My dissertation co-advisors encouraged me to take several days off from academic activities to recharge after the grueling comprehensive exam process - 450 books in about a year, and, yes, I read the vast majority of them (over 80%). I'm not good at skimming and comprehending, so when I read, I tend to read every single word, and I take notes while reading things that I'm going to have to refer to later. If I hadn't done that, comps would have been impossible. As it is, I'm not great at historiography - Unless we're talking works that I've read several times, or are really important to what I'm doing, I can usually remember the arguments made, but not always who it was that made them.
Anyway, I need to hit the ground running on the dissertation on either Sept 3rd (Labor Day) or September 4th. My immediate tasks are to read Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men, Omer Bartov's Hitler's Army, and E.B. Sledge's With the Old Breed, all of which discuss regular guys committing atrocities, either when ordered or just of their own accord, during their respective wars. Beyond these, microhistories of German soldiers from World War II might provide some good ideas of how soldiers who committed atrocities (and those who didn't) rationalized their actions.
The second step will be to identify a unit or incident to focus my analysis on. I think I'm going to start with Son My to see what has already been written about that incident and what information is available, but I'll also be looking at the available documents from the papers of the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group. A fair amount of the files still need to be sanitized, but there are several thousand pages available. NARA has also released case summaries for 246 cases that will help narrow my search down. I also need to ask the staff at NARA for a listing of the status of the case filed to see what is sanitized, what is available in full, and what items are still unprocessed so I can see what my options are.