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A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam Paperback – October 1, 1998
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"If there is one book that captures the Vietnam War in the sheer Homeric scale of its passion and folly, this book is it... A dazzling montage: vividly written and deeply felt... The dramatic scenes of lonely men locked on combat...the clash of wills and egos...all these combine in a work that captures the Vietnam War like no other... An impressive achievement" * New York Times Book Review * "I have never read such a book and never expected to... It's not just about John Paul Vann. Not just about America and all of us. Not just Vietnam and all the Vietnamese. It is tragedy and comedy and I don't care how many pages it is. I'll never tire of reading it again and again" -- Harrison E. Salisbury "It will stand as the definitive account of the passions, loyalties (guided and not), inspirations, follies and tragedies of the Vietnam War" * Sunday Times * "Probably the book on the Vietnam War...sophisticated, humane. It contains some of the best military reporting ever written" -- Francis Fitzgerald
About the Author
Neil Sheehan was a Vietnam War correspondent for United Press International and the New York Times and won a number of awards for his reporting. In 1971 he obtained the Pentagon Papers, which brought the Times the Pulitzer Prize gold medal for meritorious public service. A Bright Shining Lie won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction.
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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.