Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975

Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975

by Max Hastings

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An absorbing and definitive modern history of the Vietnam War from the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of The Secret War.

Vietnam became the Western world’s most divisive modern conflict, precipitating a battlefield humiliation for France in 1954, then a vastly greater one for the United States in 1975. Max Hastings has spent the past three years interviewing scores of participants on both sides, as well as researching a multitude of American and Vietnamese documents and memoirs, to create an epic narrative of an epic struggle. He portrays the set pieces of Dienbienphu, the 1968 Tet offensive, the air blitz of North Vietnam, and also much less familiar miniatures such as the bloodbath at Daido, where a US Marine battalion was almost wiped out, together with extraordinary recollections of Ho Chi Minh’s warriors. Here are the vivid realities of strife amid jungle and paddies that killed two million people.

Many writers treat the war as a US tragedy, yet Hastings sees it as overwhelmingly that of the Vietnamese people, of whom forty died for every American. US blunders and atrocities were matched by those committed by their enemies. While all the world has seen the image of a screaming, naked girl seared by napalm, it forgets countless eviscerations, beheadings, and murders carried out by the communists. The people of both former Vietnams paid a bitter price for the Northerners’ victory in privation and oppression. Here is testimony from Vietcong guerrillas, Southern paratroopers, Saigon bargirls, and Hanoi students alongside that of infantrymen from South Dakota, Marines from North Carolina, and Huey pilots from Arkansas.

No past volume has blended a political and military narrative of the entire conflict with heart-stopping personal experiences, in the fashion that Max Hastings’ readers know so well. The author suggests that neither side deserved to win this struggle with so many lessons for the twenty-first century about the misuse of military might to confront intractable political and cultural challenges. He marshals testimony from warlords and peasants, statesmen and soldiers, to create an extraordinary record.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062405692
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/16/2018
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 896
Sales rank: 12,124
File size: 37 MB
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About the Author

Sir Max Hastings chronicles Vietnam with the benefit of vivid personal memories: first of reporting in 1967-68 from the United States, where he encountered many of the war’s decision-makers including President Lyndon Johnson, then of successive assignments in Indochina for newspapers and BBC TV: he rode a helicopter out of the US Saigon embassy compound during the 1975 final evacuation. He is the author of twenty-six books, most about conflict, and between 1986 and 2002 served as editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph, then editor of the Evening Standard. He has won many prizes both for journalism and his books, of which the most recent are All Hell Let Loose, Catastrophe and The Secret War, best-sellers translated around the world. He has two grown-up children, Charlotte and Harry, and lives with his wife Penny in West Berkshire, where they garden enthusiastically. 

