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A Murder in Wartime: The Untold Spy Story That Changed the Course of the Vietnam War Paperback – April, 1993

4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In June 1969 a group of Green Beret officers, suspecting that one of their Vietnamese operatives was a double agent, executed him and dropped his weighted body into the ocean off Nha Trang. A dogged investigation by two Army detectives led to their arrest, followed by a hearing to determine whether they would face court-martial. The admitted triggerman, Capt. Robert Marasco, defended the group's action by stating that eliminating Thai Khac Chuyen was no different than eliminating a Vietcong during a search-and-destroy mission. Gen. Creighton Abrams, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, didn't see it that way; neither did Army Secretary Stanley Resor. When the case became a cause celebre in the States, however, most Americans viewed the arrests as evidence of the high-level politicking that had hamstrung our troops from the start. In the end the Army dropped the charges, but the "Green Beret case" nevertheless had a significant effect on the conduct of the war: it provoked Daniel Ellsberg to leak the Pentagon Papers. In this skillfully told, engrossing narrative, Stein ( The Vietnam Fact Book ) presents all sides of this controversial case, a veritable metaphor for the ambiguities of the Vietnam War. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In the summer of 1969, an alleged North Vietnamese spy "disappeared." The commander of all Green Berets in Vietnam and several of his top subordinates were arrested, charged with the murder, and locked up in solitary confinement at the Long Binh jail. A national uproar ensued when these charges were leaked to the press, but in October the story vanished from the front pages--due, the author implies, to efforts by President Richard Nixon, his cabinet, and the CIA to quash the story. Washington-based journalist Stein has obtained secret files and interviewed the surviving key players in a trial that pitted America's top defense lawyers against army leadership. Revelations of government-sponsored terrorism and assassination were so embarassing that the case was eventually dropped as part of a cover-up that prompted a disenchanted Daniel Ellsberg to leak the Pentagon Papers. Highly recommended.
- David Lee Poremba, Detroit
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: St Martins Mass Market Paper; Reprint edition (April 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312929196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312929190
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,404,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
...A MURDER IN WARTIME is one of the best books to have emerged from the Vietnam debacle. Jeff Stein deserves full credit for the extensive research he did, and for tying together such a complicated story in such a readable way. All sides are fairly represented, and that indeed is something rare in a book about the Vietnam War.
The only problem I have with the book is that it sometimes has a bigger-than-life quality that makes one wonder if the author was willing to stretch the truth here and there for the sake of a good read. For example, Stein paints the book's central figure, Col. Robert B. Rheault, as a warrior-philosopher, both a thinking man and a highly-decorated combat leader revered by his men. To make the point, Stein writes that Rheault had earned the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star, valor awards rated only one and two steps behind the Medal of Honor. However, according to Rheault's entry in the United States Military Academy Register of Graduates, he actually had very limited combat service and had never been decorated for valor. Additionally, Rheault's name does not show up on an exhaustive list of Vietnam DSC winners compiled by the late Lt. Col. Albert F. Gleim, USA-Ret.
This is no small matter and makes me wonder about other passages in a book which was great enough to stand on its own without any exaggerations. I'd be curious as to where Stein got his information about Rheault being a highly-decorated war hero....
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Format: Paperback
Jeff Stein's "A Murder in Wartime" bravely tackles all of the moral issues of wartime in general and the moral ambiguities attached to the Vietnam War, in particular. In 1969 eight Green Berets were accused of murdering a Vietnamese who may or may not have been a spy for North Vietnam. The case called into question the morality of waging a guerilla war, the role of the regular U.S. Army in such a context, the control of the CIA, and the politics of waging an unpopular war. Stein manages to weave all of these issues and dozens of key participants in the alleged murder and its aftermath without losing focus. Stein's narrative style flows easily through the perspective of all the key personnel and pulls the reader into the moral and ethical wilderness these people faced. Stein is careful not to pass judgement on the Green Berets charged with the crime, or on the regular Army establishment who may have seized on this incident just to put the Green Berets in their place. Instead he allows the reader to face the same dilemma all of these people did and make their own choices. An outstanding piece of historical writing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well-told, a real page-turner that reads like a thriller, but a real life treatment of the murder of a friendly native by several Green Beret officers who thought he was a double agent. They were arrested, jailed and had a preliminary hearing, but when they tried to get the CIA involved on their side, and the CIA balked, they were set free and sent home. Murder in Wartime is just that.
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Format: Paperback
I'm sorry to be so late on this review. I have recently renewed my interest in the subject - hence my review.

Read the book when it first came out and thought it was well written. Jeff Stein nailed it when he writes about GEN Creighton Abrams. His disdain for Special Forces or anything not considered "Traditional Army" was legendary.

I had a personal interest in reading it early on because I was the Special Forces Senior Advisor at A414 (Than Tri) while most of this was going on. When I arrived 1LT Martin (Captain Marasco)and his crew were already there masquerading as a civil affairs / psychological operations team. I was quietly made aware of their real mission and being young, naive and wanting to "take it to the enemy" thought it was a good idea. I was in command when COL R. made his inspection tour sometime in the Spring of 1969. I think 1LT Martin was off site but COL R. seemed to already know about his operation. LTC B, my immediate boss did not know about it and I had to fill him in on what little I knew. LTC B quickly understood and did not ask anymore questions. About the time I was preparing to leave for the States 1LT Martin was wrapping up his operation with a lot of haste. I had no idea what had happened until I returned to the States and heard about it on the news. Little did I know how close I was to such a historical event. In a subsequent tour to Vietnam in 1971 I met 1LT Martin's primary Cambodian agent handler Mr. Phan, he had an interesting story to tell. Such is the fog of war. Kudos to Jeff Stein for being the first to piece it together into a readable story.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I personally know many of the guys named in this book. In my opinion, they did what needed to be done in a time of war and they should not have been persecuted for that at the operational level. I don't know COL Rheault, but it appears that he lied to his boss. That is not acceptable. Gen Abrams reacted, perhaps over-reacted, and COL Rheault, perhaps with good intentions, was punished for trying to protect his troops in a manner which was not appropriate. The book is a very good read about an interesting part of the Vietnam War most people never hear about.
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