for a war with as much impact on the national consciousness as Vietnam, it's amazing to discover here on Goodreads that this is The--not 'A'--history of the Vietnam War. one would think given all the television, movies, national discourse about the subject, that there are several histories, but apparently this is it--one book. how do we explain an America that was officially segregated, confident, "winner of two world wars" of the 1950s, (if, externally, gray-flannel suited and Organization Man-inhabited) and the weird, reeling, post-war, multicultural, uncertain, bombastic yet frightened patchwork nation that is either the last hope of mankind or the least ?
is america an imperialist atomic-armed nation keeping together the last of western rule? or is it an inherently self-perfecting, freedom-supporting, speech and liberty and religion-open nation, a lifeboat against the nightmare of the old world? and was this the question of Vietnam, of our time, of post-war USA, or what? this is the question only 2020-2050 will answer. most leftists / historians / artists see decline and collapse...
well, Karnow is competent. his work is extensively researched. but like the political war, the book is about politics. we learn minutiae about minor functionaries in the south vietnam government, but we never learn the names of actual military units involved. no talk about the weaponry. what kind of war book is this? Karnow had arrived in Vietnam in 1959, so unfortunately the book is a sort of narcisstic mood piece, covering 1959 - 1965 for some 400 pages before we get 280 pages of the height of the war. historigraphically speaking, of course an author should be praised for covering prior history, and simply because there is no other Vietnam War history of the same repute, we should not complain about too much preliminaries, but for the war analyst, it is sort of very heavy on politics and government minutiae. then, years 1965-1969 are covered relatively lightly, with some peak years of 550,000 soldiers in country not given the extensive coverage such a dramatic statistical fact deserves. it's Karnow's book; so for him, the presence of huge amounts of Americans is not especially notable; rather the cafes of 1962 apparently deserve more coverage, he was there, so to speak.
book cannot be recommended. 3 stars/5. a wikipedia search uncovers more factual / numeric data than in this book.
chapter 11, "LBJ goes to war"
LBJ complex figure; inherits some sort of brushfire, both a product and architect of events. VC doubles in 1964 to 170,000 men, mostly from south; 30,000 incorporated into 50 hard-core battalions w/ northern veterans. (WP: US forces only 16500). winter 1964 offensive 200 SV soldiers killed, 5 US advisors, bombing at hotel. Pleiku, Flaming Dart, DaNang--US marines ashore, first since KW. Johnson: "We will stand."
chapter 12, "escalation"
camranh bay, 1 million pounds/day flowing into nam; no BMCs but gi's can buy stocks upon leaving, cultural revolution in China; airstrikes; rolling thunder a million tons of bombs; 'cling the belt' strategy; rotation system; hard to identify VC,
chapter 13, "peace negotiations"
by 1966, vietnam at forefront of uS consciousness; the public opinion war; the first peace feelers, Warsaw conference; mcnamara, more bombings of north vietnam
chapter 14, "tet"
tet offensive shocks us public consciousness; "credibility gap" develops between pentagon/hawks and us peaceniks. khe sanh; uss pueblo; 'carrot-and-stick' bombing starts and stops;
chapter 15, "nixon's war"
Nixon's crusade against 'red menace'; despite us feelings about war, 'silent majority' apparently correct concept; kissinger an example of post-holocaust german jew; "stand against totalitarianism"; cambodia; kent state