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Stalking the Vietcong: Inside Operation Phoenix: A Personal Account Mass Market Paperback – November 23, 2004


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Stalking the Vietcong: Inside Operation Phoenix: A Personal Account + Secret Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG + Sog: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press (November 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345472519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345472519
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A poignant, personal account by an Army district advisor who discovered the Vietcong to be a formidable opponent.”
The New York Times

About the Author

Stuart A. Herrington was a counterintelligence officer in the Vietnam War. He served the last year of his thirty-year army career as a member of the faculty of the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Ritter on February 8, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Part memoir, part case study, part entertainment, "Stalking the Vietcong" is the most incisive look at the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese that I have seen. As an army intelligence officer, Stuart Herrington spent 20 months in the Hau Nghia province near Saigon plumbing assorted Vietcong defectors and POWs for information, and passing it on to the South Vietnamese military to act upon. Initially he is reluctant to go to Vietnam, being somewhat dovish and skeptical on the war. But by the end of the 20 months he has become so engrossed in his mission and so taken by Vietnamese culture that the only way to make him leave is a direct order from higher-ups at the Pentagon. It's evident that he, for one, came to believe strongly in the goal of preventing the second half of the Vietnamese people from being subjugated.

Herrington shows in his narrative not only what he was doing to eradicate the Vietcong, but also what the Vietcong were doing to make themselves need eradicating. The insidious spread of their "shadow government" meant dirt poor peasants had to pay a rice tax to them in addition to whatever they had to pay to the legitimate government. The young men of the villages and hamlets, if they somehow escaped being drafted into the army of South Vietnam, would be subject to conscription into the guerilla forces operating in the area. It is this shadow government that Herrington attacks, acting, as far as I can tell, in the mode of a classic spymaster in his utilization of defectors.

Though they are all poor, Herrington's informants do not rally to the government side for money, as in many other Cold War spy contests.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Doug DePew on February 21, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
"Stalking the Vietcong: Inside Operation Phoenix" by Stuart A. Herrington is a very interesting point of view for multiple reasons. Foremost, it's rare to hear a personal account from inside the very secretive Operation Phoenix. We hear pop culture references to it from time to time such as Mel Gibson's character in Lethal Weapon. We don't often hear from a person who was actually involved. It's also a rare point of view for a memoir because of the setting. Mr. Herrington served in Vietnam from early 1971 to late 1972. We don't hear a lot from the late-war period. Mr. Herrington also mentions in the forward that he was not in favor of the war when he volunteered for Vietnam. He was a "dove". Finally, he was an intelligence officer, and I haven't read any other memoir of an intelligence officer. For all of these reasons, this is a very important account to gain a more rounded perspective on US involvement in southeast Asia.

The book started slow for me. The first hundred pages were spent mostly learning his way around his new job as a Phoenix advisor and making connections with his Vietnamese counterparts. I didn't really understand until the middle of the story how important this section was. The author was undergoing a profound change in his psyche. He was beginning to identify with the Vietnamese people. He went from hoping for an early out to extending multiple times to see the job finished. There is very little discussion of combat in the early section of the book because his sector of Vietnam was relatively quiet during that period. The chapter on the "human data bank" was fascinating. It gave me a glimpse into how this type of war could be waged successfully. We don't often hear how effective our efforts were that late in the war.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By F. "Guz" Guzman on November 26, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I served three tours in Vietnam -- all in Special Forces. Project Phoenix was something I had heard of but had no knowledge of what it did and how it operated. The subject matter was well laid out and enjoyable. I would have given a 5-star rating if the maps had been more detailed. A reader with no ground experience in Vietnam will probably not miss the lack of map-detail. I am specially proud of Captain Herrington. That he extended his tour three times is indicative of what caliber of soldier he was.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William H. Putnam on March 23, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was impressed by how quick of a read this was. I'm currently deployed to AFG and don't have a lot of time for reading. However, this was a book I didn't want to put down. I am an intel professional and I could relate to what the author went through based on my time in Iraq and AFG. To begin with, all intelligence professionals should read this book. The author works through key issues that affect intel professionals such as, being an advisor to local forces and tackling a shadow government. He also discusses how torture does not work in interrogations and he gives excellent reasons as to why that is.

This book is well worth the read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jack Henry on October 31, 2011
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I had heard of the Phoenix Program but did not know how it worked.Captain Herrington was a dedicated soldier, who wanted a better Vietnam for the south Vietnamese. Herrington wanted to defeat the VietCong who was a formidable opponent and part of the revolution. Much of his success was through the help of former Vietcong who had turned against the revolution. Thus as the tide turned against the Vietcong, the NVA were their back up. They brought in the heavy guns and destroyed villages.
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