18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A Unique View of a Fascinating Life,
This review is from: Bernard Fall: Memories of a Soldier-Scholar (Hardcover)
This book is a taut, lucid, sometimes emotional, but never sentimental account of a fascinating life - that of Bernard Fall. Of course, I had heard of Bernard Fall. What literate adult during the Vietnam War had not? But, unlike many, I had not read his books and certainly did not know his story. In his widow's eyes, the author of this book, Bernard was a soldier-scholar who devoted his life to the unyielding pursuit of truth. He was a tough guy. From age sixteen until age nineteen he fought against the Nazis as a member of the French resistence and then served in the French army. At age twenty he worked as an investigator assisting the Nuernberg tribunal. But during the Vietnam War, while popular with the military, he was a misguided missile in the mind of FBI Director Hoover. His phones were tapped. FBI surveillance was openly conducted. Government officials who spoke with Fall were subjected to FBI interviews suggesting that care should be taken with their associations. A lesser man would have been intimidated. Not Fall. And, of course, then as now the efforts to silence political critics with labels of "aid and comfort" to the enemy were wrong to the point of lunacy. For example after describing the Vietminh death march of French prisoners following the fall of Dien Bien Phu - Ms. Fall quotes Bernard's outraged response, ". . . it turns my stomach over what the Commies have done to our men. And it is kept secret for fear it'd upset the delicate apple cart in certain situations. Like hell - I'm gonna get some of this out and politics be damned. " [p. 118]
This book reveals some unmistakable lessons of history. Now, as a result of reading this book, I have purchased Street Without Joy and Hell in a Very Small Place, which are venerated as Fall's masterpieces. I expect that the story of that terrible time will, in some ways, be more richly revealed in them. But Ms. Fall's book discloses personal details that will not be found in her husband's books. These give added meaning to her late husband's writings - and to his life. If you are interested in which lessons from the Vietnam era that should have been studied before and after America's invasion of Iraq, you definitely should read this book.
George W. Shadoan