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I wish to acknowledge my gratitude to four people who have provided inspir- ation for this book. The late Paul G. Fried (1919–2006), whom I encountered at  Hope College nearly half a century ago, gave me confidence in the importance of studying the past and in the possibility of becoming a historian; without his  encouragement, I doubt if I would have subdued the disquiets of wartime experi- ence to commence a life of scholarship. John K. Whitmore, who initiated me into  the study of Vietnamese history at the University of Michigan, demonstrated a commitment to academic study, an intellectual integrity, and an abiding curiosity about the past that have given me a deep appreciation for the craft of the historian. The late Oliver W. Wolters (1915–2000) taught me how to critique my ideas about historical study; his questing mind was a constant prompt to reread and to rethink texts with an awareness of the options exercised by those who wrote them. The late Alton L. (Pete) Becker (1932–2011), both during my training at the University of Michigan and during a summer seminary in 1992, taught me a love of words, of how language shapes and is shaped by thought, and of the pleasure of translation; his influence has gone deep into how I understand culture as a process of telling stories and of translating them. Olga Dror, my wife, has been my intellectual companion and most valued discussant for ideas about the Vietnamese past.

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