Monday, April 30, 2018

My Washington Times Review Of 'The Vietnam War: An Intimate History'

The Washington Times published my review of The Vietnam War: An Intimate History, the companion book to the PBS TV series.

With the anniversary of the fall of South Vietnam to the Communist North on April 30, 1975, veterans of that war, those who lived through the era and those interested in history, may want to read Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns’ coffee-table companion book to the PBS series “The Vietnam War.”

“America’s involvement in Vietnam began in secrecy. It ended, thiry years later, in failure, witnessed by the entire world,” the book begins. “It was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American over-confidence, and Cold War miscalculation.”

The book also reminds us that 58,000 Americans died in the war, and at least 250,000 South Vietnamese also died. More than a million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong Communists died in the war, as well as an estimated 2 million North and South Vietnamese civilians.

“For those Americans who fought in it, and for those who merely glimpsed it on the nightly news — the Vietnam War was a decade of agony, the most divisive period since the Civil War.”

… “The Vietnam War: An Intimate History” is an impressive-looking book, with a vast array of photos that accompanies a look back at the long and complicated war. Unfortunately, the companion book suffers from the same bias we saw in the television series.

… Many veterans believed in the war, many volunteered to serve in Vietnam, and many Vietnam veterans are proud of their service. Many Americans, then and now, believe we should have gone all out to win the war. Certainly, the many South Vietnamese murdered and imprisoned by the Communists after the fall of the South, and the many Vietnamese “boat people” who endured hardships and sacrifices to escape the Communists, wish we had stayed the course.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

As I noted in my review, readers may want to read Lt. Gen. Philip Davidson’s Vietnam At War: The History 1946-1975 for a bit of balance.


  1. “Winning the war” was the problem in many ways. No one really had an idea about what “winning” would mean. I’m still confused about the goals. Color me naive.

  2. RT,

    Winning the Vietnam War for the U.S. meant kicking the North Vietnamese back across the DMZ and stopping them from overrunning South Vietnam, much as we did in the Korea War.

    Our goal was containment of the Communists in Vietnam and other countries around the world.

    The Vietnam War, in my view, was but a battle in the Cold War, which we won when the Soviet Union fell.


    1. Well, yes, containment might seem like some sort of a reasonable goal; however, elimination of Communism from all of southeast Asia might have been a better even if more costly goal. Too much?

  3. Rt,

    Containment of Communism was the goal and policy of every president since before Truman.

    Elimination of Communism would have been nice, but not practical, as China and the Soviet Union have/had nuclear weapons, as do the U.S. and Western allies.

    So we fought proxy wars around the world during the Cold War.

    Other than Vietnam, we stopped Communism in the Philippines, South Korea, Malaysia and other countries around the world.

    We did, however, defeat the main Communist nation, the Soviet Union.

    We did this through an arms race, economics and pre-Internet communications, like Radio Free Europe, Eastern-bloc unions, the free media, and the church, to name a few.

    I credit President Reagan, the UK's Maggie Thatcher and Pope John-Paul for sinking the Soviet Union.

    Today Communist Vietnam is an American ally against expansionist Communist China, much like the Soviet Union was our ally against Nazi Germany.


  4. RT,

    As I noted above and in my review, check out Lt. Gen Davidson's 'Vietnam at War.'


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