by John Colvin ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 9, 1996
Not a biography, but a subjective military history of the 1945-75 Indochina wars, in which the British author argues that the Vietnamese victories were primarily due to French and American mistakes rather than the superior leadership of the commanding Vietnamese general, Vo Nguyen Giap. Colvin, who was British consul in Hanoi from 1965 to 1967, presents a wealth of battlefield detail about the French and American wars in Vietnam. He describes many battles and skirmishes, and thoroughly examines tactical and strategic details. The military history is generally accurate, although Colvin makes the grossly untrue statement that the US Army and Air Force in Vietnam ""lived in air-conditioned bases."" Along with the facts, Colvin includes his opinions, arguing, for example, that the US could have stopped a communist victory in Vietnam by mining the northern ports and letting loose an ""aerial interdiction"" on northern borders in 1965 to prevent war materiel from entering North Vietnam. Colvin characterizes Gen. Giap and North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh as ruthless if brilliant men who depended on the calculated use of ""terror and patriotism"" to propel the war effort. Giap, Colvin says, was an overrated commander who was victorious because of his willingness to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives and because of the large-scale support he received from China and the Soviet Union. Colvin criticizes some aspects of French colonialism but credits the French with having ""great virtues"" in colonial Vietnam, such as building ""small but lovely cities."" Colvin condemns the American war strategies of attrition and Vietnamization. Most startlingly, Colvin attributes the communist victory in part to the actions of some elements of the American antiwar movement. A ""revisionist war crimes tribunal today,"" Colvin says, ""would have no difficulty in naming the accused: Jane Fonda, Eldridge Cleaver, and the rest of them."" A battlefield history is marred by unsupported historical speculations and opinions.
Pub Date: Aug. 9, 1996
Page Count: 315
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996
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