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Vietnam Labyrinth: Allies, Enemies, and Why the U.S. Lost the War (Modern Southeast Asia Series) Hardcover – 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Chau's Vietnam Labyrinth is a remarkable story, well told, dramatic, and filled with insights on a complex war in its military, political, and human dimensions. Highly recommended.  —Lewis Sorley, author of Vietnam Chronicles and The Vietnam War

About the Author

DANIEL ELLSBERG, a Harvard graduate, ex-marine, and Rand Corporation analyst, was one of the "whiz kids" recruited to serve in the Pentagon during the Johnson administration. In 1971, Ellsberg made headlines around the world when he released the Pentagon Papers. Now a prominent speaker, writer, and activist, Ellsberg lives in California and Washington DC.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Southeast Asia Series
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Texas Tech University Press; 1 edition (2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0896727718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0896727717
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #478,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book offers a perspective on the Vietnam War that is somewhat different than the so-called conventional wisdom on the topic. However, that does not make it any more enlightened than what other authors, American or Vietnamese, have tried to convey in similar writings.

It is an interesting read, especially when Tran Ngoc Chau recounts the few years starting in 1945 when he joined the ranks of the communist-led insurgency against the French. Chau left the communists to join the nationalist cause, rising as high as province chief in the Mekong delta and then becoming an elected representative in the National Assembly, before being arrested and accused of dealing with the enemy via his brother who was a high-ranking communist officer.

Throughout the rest of the book, Chau likes to remind us of his few years fighting on the side of the communists against the French, while denigrating others of his generation who joined the nationalist side and fought against communism. To him, they were French trained NCOs or low-ranking officers who rose to become generals and leaders of South Vietnam through favoritism and corruption. He mentions a few that were capable and incorruptible, but dismisses them as inconsequential.

All along, he likes to repeat that if only his own ideas of fighting communist insurgency had been more widely adopted, the Viet Cong would have long been subdued and brought over to the South's side. No mention is made of the fact that after the 1968 Tet offensive, the Viet Cong was practically eliminated from the battlefield and that all fighting was undertaken by North Vietnamese regiments and divisions.
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Format: Hardcover
Colonel Tran Ngoc Chau was one of the unsung Vietnamese heroes of the war. As Province Chief in Kien Hoa in the early 1960s he turned that tough province around using two secret weapons rarely used in Vietnam before or since: (1) good government and (2) innovative tactics appropriate to the situation he faced. Colonel Chau was instrumental in developing what became the census-grievance program, the RD Cadre and the Armed Propaganda Teams. In his work he received special praise and support from several of America's best advisors, including John Vann, Ed Lansdale, Rufe Phillips, Frank Scotton and the redoubtable Ev Bumgardner.

Chau, who escaped the DRV and now lives in California, has written a fascinating account of his adventures, first as a Viet Minh officer, then a GVN Province Chief, later as a member of the National Assembly, then as a prisoner of the Thieu regime, and finally as a prisoner of the DRV after the fall of Saigon. He points fingers, names names, and does not flinch at telling the truth about what we and our allies did - rightly and wrongly - in our conduct of the war.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chau writes impartially and uses copious facts to base his analysis. His account of first working for the National Liberation Front and later for the South Vietnamese regime, and still later being rejected and joining the refugees - is thoroughly absorbing. His account and conclusions square very well with my own, having been part of the CORDS pacification program in Vietnam from 1967 through 1970. I recommend this book to those who wish to understand the Vietnam War and American involvement in it.
Bill Graham
Burnsville, MN.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tran Ngoc Chau's Vietnam Labyrinth has to be ranked among the top three to four `must read' book on the Vietnam. The few works on Vietnam authored by persons with his background, experience and qualifications tend to be limited to bookstores catering to the Vietnamese diaspora press. Chau's is unique, first because it is written in English, and second because its author incarnates the opinions and outlook of a lifelong Vietnamese nationalist. Like the great majority of leaders from all sides, he was the educated son of a traditional mandarin family: The very class that colonialism and its attendant modernity rendered redundant, replaced by a newer class of middle managers seen by the nationalists as venal lackeys.

A Buddhist from a distinguished Hue family, Chau's goal of entering the Buddhist monkhood was upended by the 1945 revolution. What followed were five years of valor and sacrifice fighting in the Viet Minh ranks, seeing the best and worst of the revolution. Though inclined to the Dai Viet Party, he was invited to join the Communists. His readings of what that Party stood, and was preparing, for opened his eyes. He defected to the newly created State of Vietnam, later serving under Ngo Dien Diem when the Republic was declared. To find the reasons why a former Viet Minh unit commander and political officer would defect is worth the read alone. But equally sharp are Chau's honestly expressed reservations of how the Americans were pursuing the war, and clear-eyed glimpses into the machinations of the various anti-Diem, anti-Ky, and anti-Thieu factions.
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