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Kontum: The Battle to Save South Vietnam (Battles and Campaigns Series) Hardcover – July 20, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Winner of the William E. Colby Award"―

"A gripping combat narrative. McKenna does an excellent job of combining his personal experiences and observations with the extensive information he has drawn from official records, contemporary press reports, and published works."―David T. Zabecki, editor emeritus, Vietnam Magazine

"Tom McKenna is a 'soldier's soldier.' His reputation for integrity, courage and professional know how is known throughout the Army. His peacetime as well as wartime service marked him as one of the infantry's most remarkable leaders, the kind admired by not only his subordinates but also his peers and superior officers. This book reflects his professional acumen and contributions to freedom."―Major General Guy S. Meloy, USA (Ret.), former commanding general, 82nd Airborne Division

"A superbly written and researched account of the 1972 NVA Easter Offensive and the heroism and professionalism of the unsung heroes of the Vietnam War, the advisor teams. If you are interested in understanding why the Vietnam War ended as it did, read this book."―Major General Neal Creighton, USA (Ret.), former Commanding General of 1st Infantry Division

"McKenna sweeps away the fog of war in his detailed history of the Battle of Kontum. He expertly blends his personal experience as a military adviser to the victorious 23rd South Vietnamese Division with years of painstaking research in this significant account of one of the final battles of the Vietnam War."―Edward Richards, Emeritus Professor of English and Military Literature, Norwich University, CDR, USNR (Ret.)

"Accurately describes the important contribution of the U.S. Air Force in winning the Battle of Kontum. B-52 bombers, fighter-bombers, and gunships supported the advisors and the troops in Kontum while C-130 airlifts delivered vital supplies to the beleaguered city."―Major General James C. Pfautz, USAF (Ret.)

"Although the Easter Offensive was the biggest battle of the Vietnam War, it has been neglected by historians. McKenna helps fill the gap with his account of the battle for Kontum in the Central Highlands. His perspective as a participant in the fighting there makes this an interesting and valuable addition to the historiography."―Dale Andradé, author of America's Last Vietnam Battle: Halting Hanoi's 1972 Easter Offensive

"Offers an illuminating picture of the colorful, contradictory ex-military man in action. McKenna. . . does an effective job of melding his own story with the bigger picture."―Publishers Weekly

"McKenna, a U.S. infantry lieutenant colonel assigned as a military adviser to the 23rd Division, participated in the battle of Kontum and combines his personal experiences with years of interviews and research from primary sources to describe the events leading up to the invasion and the battle itself."―Siagon Arts, Culture, & Education Institute Newsletter

"Thomas McKenna's fine work is an important addition to our knowledge of advisors and those they advised, during a critical period of the war . . . In a balanced and detailed account McKenna tells it like it was."―Journal of Military History

"Kontum sheds new light on the actions of U.S. advisers in combat during the Vietnam War. McKenna's book is not only an essential historical resource for America's most controversial war but a personal story of valor and survival."―West Point Grad News

"McKenna was a lieutenant colonel serving in South Vietnam as an adviser to the 23rd Army of the Republic of Vietnam. In this detailed account, he makes use of interviews, primary documents, and personal experience of how the 23rd successfully defended against three North Vietnamese divisions of superior numberical strength with the help of U.S. advisers and air power."―Library Journal

"This biography details his career in the US Army...and also gives information on his early life and his marriage, drawing on the author's personal interviews with Meadows."―Book News

"Riveting account of desperate combat."―Armchair General

"McKenna's book is not only an essential historical resource for America's most controversial war but a personal story of valor and survival."―First Call

"Although much has been written about the Vietnam War, little of it addresses either the Easter Offensive or the Battle of Kontum. In Kontum, Thomas P. McKenna fills this gap, offering the only in-depth account available of this violent engagement."―Military Officer

"Readers unfamiliar with the later stages of the Vietnam War will enjoy McKenna's attention to detail, particularly his account of the battle of Kontum and the realities faced by American advisors."―H-Net Review

"The author's detailed accounts of the fighting make this book a must read for anyone interested in military history and particularly for anyone studying or who simply enjoys reading about the Vietnam War."―Military Writers Society of America

"McKenna has done a great job of bringing us his firsthand account of the Battle of Kontum and America's pivotal role in keeping South Vietnam from being split in half and defeated in 1972. This book is compelling reading wheather you were 'in country' at the time or not."―Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association Aviator

"McKenna combines solid research and first-person interviews with his own experiences there to produce an informative book that should serve as a 'how not to' for Iraq and Afghanistan."―The Past in Review

"A well-written book that examines a relatively brief but critical chapter of the Vietnam War."―On Point

"A powerful testament to the indispensable role played by advisor teams, which has often been obscured in conventional combat histories. . . . It is a must for any veteran or scholar who wants an in depth understanding as to how the Vietnam War was fought, and why its conclusion came to be."―Military

