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America's Lost War: Vietnam, 1945 - 1975

America's Lost War: Vietnam, 1945 - 1975

Charles E. Neu

ISBN: 978-0-882-95232-1

Jan 2005, Wiley-Blackwell

272 pages

Select type: Paperback

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In college and high school classrooms across the United States, students display a keen interest in knowing more about what they rightly sense was a pivotal event in the recent past, one that brought a sea change in the life of the nation.

In a long-awaited alternative to the lengthy and overly expensive texts on the Vietnam War, Charles Neu presents America’s Lost War, a balanced, lively narrative account of that tragic conflict, one that sweeps across the whole time-span of the war and explores American, Vietnamese, and international perspectives. Recreating the physical and psychological landscape of the war, Neu fluidly describes policy disputes—among leaders of both the United States and North Vietnam—as well as individual policy makers, battles, and military realities, tracing the legacy of the “Vietnam” phenomenon that shapes American domestic politics and elections, as well as foreign relations, to the present day.

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Foreword VII

Preface and Acknowledgments XIII

Chapter One: The First Indochina War, 1945-1954 1

Origins of the Revolution 2

The Impact of World War II 3

America’s Response 5

The Expansion of the Cold War 8

The Deepening Commitment 10

The Elephant and the Tiger 12

America’s Dilemma 14

Eisenhower Takes Charge 16

The Battle of Dien Bien Phu 18

Washington’s Response 21

The Geneva Settlement: The Emergence of Two Vietnams 24

Chapter Two: The Emergence of South Vietnam, 1954-1961 29

The Rise of Ngo Dinh Diem 30

The United States and Ngo Dinh Diem 32

The Consolidation of Diem’s Rule 34

Progress in South Vietnam 36

Mounting Discontent 38

Hanoi’s Quest for Unification 41

A New War 44

Chapter Three: The New Frontier in Vietnam, 1961-1963 48

JFK and the World 48

Challenge in Southeast Asia 50

Seeming Progress in South Vietnam 53

The New Advisory War 56

The Battle of Ap Bac 58

The Illusion of Victory 59

The Challenge to Diem 61

Reassessment in Washington 62

The Fall of Diem 65

Reactions to the Coup 67

Chapter Four: The Transformation of the War, 1963-1965 71

LBJ Settles In 72

Deterioration in South Vietnam 73

The View from Hanoi 75

The View from Washington 77

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident 78

The Campaign of 1964 80

America Steps Forward 81

War Moves and Peace Moves 84

The Forty-Four Battalion Request 87

The President’s Decision 89

The Generals Take Over 91

Battle of the Ia Drang Valley 93

Chapter Five: The Stalemated War; 1965-1967 98

Preparing for a Long War 99

Signs of Discontent 100

Westmoreland’s War 101

Strategy of Attrition 103

America’s Enemy 105

A War without a Front 108

Confusion and Disillusionment 110

Seeking a Steady Course 112

Search and Destroy 113

Hopes for Victory 115

Prospects for 1967 118

Doubts and Divisions 119

The Order of Battle Controversy 122

Illusions of Victory 124

Chapter Six: Tet and Beyond, 1968 129

Origins of the Tet Offensive 130

The Siege of Khe Sanh 131

The Shock of Tet 132

The U.S. Military’s Response 136

Reassessment in Washington 139

The War at Home 142

The Bloodiest Year 144

Washington’s Calculations 147

The Fall Campaign 148

Chapter Seven: Nixon’s War, 1969-1970 155

The New Administration Takes Hold 155

The Vietnam Dilemma 157

No Quick Exit 158

The Allure of Vietnamization 161

Threats and maneuvers 162

One War 165

The Enemy Regroups 168

The Cambodian Incursion 171

A Changing War 175

Hau Nghia Province 176

The Endless War 178

Chapter Eight: From Lam Son 719 to the Paris Peace Accords, 1971-1973 181

Lam Son 719 181

Pressure to End the War 184

The View from Saigon 186

Hanoi’s Calculations 188

Nixon’s Maneuvers 190

The Easter Offensive 191

Nixon’s Response 194

After the battle 195

Politics and Diplomacy 196

The Election of 1972 198

Peace at last 202

Chapter Nine: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-1975 207

Nixon Turns Inward 208

War without End 209

Hanoi Prepares for War 212

Crisis in South Vietnam 213

Washington’s Response 216

The Great Spring Offensive 217

The Fall of Saigon 219

Vietnamese Perspectives 223

American Perspectives 225

Guide to Acronyms 233

Table: Comparative Military Casualty Figures 234

Bibliographical Essay 235

Index 259


Indochina, 1908-1954 XX

Southeast Asia, 1954 11

The Battle of Dien Bien Phu 20

North and South Vietnam, 1954 31

Provinces and Provincial Capitals 83

The Ho Chi Minh Trail 106

The Tet Offensive 135

Cross-Border Operations 170

Lam Son 719 183

The Easter Offensive 193

The Great Spring Offensive 220

Photographs follow pages 70, 128, 206

"America's Lost War is excellent—I devoured it and learned much." —Larry McMurtry
"For nearly half a century I have read scores of articles and books on the Vietnam tragedy. This book is at the top of the list." —George McGovern