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A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books) Hardcover – September 22, 2009
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Praise for A Bright Shining Lie
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AND THE PULITZER PRIZE
"Dazzling . . . vividly written and deeply felt, with a power that comes from long reflection and strong emotions."
–The New York Times Book Review
"Masterly . . . a compelling, graphic and deeply sensitive biography [and] one of the few brilliant histories of the American entanglement in Vietnam . . . Sheehan's skillful weaving of anecdote and history, of personal memoir and psychological profile, [gives] the book the sense of having been written by a novelist, journalist and scholar all rolled into one."
The New York Times
"If there is one book that captures the Vietnam war in the sheer Homeric scale of its passion and folly, this book is it. Neil Sheehan orchestrates a great fugue evoking all the elements of the war."
The New York Times Book Review
"A brilliant work of enormous substance and ambition. In telling one man's story [A Bright Shining Lie] sets out to define the fatal contradictions that lost America the war in Vietnam. It belongs to the same order of merit as Dispatches, The Best and the Brightest and Fire in the Lake."
"The Washington Post Book World[A Bright Shining Lie] is more than a biography. It is also a compelling and clear history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Mr. Sheehan's book . . . is the best answer to any American who asks: 'How could this have happened?'"
The Wall Street Journal
"Enormous power . . . full of great accomplishments . . . Sheehan has written . . . the best book ever about Vietnam."
"One of the milestones in the literature about the war."
–The Christian Science Monitor
About the Author
Neil Sheehan is the author of A Fiery Peace in a Cold War. He spent three years in Vietnam as a war correspondent for United Press International and The New York Times and won numerous awards for his reporting. In 1971 he obtained the Pentagon Papers, which brought the Times the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for meritorious public service. Sheehan lives in Washington, D.C. He is married to the writer Susan Sheehan.
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Top customer reviews
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Neil Sheehan's classic about the life and times of John Paul Vann is the perfect metaphor for the American experience of the Vietnam War. His detailed account of battles (with the NVA/Viet Cong, and within the Army) and of life between those battles yields both texture and substance for the reader. And unlike many (most from my reading) other books on Vietnam, it offers the breadth of years to the story, resulting in an emotional portrait of a country's decent into madness. I will leave it to you to decide which country I'm talking about.
It also is an insightful commentary on how the services function as bureaucracies and what is apparently takes to climb to the top of those giant piles. I suspect that anyone who has been in the service either in peace or at war has a very good idea of what this is, so I won't belabor the point. Reading about Westmoreland's view and opinions always seems like scraping fingernails on a blackboard to me. Learning about an individual who figured out a way to prosper within this system is always delightful, even if the underlying purpose is doubtful. I think that "working" the system is the basis for many, many sea stories.
The level of detail Sheehan gives is wonderful; his style of writing is accessible without being simplistic. Whether you are interested in the politics of the American effort in Vietnam or are looking for narrative about individuals in battle, this is *the* place to start. Sheehan also gives you pointers on where to go next with his thorough notes and bibliography. This book took him years to research and write, and the precision shines through. I am grateful for his persistence, and suspect that you will be too.
Enjoy, and reflect.
I served with the US Navy (on land) in the Mekong Delta in the area his "field visits" were - near "The Parrot's Beak" on the border of Cambodia and Viet Nam's IV Corps ... supporting the US Navy PBRs, Navy Seawolf "Search & Destroy" helicopters, and 2 detachments of Navy SEALS.
The Province Chiefs were corrupt, the ARVN Soldiers wouldn't fight, and the "Vietnamization" of the Delta meant that the Vietnamese Sailors left after being with us during the days, and wouldn't stay in our compound(s) after dark.
If they did, we always had 2 fully-armed Sailors to accompany each Vietnamese, and one (USN) always stayed awake to watch over the position.
Sheehan was extremely accurate in his writing, and had "done that and been there", as a number of us had as well. It was clear to me and others in the Delta (1968 & 1969) that there was no way we were going to "win", and that the America Policy was to try and exit as quickly as possible ... a move that took a number of years after I left the country - and after a number of US Servicemen were killed and/or wounded. A waste of men, for sure.
This book is a definitive study I can easily relate to, as I experienced much the same during my tour in Vinh Long, My Tho, Can Tho, Ben Luc, and numerous advanced support bases near Cambodia.
Most recent customer reviews
Super historical perspective on a much maligned time in American history. Need more maps dispersed throughout. Recommended to students of war.