Table of Contents

List of Maps xvii

Introduction xix

Note on Styles Adopted in the Text xxvii

Glossary of Common Acronyms and Military Terms xxix

1 Beauty and Many Beasts 1

1 Clinging to an Empire 1

2 The Vietminh March 10

2 The "Dirty War" 21

1 Steamroller Types 21

2 Washington Picks Up the Tab 32

3 Peasants 36

3 The Fortress that Never Was 45

1 Waiting for Giap 45

2 Disaster Beckons 55

4 Bloody Footprints 66

1 Quit or Bomb? 66

2 "A Triumph of the Will" 73

3 Geneva 82

5 The Twin Tyrannies 95

1 "A Regime of Terror" 95

2 "The Only Boy We Got" 104

3 Boom Time 110

4 A Recall to Arms 116

6 Some of the Way With JFK 127

1 "They're Going to Lose Their Country If …" 127

2 McNamara's Monarchy 141

3 Le Duan Raises His Stake 148

7 1963: Coffins for Two Presidents 155

1 Small Battle, Big Story: Ap Bac 155

2 The Buddhists Revolt 166

3 Killing Time 170

8 The Maze 185

1 "Enough War for Everybody" 185

2 Dodging Decisions 197

9 Into the Gulf 213

1 Lies 213

2 Hawks Ascendant 222

10 "We are Puzzled about How to Proceed" 234

1 Down the Trail 234

2 Committal 241

11 The Escalator 256

1 "Bottom of the Barrel" 256

2 New People, New War 268

12 "Trying to Grab Smoke" 288

1 Warriors and Water-Skiers 288

2 Unfriendly Fire 295

3 Traps and Trail Dust 302

13 Graft and Peppermint Oil 312

1 Stealing 312

2 Ruling 315

3 Gurus 321

14 Rolling Thunder 328

1 Stone Age, Missile Age 328

2 "Up North" 340

15 Taking the Pain 358

1 Best of Times, Worst of Times 358

2 Friends 364

16 "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" 379

1 Peaceniks 379

2 Warniks 386

3 Fieldcraft 392

4 Guns 406

17 Our Guys, their Guys: The Vietnamese War 413

1 Song Qua Ngay-"Let's Just Get Through the Day" 413

2 Fighters 418

3 Saigon Soldiers 429

18 TET 434

1 Prelude 434

2 Fugue 444

3 A Symbolic Humiliation 455

19 The Giant Reels 461

1 Fighting Back 461

2 Surrender of a President 480

20 Continuous Replays 488

1 Dying 488

2 Talking 510

21 Nixon's Inheritance 516

1 A Crumbling Army 516

2 Aussies and Kiwis 533

3 Gods 544

4 Vietnamization 550

22 Losing by Installments 556

1 The Fishhook and the Parrot's Beak 556

2 Counterterror 564

3 Lam Son 719 572

23 Collateral Damage 585

1 Mary Ann 585

2 The "Goat" 593

3 "Let's Go Home" 597

24 The Biggest Battle 601

1 Le Duan Forces the Pace 601

2 The Storm Breaks 606

3 An Empty Victory 633

25 Big Ugly Fat Fellers 639

1 "It Will Absolutely, Totally, Wipe Out McGovern" 639

2 "We'll Bomb the Bejeezus out of Them" 649

26 A Kiss Before Dying 664

1 The Prisoner 664

2 "Peace" 668

3 War of the Flags 675

27 The Last Act 689

1 Invasion 689

2 "Ah, My Country, My Poor Country" 708

28 Afterward 726

1 Vengeance 726

2 The Audit of War 739

Acknowledgments 753

Notes 757

Select Bibliography 811

Index 827

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Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent work covering the entire Vietnam War from the French attempts to hold on to their colonial empire (with the help of the U.S.) up until U.S. involvement and the war escalating out of control....reading into this fine work you will be found shaking your head in disbelief at the mistakes, the incompetence, the arrogance, and the hubris of the French and the Americans, and also at the atrocities carried out by the Vietminh and later on the Vietcong....reading on deeper into this book I just wanted to yell "stop!!" because the flood of wrong things being done by the Americans and the corrupt South Vietnamese government just went on and on...the author was correct in stating in the end that no side deserved to win this war given the corruption, incompetence, stupidity, and ignorance shown by both sides.....this book should be required reading to all of our future presidents and future "leaders" at all of our military academies.
glauver More than 1 year ago
British military historian Max Hastings tackled a huge subject in this sprawling (over 750 pages of text) book. Wisely, he did not try to cover every battle or strategy meeting, but concentrated on how the conflict impacted individuals both civilian and military. Among them are the stories of a RAND researcher who fell in love with and married a Vietnamese woman, an American adviser who was captured and spent seven years as a Vietcong prisoner, and a young female North Vietnamese doctor who came south and was killed, but who left behind a poignant diary. He also compiles the experiences of numerous American, Vietnamese, and even Australian soldiers. Hastings includes plenty of analysis and outlines what happened both during the French and American wars. He is even-handed, pointing out both US and communist excesses and atrocities. Hastings is especially harsh in his judgment of Nixon and Kissinger, but he also emphasizes how the North Vietnamese leaders ultimately betrayed the ideals of their cause and people. He concludes by pointing out the slow erosion of Hanoi's revolution as a rebuilt Saigon supplies capitalist goods to eager consumers. This will be an important book for future generations as Vietnam slowly fades from our national memory.