January 30, 2013

Many years ago, as an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs press office, I answered a call from a gentleman seeking information on Vietnam veterans. As we talked, it was clear to me that he was quite versed on the subject. He had not identified himself as a reporter, and I mentioned that he seemed to be quite knowledgeable. Was he working on a news story?

He casually mentioned that he had written “a book about Vietnam” and identified himself as Stanley Karnow. I replied, “A book? Perhaps the consummate book on Vietnam, Mr. Karnow!” He thanked me for the kind words and politely continued with his questions.

When I saw his Jan. 28 obituary, “Pulitzer winner wrote about Vietnam War and Philippines,” I could still recall his modesty and respectful treatment of this government bureaucrat.

Pam Gates, Rockville

It was a requirement for a class in the spring of 1987 at the University of California in Long Beach. In between classes and at night, I began and finished a book that forever changed the way I looked at war. After reading it, I mused, “The U.S. will never do that again.” It did. March 2003. The unprovoked attack on Iraq.

But it’s not too late. If you are going to read one book about a war, make it Stanley Karnow’s gift to humanity: “Vietnam: A History.”

Charles Birimisa, Watsonville, Calif.