You Must Live by Tuan Phan

Tuan Phan served in the South Vietnamese Army from the time he was seventeen in 1969 until he fled the country in 1975. In his memoir, You Must Live: A Former South Vietnamese Soldier Tells His Story (202 pp., $14.99, paper), Tuan Phan weaves in the story of his life before, during, after the war with brief explanations of the bigger-picture issues, including Vietnam’s history and the history of U.S. involvement in the war.

Tuan Phan in Vietnam in 1969

The author had a difficult life growing up, but had fond memories of the American troops he first encountered as a young teenager. “These blue-eyed, blond haired G.I.’s in their ‘cool’ uniform appeared attractive and good-looking,” he writes.

“When you got up close to them, aside from that full war gear they were wearing, I found nice human beings—generous, kind, and sweet. They were no different than our people in their thoughts and feelings. Once in a while, we approached some soldiers that may have been a little more cautious. Then they could be cranky.”

Tuan Phan fled his native land after the North Vietnamese prevailed. He came to this country alone and with just sixteen cents in his pocket. But Tuan Phan persevered, married, had children, and brought many family members to this country.

His is an American success story that began amid the chaos at the tumultuous end of the Vietnam War.

The author’s website is

—Marc Leepson