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The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam During the Kennedy Era Revised Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0394368603
ISBN-10: 0394368606
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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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For all the legions of books published on the Vietnam War, none surpasses one of the earliest and most prescient—David Halberstam's The Making of a Quagmire. Halberstam's shrewd observations of the complexities of Vietnamese politics and the obstacles the U.S. faced early in achieving its goals deeply inform the entire book. A brilliant study that has lost none of its power despite the history that unfolded after its publication, Halberstam's book deserves to be read again and again. (Ellen Fitzpatrick)

Few journalists did more to educate Americans about the harsh realities of the Vietnam war than David Halberstam. The Making of a Quagmire offers numerous insights into the conflict between the American press and the U.S. government that began in those years and ultimately played a major role in the war. The book is a valuable introduction to Vietnam in the era of John F. Kennedy and Ngo Dinh Diem. (George C. Herring)

As it did in 1965, Halberstam's book will provoke vigorous discussion. Readers will marvel at how the United States allowed itself to be so misled in South Vietnam and will use the book to make connections to more recent events in the Middle East. (Robert Dallek)

Halberstam's wartime work will last not just because of its quality and its importance but because it established a new mode of journalism, one with which Americans are now so familiar that it's difficult to remember that someone had to invent it. (Packer, George) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

David Halberstam (1934–2007) was the author of 20 books, the last 14 of which have been national best-sellers. His most recent book, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, is about the Chinese entry into the Korean War. He was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in Vietnam and was a member of the elective Society of American Historians. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 217 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred a Knopf; Revised edition (October 30, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394368606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394368603
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,720,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Halberstam's work is a classic, outlining the dilemma that Vietnam posed to American policymakers in the early 1960s, and written in lucid, newspaper-reporting style. The author's perceptiveness is particularly striking when one considers that he wasn't even 30 years old when he covered Vietnam.
Unfortunately, this McGraw-Hill edition abridges Halberstam's masterpiece. Most of the essential pieces of the story remain, but much of the rich, colorful narrative, which makes this such a fascinating book, is lost. Hopefully, a complete version will return to print soon.
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By A Customer on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Before reading this book, my knowledge of the Vietnam war was limited to the movies I had seen on the subject, until recently when a friend recommended this book to me after a brief discussion of the war, its political agenda and its intrigue. Making of a quagmire is an extensive and thourough account of the events in 1961 and 1962 that lead to the eventual full american involvemnt in Vietnam. Halberstam provides an unbeleivable and at times jaw-dropping first hand account of the political and military events of the period, and translates with remarkable skill the frustration of the vicious circle that was the american policy in Vietnam. A must read for any one with even a slight interest in the subject
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Format: Paperback
If one wants to understand the debacle or "quagmire" know as the Vietnam War, look no further than this riveting account! In "The Making of a Quagmire," David Halberstam pin points all of the failures of the system years before the first official U.S. troops splash ashore at Danang, Vietnam. His account, a collection of observations about Vietnam under the Diem presidency, is refreshing while at the same time shocking in its findings. While many observers insisted that efforts in Vietnam were progressing so well from 1961-63, Halberstam sees the light. His expose of all the failings of the system includes candid words about the inept south Vietnamese leadership and the American advisors who grow increasingly frustrated with their mission. Most importantly though, Halberstam offers a glimpse into the life of a journalist caught in his own war of censorship.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For quite a few years now the history of the Vietnam War has given us much to dissect and investigate as to American involvement in a highly controversial war. The longer one continues further into the future the more has been written and discovered as to the polemic mistakes as well as the government cover up as to what was really transpiring in Vietnam. What was indeed the true intelligence?
In reality during the whole reporting of the Vietnam War we had young Turks seeking the truth and discovered that our government and the South Vietnamese government were in fact drowning in lies. They were perpetrating a hoax to the American public. This book, The Making Of A Quagmire is an edited version of the original publication. As explained in the forward many chapters were dropped because in retrospect they are irrelevant. What remains is truly viable analyses of what was happening prior to American combat troops were activated into the maelstrom.
Halberstam was a man who went directly into the field with the South Vietnamese troops and American advisors. He saw first-hand the military conundrum that was the ARVN not doing the job in the delta area. Along the way Halberstam made friends with Neil Sheehan who collaborated in developing the key stories about what truly was happening in Diem's South Vietnam. In fact both Halberstam and Sheehan made the establishment of the South Vietnamese government and the military and governmental personnel of the United States very uncomfortable. Halberstam and Sheehan were under covering lies and corruption and a war that they saw with their own eyes as a lost cause. Keep in mind they didn't want it to be a lost cause. But there it was, their eyes saw the truth and they were indeed shocked and dismayed at what they saw.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
In the early 1960s, David Halberstam was a New York Times correspondent who initially viewed the U.S. political and military-advisory roles in South Viet Nam as a necessary stance against the Communist menace (as defined by Dwight Eisenhower's "domino theory" in Southeast Asia).

But his pessimism grew during tours of the nation, interviews with American military advisors and his concerns surrounding the corrupt South Vietnamese government of President Ngo Dinh Diem. His criticism became so much of a problem to the Kennedy Administration that the president himself lobbied NYT editors to have Halberstam yanked out of South Viet Nam if his reporting continued to run contrary to the government's optimistic pronoucements.

The abridged edition - to make the text more accessible to those not familiar with this history - is a classic retrospective on how Halberstam grew to question the policies of Diem and Kennedy. It also importantly takes the reader through a journey on how he had to walk gingerly through the web of censorship that is played out between the government & the news media.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The entire tone of this book is that the Saigon Press Corp were the smartest people in the world. They had all the answers, but nobody would listen to them. They could see the diaster coming, but nobody else could see it coming. The government and military (both American and Vietnamese) were incompetent and not listening to the right people. Chapter 11 "The Saigon Press Controversy" is devoted entirely to this theme, and should be eliminated as it does not relate to American involvement in the Quagmire.
I was disappointed there was no followup on Madame Nhu, given the amount of venom directed at her in the first part of the book. And no mention of her during the coup. I learned from other sources she was out of the country during the coup, and still lives(?) in Italy.
Chapter 10 "A Slow Change in American Policy" shows a very limited view of the situation. President Kennedy as early as August 1963 was considering the removal of Diem, and Lodge the day before the coup offered Diem safe passage out of the country.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the Epilog. Halberstam wrote it after returning to VietNam in late 1967, and gives his views on the situation as it stood then. This is dated even before the Tet Offensive occured. The editor, Mr Singal should write an Epilog II that covers Halberstam's insights for the future of the country, and highlights at least the following 10 years of unimaginable misery and bloodshed in VietNam.
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