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A Better War : The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam
by Lewis Sorley
Hardcover - 528 pages (July 1999)
Harcourt Brace There was a moment when the United States had the Vietnam War wrapped up, writes military historian Lewis Sorley (biographer of two Vietnam-era U.S. Army generals, Creighton Abrams and Harold Johnson). "The fighting wasn't over, but the war was won," he says in this convention-shaking book. "This achievement can probably best be dated in late 1970." South Vietnam was ready to carry on the battle without American ground troops and only logistical and financial support. Sorley says that replacing General Westmoreland with Abrams in 1968 was the key. "The tactics changed within fifteen minutes of Abrams's taking command," remarked one officer. Abrams switched the war aims from destruction to control; he was less interested in counting enemy body bags than in securing South Vietnam's villages.
A Better War is unique among histories of the Vietnam War in that it focuses on the second half of the conflict, roughly from Abrams's arrival to the fall of Saigon in 1975. Other volumes, such as Stanley Karnow's Vietnam and Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie, tend to give short shrift to this period. Sorley shows how the often-overlooked Abrams strategy nearly succeeded--indeed, Sorley says it did succeed, at least until political leadership in the United States let victory slip away. Sorley cites other problems, too, such as low morale among troops in the field, plus the harmful effects of drug abuse, racial disharmony, and poor discipline. In the end, the mighty willpower of Abrams and diplomatic allies Ellsworth Bunker and William Colby was not enough. But, with its strong case that they came pretty close to winning, A Better War is sure to spark controversy. --John J. Miller
Platoon Leader
by Colonel James R. McDonough
Paperback. Published by Presidio Press. 1996
A remarkable memoir of small unit leadership and the coming of age of a young soldier in combat in Vietnam. Truly a classic of military history. Colonel McDonough graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point and served as an infantry platoon leader in the legendary 173d Airborne Brigade.
Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History
by B. G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley
Hardcover. Published by Verity Press, 1998
"Stolen Valor" reviewed in The Weekly Standard:"Hard-nosed, provocative, and courageous, 'Stolen Valor' masterfully and on occasion gleefully debunks some of the popular canards and much of the anecdotal record about Vietnam veterans...For me, a reporter who is also a Vietnam veteran, 'Stolen Valor' goes on the shelf somewhere near Neil Sheehan's 'A Bright Shining Lie,' David Halberstam's 'The Best and the Brightest,' and a few other books whose lasting value is that they make more comprehensible some of the epic complexities of Vietnam, which was the central cultural event of my generation." -- Joe Sharkey, in The Weekly Standard, Sept. 7, 1998
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