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Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in Vietnam Paperback – December 10, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0803216020 ISBN-10: 0803216025 Edition: Bison Books Ed

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books; Bison Books Ed edition (December 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803216025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803216020
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #546,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A groundbreaking piece of revisionist history on the war.”—Senator James Webb, Wall Street Journal
(James Webb Wall Street Journal)

Phoenix and the Birds of Prey is the definitive work on the Phoenix program to date, and will remain so for a long time.”—Periscope

“[Moyar] succeeds admirably. His work could be a textbook for the do's and don'ts of counterinsurgency warfare.”—William Nester, Asian Thought and Society
(William Nester Asian Thought and Society)

“There are as yet only a few nonfiction works dealing with the Vietnam War that are worth the reader’s time. . . . We can happily add Mark Moyar's Phoenix and the Birds of Prey to this short list of ‘required reading.’”— John D. Waghelstein, Journal of Political and Military Sociology
(John D. Waghelstein Journal of Political and Military Sociology)

"At last! An intellectually and academically honest overview of the Phoenix Program. Moyar has balanced both the military and social historical perspectives and dealt fairly with all factions—American and Vietnamese, non-Communist and Communist, northern and southern—to give the reader the first full and sensible accounting of the Phoenix."—John M. Del Vecchio, author of The 13th Valley
(John M. Del Vecchio)

"A fascinating, readable, long overdue exposition of the war in the shadows behind the big unit war in Vietnam."—Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore, author of We Were Soldiers Once..and Young
(Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore)

"Mark Moyar's well-researched book will likely become a frequently cited reference. He addresses one of the least understood and least documented aspects of the Vietnam conflict with clarity and objectivity. Unlike the plethora of 'I was there' narratives and the histories that end with Tet of 1968, Moyar's book follows the conflict from beginning to end pointing out how changes in strategy, operations, and tactics impacted upon the campaign against the Viet Cong infrastructure."—Lt. Gen. James Terry Scott, Director, National Security Program
(Lt. Gen. James Terry Scott)

"Phoenix and the Birds of Prey elevates Mark Moyar to the ranks of the rare scholars who truly understand the Vietnam War and its warriors."—Lt. Col. Michael Lee Lanning, author of Inside the LRRPs
(Lt. Col. Michael Lee Lanning)

"Moyar's examination and assessments of the struggle against the Communist shadow government in South Vietnam are fresh and, in my view, right on the mark. His book warrants serious consideration by all scholars of the Vietnam War, as well as those who would apply the 'lessons' of that war to future American involvements."—Prof. James R. Reckner, Director Study of Vietnam Conference, Texas Tech University
(Prof. James R. Reckner)

About the Author

Mark Moyar is an associate professor at the U.S. Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia, and the author of Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954–1965. Harry G. Summers Jr. (1932–99) served in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War and was an instructor and distinguished fellow at the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
Job well done.
David V. Vu
Yet, even in those cases where Mr. Moyar presents telling arguments, his analysis suffers from an excessively polemical tone that pervades the entire book.
Kevin M. Boylan
This book is definitely a good one on the subject matter covered.
Reginald E. Deal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Verbeck on December 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
I'm extremely glad to see that this important book has finally been republished and become available to a wider audience. I wrote my thesis in history on Phoenix, and Moyar's work was an invaluable resource, once I was finally able to get my hands on it. It is sadly relatively unique among works on Phoenix in being well-documented, well-written, and free from a pathological agenda. I highly recommend Moyar's work to anyone interested in counter-insurgency generally and especially counter-insurgency in Vietnam, and I would simultaneously encourage anyone interested in Phoenix to buy Moyar's work first, and to get other works he cites. The Phoenix story has become a legend, and like all legends the re-tellings become burdened with half-truths, assumptions, and a good collection of lies. Moyar's work is rigorously historical, and helps remind us what, exactly, actually happened.
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46 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M. Boylan on March 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
Phoenix and the Birds of Prey has an odd flavor because it possesses almost no "narrative flow." That is, it neither tells a story chronologically, nor presents its interpretive points in a smoothly flowing context. Instead, the book is organized into a series of strictly thematic chapters, each of which presents its own arguments largely in isolation from the rest.

