Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945–1975/road to Disaster: A New History of America's Descent into Vietnam

By Freedman, Lawrence D. | Foreign Affairs, January/February 2019 | Go to article overview

Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945–1975/road to Disaster: A New History of America's Descent into Vietnam


Freedman, Lawrence D., Foreign Affairs


Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 BY MAX HASTINGS. Harper, 2018, 896 pp.

Road to Disaster: A New History of America's Descent Into Vietnam BY BRIAN VanDeMARK. Custom House, 2018, 656 pp.

These two books take on a familiar topic but manage to be original and thought provoking-and very different from each other. Hastings covers the war from the Communists' uprising against the French in 1945 to their victory over the South in 1975. As a foreign correspondent, he was one of the last to leave Saigon. In this masterly and engrossing account, he uses the same techniques that have served him well in his histories of the two world wars, exploring the war from the bottom up as well as the top down. He is scathing about delusionary U.S. decisionmaking and the hopeless efforts to compensate for the South's political weakness by military means. But he is also harsh in his depiction of the callous North Vietnamese and the Vietcong. The strengths of the book lie in Hastings' ability to describe, with extensive use of diaries, memoirs, and interviews, the chaos of battle in a war of ambushes and without obvious frontlines.

VanDeMark is returning to a story he has told before, notably in partnership with former U. …

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