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Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 (v. 1) Hardcover – August 28, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
A full-blooded member of what he calls the "revisionist school" of Vietnam War historians, Moyar firmly believes that America's longest and most controversial overseas war was "a worthy but improperly executed enterprise." His fiercely argued book, which covers the early years of American involvement in the war, is an unabated salvo against what he calls the "orthodox school" that sees American involvement in the war as "wrongheaded and unjust." The main villains are former Vietnam War correspondents David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan; former U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge; and just about anyone else who had bad things to say about South Vietnamese premier Ngo Dinh Diem and good things to say about Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Though Moyar marshals many primary sources to buttress his political point of view, he undermines his argument by disparaging those he disagrees with (calling Sheehan and Halberstam, for example, "indignant," "vengeful," and "self-righteous"). He also showers praise on those who backed Diem, the autocratic leader who stifled the press and his political opponents. Revisionists will embrace the book; the orthodox will see it as more evidence of a vast, right-wing conspiracy. (Oct. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This thoroughly researched and richly informative history of the Vietnam War examines first the war's central characters and countries in the years leading up to 1954. Moyar contends that South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, who has been incessantly depicted as an obtuse, tyrannical reactionary by some historians, was in reality a very wise and effective leader. Moyar states that supporting the November 1963 coup was the worst American mistake of the war, that President Kennedy had no plans to abandon his South Vietnamese allies after the 1964 election, and that President Johnson's lack of forcefulness in Vietnam in late 1964 and early 1965 squandered America's deterrent power and led to a decision in Hanoi to invade South Vietnam with large North Vietnamese army units. Moyar notes that historians have argued that an American ground-troop presence in Laos would not have stopped most of the infiltration, but much new evidence contradicts this contention. Where the U.S. committed major errors, he writes, was in formulating strategies for defending South Vietnam. A valuable appraisal. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
reader of Vietnam war history --in both in Vietnamese and in English --it's delightful to see Mr. Moyar comes up with a fresh look at, among
others, what we Sough Vietnamese consider the most turbulent times of the
Republic of Vietnam . Aside from the book's main theme which advances
the premise that triumphs achieved by South Vietnam's first republic
were forsaken and the removal of President Ngo Dinh Diem was a mortal
mistake, Triumph Forsaken also provides a detailed picture of a rather
complex and chaotic times in South Vietnam .
The immediate four years after the coup d'R(tm)etat that brought down Ngo Dinh Diem's regime in 1963 were tumultuous ones. The situation during
the period of 1964-1967 in Saigon had been discussed and written in many
books before, but none provided as much details as Mr. Moyar's. What
makes Mr. Moyar'book different from other books is that the author
abundantly supplies readers with references from books published in
Vietnamese from both sides of the war (North and South Vietnam ). This reader must admid that many times during reading Mr. Moyar'R(tm)s book, he has gone to his bookshelves to checked out those Vietnamese sources cited by the author. And on every instance the references are relevant and concise; translations from the Vietnamese sources are splendid as they were rendered into English.
Two chapters stands out from Triumph Forsaken: Chapter 16 (The Prize for
Victory: January-May 1965), and Chapter 17 (Decision: June-July 1965). The
periods described in those two chapters were the times when political and
military situations in South Vietnam were at their worst: in the home front,infighting between South Vietnamese rival generals for political control reached its apex. In the battle front, North Vietnamese military commanders began to test to see if they could employ big unit operations. And with the capability to wage regimental-sized battles they could. It's from these vicious and big battles of Binh Gia, Dong Xoai and Ba Gia in 1965, where the South Vietnamese ilitary suffered bad beatings, that the United Stated decided to send in the ground (combat) troops to stem the tide. In addition to many recently declassified documents used to prove the author's point, for a better comparison, Mr. Moyar also provides
plenty of sources and references from contemporary North and South
Vietnamese military books and memoirs. And that makes the book interesting.
Lastly, this may be aside from the focus of this review, but as a Vietnamese reader I can not fail to praise Mr. Moyar for his scholarship and his keen eyes for editing this Vietnamese-ladden book: of the 415 pages of text and 93 pages of references and index, sprinkled with Vietnamese names and Vietnamese titles, there were only five typos. Now, that's a remarkable achievement for a young Vietnam war historian. Triumph Forsaken is a must read for those who care to read Vietnam war literature. Read not one time, but a few times over.
In the years that followed primary sources have been produced that include biographical accounts -- first person accounts of the diplomats, intelligence operatives, and soldiers who experienced the War first hand. Particularly useful have been the official military histories produces long after the guns were silent that record the message traffic, major speeches of key leaders, and intelligence summaries of the campaigns waged by both Hanoi and America. Finally there are the biographical accounts of the North Vietnamese Generals, who directed the War from Hanoi and fought the War in South Vietnam. Their accounts add much to our understanding of the War and in many respects show a remarkable similarity to the accounts of Senior American Diplomats and General Officers of the battles they waged from opposite sides of the skirmish lines.
It is these primary sources that Mark Moyar has used to write his fresh and very readable History of the Vietnam War. Such a work could not have been written twenty years ago, because the primary sources were still in production. Now that these sources have been published, it is possible for the first time to see the War as senior leaders on both sides saw the Conflict. Moyar's account is fascinating. It bring both new light to the events of the War, as well as it brings new analysis never before seen to evaluate the significance of the Vietnam experience and the meaning of the vast treasure, both human and military, that both sides poured into the War effort to shape our times. Serious students of the Vietnamese War, or the American War, as it in known in Hanoi, will not want to miss the seminal publication.
Published by Cambridge University Press and 512 pages in length, Triumph Forsaken is the finest work yet to emerge from among the many works covering the War. Covering the years from 1954 to 1965, the History will be followed by a follow-on edition covering the years from 1965 to 1975 that will provide new light on the final decade of the War based upon recently published primary sources. The reader who brings an open mind and willingness to hear the words of those who led the War will be rewarded many times over for the time spent engrossed in a beautifully written account of the most important war fought since the end of the Second World War.