This odd flavor is attributable to the fact that what Mark Moyar has written is less a work of history than a legal brief. The author writes like a defense attorney who is reading down the list of charges in the indictment against the Phoenix Program and trying to refute them one by one, each in its own chapter. The fruits of Mr. Moyar's documentary research and interviews with American and Vietnamese veterans are presented as 'expert witnesses' to support the defense's case, contributing to the books choppy delivery.

Like any good defense attorney, Mr. Moyar sometimes uses his witnesses in a selective and on occasion even misleading fashion. One specific case involves my own dissertation, which dealt with the 173rd Airborne Brigade's pacification operations in Binh Dinh Province in 1969-1971. In Chapter 26, Mr. Moyer states: "When the GVN [Government of South Vietnam] installed good leaders, it succeeded in forming village governments and effective territorial forces from the hamlet populations of every single province, including the coastal provinces from Phu Yen to Quang Nam [including Binh Dinh] where many villagers were still poor and landless and had relatives in the VC." Appended to this statement is a footnote that refers the reader to my dissertation as evidence of the accuracy of this statement.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andrew R. Finlayson on February 4, 2014
Format: Paperback
As a participant in the Phoenix Program as an advisor to the Tay Ninh PRU in 1969-70, I can speak with first hand authority about the events and facts presented in Mark Moyar's outstanding piece of research. I have read just about all the works related to CORDS and Phoenix, having devoted a lifetime of study to the Vietnam War and publishing articles and a book on the war. Professor Moyar is the bane of the leftist historians who seem intent upon fabricating the history of the Phoenix Program and attempting to promote the idea that the program was an "assassination program" that routinely committed atrocities against enemy and civilians alike. This line of historical fabrication, often based upon highly suspect sources, is clearly false and Moyar completely demolishes it with hard facts. I can state categorically that I never once received an order to kill anyone during the time I was assigned to the Phoenix Program; and, in fact, had to sign a MACV and US Embassy statement that I would not participate in any action that was contrary to the UCMJ or The Laws of Land Warfare, a document that I was required to have countersigned by my immediate American boss and my South Vietnamese counterpart. I was also required to report any infraction of the UCMJ or LOLW to MACV immediately upon observing them or be subject to a courts martial. My unit never assassinated anyone since we had been instructed to always plan on arresting the political cadres we were targeting. These cadres were often armed and escorted by guerrillas, so we often had to engage in fire fights, but that was something we tried to avoid, if at all possible. We captured twice as many enemy cadres as we killed and all of those killed were the result of fire fights. A dead VC political cadre was worthless to us.Read more ›
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Reginald E. Deal on August 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is definitely a good one on the subject matter covered. The author seems to have a real grasp of what he was writing about in most areas but there is confusion in several areas. He defines the VC as being local force and I would agree. Normally they would be the younger males of the hamlets making up the village. He identifies the VCI as the VC cadre who was responsible for the political conversion of the local people and that is generally also correct except for those younger males conscripted for service with the VC Main Force Units. The one fly in the ointment is that he does not make a distinction between when the hamlets/village belong to the Americans for security purposes and when they belonged to the VC. The really sad part is that we fought a 7:00 AM War until 5:00 PM and had to get everybody back to the club for hot showers before going to the club. That is not an exaggeration, it is just the way we fought. Therefore, we controlled the area during the day and the VC/VCI at night. In effect, we were defeating our own purpose. The second major catastrophe occurred when we forcibly moved the people from their land into relocation centers that could not handle the crowding or sanitation facilities as well as feeding. This is the single most devastating thing that generated so much hostility and hatred. We never recovered from that. It was a total failure. I do not think that the author was aware of the deep feelings of hostility created by this and his view is somewhat sanitized. The third thing was the freedom of movement and free fire zones. They hated free fire zones and not being able to cut across country to shorten their trip. Having to pull ahore at 4:00 PM until sunrise the next day because river travel at night was prohibited.Read more ›
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