A collage show contemporary and old photos from the Global Vietnam Wars Studies archives

Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative

A breakthrough in the race to rescue and study untold stories and hidden memories from all sides

The history of the Vietnam Wars still remains largely unknown in the absence of firsthand experiences of Vietnamese and allied participants that are today at risk of being forgotten. The Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative (GVWSI) is a breakthrough in the race to rescue and study untold stories and hidden memories from all sides to foster scholarship, healing, and truth-telling about the wars and beyond.


Mission

The mission of the Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative is to:

  • Uncover new facts and hidden insights through oral history interviews, conducted with academic honesty and rigor, that record the previously unavailable and unexamined memories of Vietnamese, allied participants, and their families.
  • Establish a state-of-the-art digital humanities platform to advance multi-disciplinary war studies research and teaching that encompasses a broad range of perspectives—both local and global, historic and contemporary.
  • Foster intellectual and institutional exchange between communities, generations, and nations with the goal of reconciliation and healing.

 

 

Three Complimentary Pillars

A Unique Collection of Unfiltered Oral Histories

A first-person, eyewitness account is what gives life to history. Our uncensored audio-visual oral history interviews are dynamic vehicles to unearth new landscapes of knowledge that have typically been determined or veiled by official narratives.

The Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative is building a collection of stories and extraordinary materials that is not bound by one generation, one specific geographic area, nor a single faction of the conflicts. The trailblazing materials and video interviews encompass a wide of range of participants, families, and communities that intentionally represent the multiple ethnic, religious, cultural, regional, political, military, economic, and other distinct groups impacted by the wars.

World-Class Digital Archive

The Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative is working with colleagues across Harvard University to develop a world-class digital platform to organize, preserve, and disseminate oral histories and other rare and first-hand materials from the conflicts. Materials will be encoded, categorized, and regularly displayed through curated collections along a variety of themes, groups, and nations.

The treasure-trove of oral history interviews, unexamined historical documents, and first-person memories will be widely available as primary sources to scholars, students, and the broader community. We hope that they will promote new interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to teaching and studying the history of the wars against the backdrop of 21st-century realities.

Global Vietnam Wars Study Community

The Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative is a cornerstone in constructing an interdisciplinary community at Harvard pursuing a well-rounded understanding of the wars and their impact. We endeavor to cultivate institutional ties and intellectual exchange between researchers in the U.S., Southeast Asian nations, and other countries around the world.

Community building and academic exchange could eventually incorporate support for visiting scholars and students from Vietnamese communities and beyond, including postdoctoral fellows and Ph.D. candidates who are engaging in original research in the field. The Initiative would support Harvard faculty and visiting scholars engaged in relevant work and organize workshops, conferences, lectures, and more.

Meet the Team


Hai Nguyen
Headshot of Hai Nguyen

Hai Nguyen

Director,
Unseen Legacies of the Vietnam War Project
Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative

Anthony Saich
Headshot of Tony Saich

Anthony Saich

Daewoo Professor of International Affairs and the Harvard Kennedy School; Director of the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia

Mark Seah
Headshot of Mark Seah

Mark Seah

Program Manager,
Unseen Legacies of the Vietnam War Project
Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative

Chi Linh Ha

Chi Linh Ha

Researcher,
Unseen Legacies of the Vietnam War Project

Nam Pham

Nam Pham

Program Specialist, Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative

Faculty Advisors


Fredrik Logevall
Frederick Logevall wears a blue suit jacket, white shirt, and glasses

Fredrik Logevall

Laurence D. Belfer Professor of International Affairs

Drew Faust
Drew Faust sits in the middle of a table in front of a book shelf

Drew Faust

President Emerita Harvard University and Arthur Kingsley Porter University Research Professor

Elizabeth Perry

Elizabeth Perry

Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government; Director, Harvard-Yenching Institute

James Robson

James Robson

James C. Kralik and Yunli Lou Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations;
Victor and William Fung Director of the Harvard University Asia Center

Peter K. Bol

Peter K. Bol

Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations

 

 

Program Voices

“This project is vital for accessing truths about the histories of Vietnam Wars, ennobling individuals to form their own conclusions. It also offers a model for deeper insights into any historical conflict.”

Mr. Frank Jao (Triệu Như Phát), GVWSI Founding Donor, Donor Advisory Group member, Harvard Kennedy School Dean’s Council Leadership Circle member

“This project enables the sharing of personal truths and rethinking of history. It can reframe the conflict not as a “Vietnam War” but as a multipartite war fought in Vietnam, helping to dispel the pain and fostering true-healing and reconciliation.”

– Dr. Christopher Nguyen, GVWSI Donor Advisory Group member

“This project is committed to finding every side of the question, every dimension, every participant, what that person might have seen, how that person might have understood what was going on. It has to be understood through a global perspective, both in how it happened, and also the impact that it had.”

– Drew Faust, President Emerita Harvard University and Arthur Kingsley Porter University Research Professor, GVWSI Faculty Adviser

“Oral histories open to a war of memories where we can deconstruct ourselves to shape or reshape our fathoming of histories and beyond.”

-Hai T. Nguyen, Director of the Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative & the Unseen Legacies of the Vietnam War Project.

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Founding Donors

The Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative is grateful for the generous support of founding donors and Donor Advisory Group members Frank Jao (Triệu Như Phát), a Harvard Kennedy School Dean’s Council Leadership Circle member; and Christopher Cuong Nguyen, CEO AITOMATIC, Inc.

Our Work

While Vietnam War studies in Western countries are largely dominated by the American perspective, the official histories in Vietnam and neighboring countries are often sanitized for political and cultural reasons. The Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative takes a people-centered and neutral approach to provide a more just and accurate historical record in revealing voices from all sides that have been veiled under the layers of convenient history and fractured memories.

Why Now?

Given the advanced age of many participants in the wars, the window for gathering first-person narrative accounts is closing rapidly. The Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative is in a race against the clock to record oral history interviews before those who experienced the conflicts firsthand are no longer able to share their hidden stories and memories.

Why Global Vietnam War(s)?

A comprehensive understanding of how the wars unfolded and their impact requires a “Global” perspective inclusive of multiple nations within Southeast Asia and beyond. The plural “Wars” refers to the physical and political conflicts that took place over decades in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Significantly, it also refers to the ongoing tensions between personal and collective memories, lived experience and contemporary culture, and historical participation and the passage of time.

Fueled by the need to repair the contemporary social fabric torn by the conflict and its aftermath, the Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative will capture the stories and personal reflections from multiple groups, including those who are part of the multi-generational Vietnamese diaspora. This approach allows the Initiative to transcend the boundaries of nation-states and academic disciplines while recognizing the importance of studying individual countries’ histories and how they inform domestic, regional, and international interactions.

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Soliders are visible through barbed wire

Essay

Meat Boils in a Leather Pot: The Legacy of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords

In a new essay, Hai Nguyen draws on oral histories to reflect on the 50th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords. Nguyen reminds us of the question many are still asking a half-century later: When foreign powers withdrew from Vietnam, why did compatriots still fight to the death?