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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Recommended Reading: A Bright Shining Lie

A milbloggers' post on the military readiness of Iraqi Army troops (thanks fm) has reminded me of a good book on the Vietnam War and one of the central American figures involved in it: 'A Bright Shining Lie'. It follows the life of John Paul Vann, a former US Army Colonel who died in a helicopter crash in 1972. Vann started out as one of the original US Army Ranger commanders during the Korean War and was sent to Vietnam as one of JFK's initial advisors to the South Vietnamese. He disagreed greatly with the military hierarchy's approach to the war in South Vietnam and was forced into retirement after leaking his opinions to the US media. Later he was rehired as a civilian contractor and ended up controlling an entire US Army Corps (while a civilian!).

The US military supported many crazy self-defeating strategies in the Vietnam War, including a biggie known as the "Strategic Hamlet Program" which was really a wholesale resettlement of the peasantry. Not a great way to win hearts and minds. They were also into creating self-contained ARVN (South Vietnamese Army) units with minimal training and experience but all the right badges and equipment - leading to predictable losses against more experienced but poorly equipped Viet Minh/Viet Cong. There were many instances of ARVN units being wiped out or fleeing in the face of a more determined enemy. ARVN units were also infamous for shooting at will amongst the civilians, something the US did little to combat. And that was in the mid 1960's, before the main US involvement in the war.

All of these criticisms and more are outlined in 'A Bright Shining Lie'. The author (Neil Sheehan - responsible for publishing the Pentagon Papers in the NY Times) does indulge in some mild leftie-style pyschoanalysis, but hey. Who doesn't now and then. 861 pages. The 70 reviews posted at Amazon.com give it an average of 4.5 stars (out of 5). There's also a made-for-cable DVD.

How was that for my first review? Should I sign up for some evening writing courses? Do a couple of humanities papers? :-/

Posted by Antarctic Lemur | 10/05/2005 12:56:00 am


Anonymous Anonymous said...

imho..best book on vietnam is by michael herr and is called despatchs....


10/05/2005 06:49:00 am  
Blogger fm said...

Just finished Kokoda by Paul Ham. Actually, it covers the entire (mainland) Papuan campaign during World War II. A fascinating and gruelling book, much overdue, which is getting rave reviews in Australia. Well worth a read if you are a military history buff and want to learn something about events very close to home.

10/05/2005 04:31:00 pm  

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