ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM 1955-1975
GORDON L. ROTTMAN
OSPREY PUBLISHING, 2010
QUALITY SOFTCOVER, $17.95, 48 PAGES, ILLUSTRATIONS, PHOTOGRAPHS
Military historians write military history books and articles, but Gordon L. Rottman isn't a military historian. Authors write books about military history and military affairs based upon their research and/or personal experience, but Gordon L. Rottman isn't an author; he is a technical writer. What he does is take the original works of military historians and authors (such as Captain Shelby L. Stanton, U.S. Army Special Forces Retired and U.S. Army Command Historian Leo J. Daugherty III), collate their information, and produce a "new" book for Osprey. Since Osprey doesn't footnote Rottman's work, virtually none of the titles written by Rottman can be relied upon by researchers, scholars, or military historians. Osprey uses some very expert authors for their various series, but Gordon L. Rottman isn't one of them. A good author can make a subject come alive. The reader can see what is on the written page in their mind's eye. The reader can envision the actions described on the written page, can hear the accompanying sounds, can smell the smoke and the cordite et al. As a technical writer, Rottman does none of these. His work does sometime rise to the level of second rate, but not very often. Lacking personal expertise, with rare exception, in the subjects on which he writes, he can't add to the material with which he is working. Further, he lacks the ability to connect the dots. This Osprey publication exemplifies that problem. In several places in the book, Rottman repeats the fact that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) never achieved a sense of, for want of a better term, "nationalism". He cites this as a deficiency in the ARVN and its leadership. In point of fact, Vietnam never became a single country until 1975. Rottman appears totally unaware of the fact that the two Vietnams were artificially created out of three separate kingdoms in 1954. Three separate kingdoms with different dialects, history, customs, heritage, and traditions. Coming into existence in 1954 and over-run in a mechanized invasion by North Vietnam in 1975, the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) existed for less then 21 years....two decades. When the RVN came into existence, there was no national infrastructure of any kind, no sense of national identity, no government above the village level, and it needed to develop all of this while under attack from the North. Rottman even gets it wrong when it comes to the political and military threat from within the country itself by the agency of the North Vietnamese government directing these activities within the Republic of Vietnam-Group 559. The bibliography for this Osprey publication cites six books. The available books, articles, and studies, number in the thousands. Obviously Rottman, only needed enough reference material to meet the requirements of his editor. As a technical writer, Rottman notes the odd little details, which add so much to the fictional works of mystery writers. Or, to the books of adventure writers, such as Tom Clancy, who provide a wealth of technical details but have no true comprehension of the operational arts they are writing about. Rottman does a wonderful job of identifying a holster in this photograph or a particular insignia in that photograph, but he has no ability to convey the essence of the "fog of war" that surrounds his subject. The fine organizational lines he describes may exist on paper, but they didn't necessarily occur down at the rice paddy level. The "fog of war" is within the realm of the "author", not of the technical writer. Osprey has now published a history of the ARVN. Osprey deserved better. So do the book buyers who rely upon Osprey's reputation.
Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard