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Vietnam Chronicles: The Abrams Tapes, 1968–1972 (Modern Southeast Asia Series) Hardcover – November 15, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"Lewis Sorley catapults the record to a whole new level. . . . Certain to influence observers seeking to understand America's Vietnam War." -- The VVA Veteran

Anyone interested in understanding war . . . will want to sample [these] transcripts . . . for their vividness, real-time drama, and strategic insights. -- James Schlesinger, Wall Street Journal

About the Author

Lewis Sorley is a researcher and writer in Potomac, Maryland. His previous books include Thunderbolt: General Creighton Adams and the Army of His Times, Honorable Warrior: General Harold K. Johnson and the Ethics of Command, and A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Southeast Asia Series
  • Hardcover: 917 pages
  • Publisher: Texas Tech University Press; First Edition edition (November 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0896725332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0896725331
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 2.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,040,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Charles A. Krohn on November 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I got up at 5:30 a.m. so I could read two hours more before heading to the office. This is one of the greatest military books ever published, and certainly the most unique of its genre. While having all the elements of a thriller, this book appeals most to those who still wonder how decisions were made in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Readaers who have only a casual interest in the war will discover the prologue interesting, but probably will find too many details in the text to hold their interest. The book lifts the veil from more than one story, which is basically how General Abrams saw the war unfolding from his personal perspective. There are other stories too about how various players interpreted their responsibilities, not always in sync with the boss. Until now, I've never understood how our leadership in Saigon reacted to Harriman's negotiations in Paris. They were not impressed! Nor have I appreciated why the NVA bases in Cambodia and Laos were so pivotal to Hanoi's plans for a war of attrition. The key players were more attuned to the psychological implications than I believed earlier. And they were more sensitive to media reports than I suspected. What comes out of this book more than anything else is the genius and candor of Gen Abrams. His irreverent quips and incisive asides are truly priceless. Sorley's selections include ample evidence that our military and civilian leadership held the sacrifices of the South Vietnamese in high regard. We have yet to see evidence that our allies in Iraq are capable of similar competence, but this book, as much as anything else, makes a strong case that weak allies cannot be saved by US power alone.Read more ›
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Vietnam is still an amazingly painful topic for many people. A huge number of regular folks read about the American Civil War (or whatever other name you want to give it), both World Wars, the Revolutionary War, and other important events in American history. Our Vietnam experience is very hard for the living generations to investigate for a number of reasons. One reason is that those of us who were alive during the 60s and 70s and at least teenagers all developed strongly held views and emotional commitments to a position on the war. Revisiting those years with the kind of open mind required by serious scholarship requires more strength than most of us mere mortals can muster.

However, I believe emphatically that it is time to do so. It seems clear to me that much of what was being fed to Americans via the media was couched to promote an anti-war view. Yes, it is true that the press, say, in WWII was more uniformly supported the war effort (but not as completely as is remembered today), but the point in both instances is that we reach a point in time when it is essential to go back, examine the evidence with fresh eyes and an open heart, and get as close to the truth as we can.

This book is one of those treasures that provides essential primary information that none of us had access to previously. This book provides edited transcripts of tapes made of various briefings and meetings of General Creighton Abrams when he was the commander of US forces in Vietnam from 1968-72. It makes surprisingly fascinating reading. You do have to get used to some of the military terminology, but the author does provide helps for the reader. There is some introductory material, and guide to all the participants in the back with their full names, titles, and the dates of their service.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Thomas P. Mckenna on May 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is an important historical work and a valuable reference that historians, biographers, and others writing about or studying the Vietnam War will want to consult. It is a remarkable record of the briefings and meetings attended by General Abrams, the U. S. commander in Vietnam, during four of the most critical years of the war.

Sorley spent a year in a secure vault, wearing earphones to listen to over 2,000 hours of highly classified 1968-72 audio tapes. He transcribed 835,000 words by hand and then edited them into this volume of about 450,000 words and over 900 pages. The U. S. Army, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency all had to give their clearance before publication.

As we all know, meetings can be deadly dull. However, Sorley has apparently cut any inconsequential chatter and mundane topics because what is left is intensely interesting. We can read the exact words of General Abrams and his subordinate commanders, staff, and visitors. They are amazingly frank and express strong opinions about the conduct of the war, their contemporaries, and the Vietnamese. I knew, or at least met, many of the participants in these conferences and their personalities come through in their recorded remarks. It was especially interesting to read what the most senior generals in Vietnam were hearing and saying about the 1972 Easter Offensive while I was fighting in it at one of the lower levels.

Sorley provides lists that identify the Americans and Vietnamese who participated--or were mentioned--in these meetings and 64 illustrations that show what many of them looked like. There is also a glossary of terms, acronyms and abbreviations, and a good general index.

We are fortunate that these sessions were recorded and that a historian of Lewis Sorley's ability expended the time and effort to transcribe and edit them into a usable form that will be preserved for future generations.
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