About the Author

Thomas P. McKenna, Lt. Col., USA (Ret.), served as a military adviser to the Army of South Vietnam and has published articles on military history in Vietnam, Military Officer, and Military Heritage magazines.
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Product Details

  • Series: Battles and Campaigns Series
  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky; 1St Edition edition (July 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081313398X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813133980
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a must have book for anybody who served in the Central Highlands during the Vietnam War. For the first eleven months of my tour of duty in 1970, I was stationed at a firebase on the eastern edge of Kontum (Rocket City) with the 170th Assault Helicopter Company. The southern perimeter of our firebase overlooked the Kontum Airfield, and one of our responsibilities was to keep that air field open and out of enemy hands. In December of 1970 the ARVN's took over our firebase at Kontum and we were withdrawn to Camp Holloway at Pleiku. I did not realize the importance of this event at the time, but we were probably the last group of American Infantry to serve in the Central Highlands. I finished my tour in Vietnam in March of 1971, just one year before this battle took place. The maps, pictures, and landmarks mentioned in this book bring back a lot of memories from my fourteen months spent in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. This battle must have brought a lot of fear and panic to the civilian population (and especially the Montagnard people) living in and around Kontum City. I can only hope and pray that these people and their villages survived this fierce battle.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I waited a week in the hopes somebody would write the review this book deserves. I'm amazed it hasn't gotten at least 50 10 star reviews by now. So I will make my unprofessional attempt to review this: no writer of action packed novels could even come close to duplicating what this author has done with actual first hand experience (he was there) backed up by tons of factual research. This is 265 pages of sustained, mind-numbing action about one of the largest battles of the Vietnam war--if not the largest, as North Vietnam tries desperately to decisevely crush the South Vietnamese army in 1972--otherwise known as the Easter Offensive. Wave after wave of NVA soldiers backed with heavy T-54 Russian armor attack Kontum. Every type of US airforce fighter bomber, navy jet, army gun ships --even special, just invented TOW mounted jeeps airlifted to Kontum from the US to try and stop the deadly tanks --are utlized by the few advisors left to support the South Vietnamese who stood their gound bravely. Anybody from the research-minded military historian, to someone who just wants an action-packed and incredibly fast-paced "thriller" would highly value this book. Thank you, Thomas McKenna, for the difficult research you spent on this book, and thank you for your brave service to this country. Five stars is not nearly enough for this effort!
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Format: Hardcover
Here is a great untold story -- how a handful of American advisors, South Vietnamese troops, and U.S. air support fought off three North Vietnamese divisions to hold South Vietnam's Central Highlands. Had they failed, South Vietnam would have been cut in two and the war likely lost during this 1972 "Easter Offensive." This book is not justthe product of a historian's well-done research, but incorporates the personal perspectives of its author, Thomas P. McKenna, the senior advisor to the South Vietnamese forces who prevailed in this uneven fight. The enemy forces they fought were not poorly armed guerrillas but a modern corps-level force with tanks, heavy artillery and surface-to-air missiles. Extensively researched,including interviews with participants, Col. McKenna has penned a ddramatic true account, that's both solid history and a great read. I rotated home from Kontum four months before this battle, but would have been honored to have fought beside Col. McKenna and his courageous few. I heartily recommend this book.
JOHN PLASTER, author, "SOG," "Secret Commandos"
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Format: Hardcover
Col. McKenna has done it, putting the nails into the historiographical coffin of the Nguyen Hue Offensive (better known in the west as the Easter Offensive) of 1972. Accurate and detailed, the author provides a vivid account of the battle that came to be known as "the Stalingrad of the Central Highlands." This work now rounds out four other volumes that cover the events of the Communist offensive and the American and South Vietnamese response: Dale Andrade's "Trial by Fire" (1995) provides the best one-volume overview; Lt. Col. G.H. Turley's "The Easter Offensive" (1985) was penned by the senior American advisor in I Corps; James Willbanks' "The Battle of An Loc" (2005) covers the sixty-day siege of An Loc in III Corps and the most detailed description of the Air Force's significant contribution to the campaign is still Maj. A.J.C. Lavalles's "Air Power and the 1972 Spring Invasion" (1975). The only piece still missing from the combat narrative would be an unbiased account from the Vietnamese side, but, things being as they are, that is not likely to happen any time soon.

Thomas McKenna has provided us with a gripping portrait of men engulfed in furious battle, a literal "storm of steel." Outnumbered and surrounded, the men of the South Vietnamese 23rd Infantry and their American advisors held off more than three North Vietnamese divisions while the application of massive firepower (the majority delivered by air) finally turned the tide in what had become (for both sides) a combined-arms conventional battle. What also comes through, given the nature of the American aerial bombardment, is the courage and resilience of the North Vietnamese troops, who had to advance into a literal hurricane of death. I am glad to see so many positive responses to McKenna's work. The only reason I gave it four stars was to set this review apart from the others. And, by the way, to acknowledge a fellow historian and a true gentleman.
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