Academic journal article Military Review

Shadows of Vietnam: Lyndon Johnson's Wars

Academic journal article Military Review

Shadows of Vietnam: Lyndon Johnson's Wars

Article excerpt

SHADOWS OF VIETNAM: Lyndon Johnson's Wars by Frank E. Vandiver. 396 pages. Texas A&M Press, College Station, TX. 1997. $29.95.

Beginning with David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest (1972), few topics have been the subject of more serious books than Lyndon Johnson's presidency and the Vietnam War. Frank Vandiver, an accomplished and experienced historian, has written one of the best of the lot. Particularly revealing in Shadows of Vietnam are Vandiver's comments on civil-military relations, especially Johnson's dealings with Generals William C. Westmoreland, commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and Earle G. Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Johnson, whose own credibility was suspect, had Westmoreland return to the United States in 1967 to assure what Johnson called "the absolutely vital political base in the country"-that there was progress in the war. Westmoreland's private statements to the president ("this war could go on indefinitely") were more circumspect than his statements to Congress and the press. Furthermore, Westmoreland felt military men should not perform domestic political functions. Nonetheless, he did-and got egg on his face later during the 1968 Tet offensive-because it was an opportunity to lobby for attacking enemy sanctuaries and against military restrictions. In New York on 24 April 1967, Westmoreland said the war "is going to be a question of putting maximum pressure on the enemy anywhere and everywhere we can. …

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