us warily, taking in our love beads, and John’s and Warren’s long hair.
  3. compulsory
    required by rule
    We were high-school seniors, and the clock was ticking: once out of high school all American males faced two years of compulsory military service.
  4. reverberate
    ring or echo with sound
    The sound of machine-gun fire and exploding bombs reverberated off our living-room walls.
  5. deferment
    act of putting off to a future time
    He was given a medical deferment for the braces he wore on his teeth, and told to report back in a year.
  6. rhetoric
    study of the technique for using language effectively
    I started college at nearby UC Berkeley, where my life was a mixture of antiwar rallies and marches and beginning French and rhetoric classes.
  7. irrevocably
    in a manner that cannot be taken back
    Our country had irrevocably split in two: those for the war, and those against.
  8. quell
    suppress or crush completely
    National Guardsmen, called out by the governor to quell demonstrations, surround a Vietnam War protester during the People's Park Riot in Berkeley, California, 1969.
  9. divisive
    causing or characterized by disagreement or disunity
    Our complicated military involvement in the Middle East made me think once again about the dark, divisive days of the Vietnam War.
  10. casualty
    someone injured or killed in a military engagement
    The memorial emerged out of the grass, then as I walked alongside, it rose higher, and higher still, 57,939 American names were inscribed on it in 1982 when it was dedicated, arranged by casualty date—the day the person was killed, or sustained wounds that led to death.
  11. lope
    run easily
    He thanked me, glad to have a picture for his grandmother, and loped off.
  12. guerrilla
    a member of an irregular army that fights a stronger force
    His company is about to deploy to the Philippines for guerrilla training before being sent on to Vietnam.
  13. calisthenics
    light exercises designed to promote general fitness
    “Boot camp was pretty tough,” Horan said. “A lot of physical effort, calisthenics, and endurance exercises. A lot of mental intimidation, a lot of inspections.”
  14. platoon
    a military unit that is a subdivision of a company
    Sometimes new recruits were punished for something they didn’t do well enough, or someone in their platoon didn’t do well enough: cleaning their boots, pitching a tent, performing in drill competitions.
  15. proxy
    a person authorized to act for another
    The two countries struggled for supremacy using political maneuvering, stockpiling weapons, and fighting “ proxy” wars in other, smaller countries where they didn’t directly engage each other.
  16. fervently
    with strong emotion or zeal
    American leaders fervently believed in the “domino theory”: if one country became Communist, the country next to it would fall to Communism, then the next, like a row of dominoes, rapidly knocking each other over.
  17. stifling
    characterized by oppressive heat and humidity
    The air was stifling hot and humid.
  18. fester
    ripen and generate pus
    Wounds festered and got infected at lightning speed in the damp heat.
  19. clandestine
    conducted with or marked by hidden aims or methods
    The VC operated as guerrilla fighters in clandestine, deadly efficient groups.
  20. foliage
    the aggregate of leaves of one or more plants
    Before the Marines even spotted anyone, shooting could suddenly erupt from the dense foliage of the jungle.
  21. seasoned
    rendered competent through trial and experience
    Fortunately for the unseasoned Marines, attacks were rare.
  22. hamlet
    a settlement smaller than a town
    In early 1963, Horan was selected to be part of a five-man American team working on the Strategic Hamlet Program. Initiated in the United States, the program was intended to stop the Viet Cong who infiltrated farming villages at night and forced villagers to side with the Communists.
  23. berate
    censure severely or angrily
    The guerrillas would stand over him, berating and humiliating him in Vietnamese.
  24. futile
    producing no result or effect
    It was futile to say he was just a low-ranking soldier following orders.
  25. fetid
    offensively malodorous
    The man’s contorted face was inches from Horan’s, his breath fetid.
  26. grovel
    show submission or fear
    He refused to give them the satisfaction of seeing him grovel.
  27. elated
    exultantly proud and joyful; in high spirits
    He was filthy, thirsty, hungry, and exhausted. But he’d never been so elated in his life. He was alive. He was safe.
  28. dismissive
    showing indifference or disregard
    It felt typical of the dismissive behavior some officers with college degrees had toward enlisted men like him.
  29. subversive
    a radical supporter of political or social revolution
    “This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin—war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him.”
  30. insurgent
    a person who takes part in an armed insurrection
    “This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin—war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him.”
  31. coup
    a sudden and decisive change of government by force
    Two days earlier, the president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu had been overthrown in a violent coup by their own generals.
  32. culminate
    end, especially to reach a final or climactic stage
    The coup “ culminated three months of conversation about a coup, conversation which divided the government here and in Saigon,” Kennedy said into the microphone.
  33. repressive
    restricting action, freedom, or expression
    But Diem’s government had become increasingly corrupt and repressive.
  34. obdurate
    stubbornly persistent in wrongdoing
    “If, in spite of all your efforts,” the cable to the ambassador read, “Diem remains obdurate and refuses, then we must face the possibility that Diem himself cannot be preserved.”
  35. covert
    secret or hidden
    The CIA operated covertly in Vietnam, as it did in many countries, and let the Vietnamese generals know the Americans would turn a blind eye to their plans.
  36. imminent
    close in time; about to occur
    By the end of October, word reached the White House that the coup appeared imminent.
  37. grisly
    shockingly repellent; inspiring horror
    It was a grisly murder. On November 2, President Diem and his brother Nhu were shot to death and Diem was repeatedly stabbed in a coup led by Vietnamese generals.
  38. abhorrent
    offensive to the mind
    “The way he was killed made it particularly abhorrent,” Kennedy admitted on his Dictaphone recording.
  39. fateful
    having momentous consequences; of decisive importance
    The coup was a huge, fateful step into the quicksand that Vietnam was rapidly becoming for the United States.
  40. complicity
    guilt as a confederate in a crime or offense
    Though reporters had no idea of the president’s complicity with the Vietnamese generals, they were eager to know how the coup would affect American involvement in Vietnam.

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