- Series: Vietnam War Era Classics Series
- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Indiana University Press (April 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0253213010
- ISBN-13: 978-0253213013
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #969,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In the Jaws of History: (Vietnam War Era Classics Series) Paperback – June 22, 1999
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From Library Journal
LJ's reviewer found this firsthand account of Vietnam's post-World War II struggles "well-written and at times illuminating" but also assessed Diem, the country's ambassador to the United States, as "seldom self-critical" and "detached." The author, however, clearly makes his case that when the United States became involved, our troops essentially took over the war with a "blatant disregard of South Vietnamese interests." (LJ 9/1/87)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
" ... important ... gives [Americans] a candid look at ourselves as the Vietnamese saw us." - The Washington Times "Diem has written the most extraordinary tour d'horizon of the Vietnam War I have ever read, a document all the more remarkable for its absence of bitterness." - San Francisco Examiner
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Top customer reviews
If there is a more insightful, objective and comprehensive explanation of the war written by an active participant and person of influence, I am unaware of it. As I reread it a second and third time I was amazed by the book's richness, and density of information.
Although an ardent Vietnamese patriot and intellectual, and as someone who knew and personally worked with nearly every single one of the key political and military decision makers and influencers in South Vietnam and the United States from the 1950s into the 1970s (he even knew many of the communists and was briefly in the 1940s a student of Vo Nguyen Giap), Bui Diem writes with uncanny humility, grace, and equanimity. With the outcome apparent to the reader prior to beginning to read his story, Ambassador Bui shows no bitterness; but instead calm, mature refelection.
All too often Americans see the world solely from their own very narrow, solipsistic viewpoint; giving scant consideration to the world outside their own, as they seem to continually do with allies until they become a liability. "In the Jaws of History" pays great attention to the American perspective but likewise exposes the reader to beyond what is obvious, giving insight into what it was like to be on the receiving end and controlled by American support.
Ambassador Bui, in great detail, and without making excuses, describes the foibles and limitations of his own country. With calm resignation he likewise understands and explains the limitations of American support, and the deleterious impact that waning support had for the Republic of Vietnam.
"In the Jaws of History" is one of the critical books on the Vietnam War. It is a book which ought to be thoroughly studied in every American war college and by anyone with serious interest in that war. It remains an undiscovered gem.
When I planned to return to Vietnam, I realized I still knew virtually nothing about Vietnam's history and the political machinations that occurred before, during, and after America's military engagement there. I started by watching the excellent documentary: "Vietnam: A Television History" and then read Halberstram's "The Making of a Quagmire" which gave me good insight on the difficult situation American military advisors faced working with the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.
I read this book - In the Jaws of History - after returning home from Vietnam in 2014. I thank those earlier reviewers who praised the book because I found it extremely helpful to my understanding of how (and whom) we ended up supporting in South Vietnam. I agree with other reviewers who indicated the most valuable part is learning about the nationalist parties who wanted to take Vietnam in a more positive direction than the Communists but whom were out-organized and out-propaganda-ized by Ho Chi Minh and his cohorts. Bui Diem was one of these outflanked nationalists and his personal history since the end of WWII makes his story an excellent insight into the arc of Vietnam's history during this period.
The book is also extremely well written: I found it hard to believe any non-native English speaker could write it - then I realized his co-author, David Chanoff, might deserve some of the credit here.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of a sad and turbulent time for Vietnam and the US.
Diem was an educated, liberal good man, and it is agonizing to follow his frustration with the decent of a country that was 99% filled with a people who had no experience with self-government and were overwhelming uneducated and ill-prepared for the "jaws of history" closing on them. The story is tragedy, but an important view of what happened from a unique observer and actor.