Summary and Info
THE 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 or personal experience, but Gordon L. Rottman isn't an author. Gordon L. Rottman is a technical writer. What Gordon L. Rottman does is to take the original works of historians and authors, 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, Gordon L. Rottman isn't among 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 sometimes 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 knigdoms 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 book. 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. Rottman's qualifications as a military expert deserve better attention than any of the publishing houses that he used provides. He did indeed serve in the U.S. Army and volunteered for Special Forces selection but did so at a time when even the U.S. Marines-famous as a volunteer unit-were taking draftees to replace their combat casualties. The Special Forces (not then either a regiment nor a career branch) were having serious manpower problems and the intake gate was swung wide open, with both the acceptance and training requirments at their lowest in Special Forces history. Even then, Rottman was assigned a weapons speciality, the least demanding training and assignment. To his credit, he successfully completed his one year tour of duty in Vietnam during the period 1969-1970, wherein he was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Returning to civilian life, Rottman became an administrative and supply technician with the reserve components of the U.S. Army, i.e. the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. One of the requirements of such employment is that the employee become a member of the reserve component itself. The reserve components have a number of units which require airborne (paratrooper) qualification as a condition for membership. Since few civilian employees of the reserve components have any intention of becoming paratroopers as a condition of employment, Rottman's previous qualification during his active duty service gave him job security for the next two decades. Contrary to the manner in which Rottman's carefully worded biography conveys a different sense and meaning, he was well and truly a Vietnam veteran and Special Forces veteran, who served one tour in Vietnam during his brief active duty service. The twenty-six years cited in his biography represent that brief service, followed by two decades of one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer. To put it in the context of this Osprey publication, Rottman's career as a part-time soldier and full-time civilian technician lasted longer than the subject of this book even existed. As to his time as a "Special Operation Forces scenario writer", that represents fourteen years of civilian employment as a technical writer for the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. A position which supported his part-time employment as a technical writer for Osprey, at the same time.
Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard
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