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Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 6, 2004
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Historian Douglas Brinkley's insightful Tour of Duty covers John Kerry's heroic Vietnam service (where he won the Silver and Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts) and the fervent antiwar campaign it eventually spawned. Born to Boston Brahmin heritage, the son of an American diplomat, John Forbes Kerry was a child of good fortune--an eventual Yalie whose personal hero (John Fitzgerald Kennedy) shared his initials. However, Kerry's privileged upbringing instilled in him not a sense of entitlement, but a burning sense of public service. Though equally obsessed and revulsed by the burgeoning Vietnam conflict, Kerry's sense of duty led him to enlist in the Navy (after graduating Yale), and then volunteer for training as captain of a Swift boat (small aluminum vessels that patrolled the coastal waters and narrow, dangerous tributaries of Vietnam's massive Mekong delta). Brinkley's meticulous research relies on Kerry's detailed wartime diaries, logs, and interviews, (published here for the first time) as well as a wealth of accounts of the Navy's first extensive "brown water" riverine campaign since the Civil War. Those harrowing months only deepened Kerry's antipathy to the war, and he returned to become one of the most articulate leaders of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Brinkley's account gives crucial human dimensions to a man whose seeming aloofness has long plagued him. With Americans again dying in a controversial war halfway around the world, one cannot help but wonder if Kerry will yet again be able to pose the haunting question first put to a Congressional panel thirty years ago: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" --Jerry McCulley
From Publishers Weekly
Popular historian Brinkley's account of John Kerry's Vietnam experience could easily serve as the first part of a multivolume biography, examining the senator and presidential candidate's early life in rigorous detail. Entering the U.S. Navy soon after graduating from Yale in 1966, Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry commanded two Swift boat crews on river patrols in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. He kept "voluminous" notes during his service, maintained extensive correspondence with friends and family, and tape-recorded interviews with combat-seasoned comrades. With unrestricted access to this archival material and interviews with Kerry and surviving crewmates, Brinkley (coauthor with Stephen Ambrose of The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation) depicts war in riveting detail, down to what music the crew of PCF-94 listened to on patrol. Though clearly centering his attention on Kerry, Brinkley also stresses the navy's under-recognized role in Vietnam while emphasizing the "true battlefield heroism" of American forces. Kerry's combat experiences make for gripping reading, and later sections on his high-profile role in the antiwar movement are equally engrossing, including the Nixon White House's efforts (involving a young Armistead Maupin) to discredit veteran-turned-antiwar-activist Kerry as a "phony." Final chapters fully address Kerry's political failures in the early 1970s while quickly summarizing later successes and how these successes were shaped by his Vietnam experience and ongoing relationships with fellow veterans. Though never intended as a political biography, this book offers perhaps the most insightful examination available of the character of this or any other Democratic candidate. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Top customer reviews
The "Winter Soldier" hearings and the subsequent Senate Foriegn Relations Committee testimony is also viewed with candor. If people would bother to read it they might have very different views of Kerry's role at that very difficult time.
An enjoyable read with some gingerbread and some warts to spice things up. Refreshingly positive overall.
I had to partake a couple of plane trips within a months time for work, one in which I was going to be able to visit the Viet Nam wall and touch my cousin's name, so I decided to pick up Tour of Duty and even though I am not into "war" stories I was captivated.
Again, I have read tons of political books from all sides and am very aware of "propoganda" both positive and negative and this one does not read as such (propoganda) and is a great adventure story...recalling that it is true - takes my breath away.
I also find it interesting that I was finishing the book, during a week when J. Kerry was on the NBC Sunday morning show and pundits from the rep. party were decrying his military record for about a day and a half (the obviously had not read this book, or anything about this war) and by Monday evening those same pundits were saying in effect "okay, he is a hero but this doesn't really matter." I found it so interesting to have watched these political events, while having the background of facts that this book produces.
Whether you want to read about the Viet Nam war, John Kerry, a great adventure story or all of the above, I recommend heartily Tour of Duty. Let us just say that my opinion about the man, who is the subject of this book, was raised tremendously.
Brinkley offers a well-written and researched biography of John Kerry. He is uncritical overall, but doesn't hesitate to include unflattering comments by people who just didn't like Kerry for one reason or another.
Besides being a top notch biography, this book provides a fascinating history of the (until now) relatively overlooked brown water navy.
During another mission Lt. Kerry turned his boat around and headed back into the same enemy fire he had just escaped from to rescue a Navy Seal from certain death. While wounded in the right shoulder, Kerry pulled the Seal into the boat before leaving the scene. Kerry didn't even know the Navy Seal. He wasn't part of Kerry's crew, just a passenger but John Kerry brought him back alive.
When John Kerry returned from Vietnam he protested to end the war, to save the lives of the soldiers that were still in a mistaken war. He risked his own future and fought the political establishment to save lives.
In comparison, George Bush disappeared from duty when the air war heated up in Vietnam. On April 10-14, 1972 Richard Nixon began carpet bombing North Vietnam. Fighter planes were used as a slow moving screen to protect the B-52 bombers. Pictures of captured US fighter pilots appeared on the front pages by April 15. George W. Bush's last paid day as a fighter pilot with the Texas Air National Guard was the very next day, April 16, 1972 (according to records released by the White House).
Bush stayed in Alabama for FIVE months before he received authorization to transfer there. In Alabama, Bush stopped flying, failed to take a required physical exam and allowed his flying status to lapse. He never went back to Texas until he received his discharge six months before his required end of service date.
Most recent customer reviews
The lie of John Kerry serving 2 tours in Vietnam is the most blatant lie .Read more