GAVIN by Bradley Biggs


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A superficial and uncritical biography of the renowned WW II airborne commander, postwar maverick, and Vietnam dissenter--which adds very little to Gavin's own accounts of his life and military engagements. While Gavin is properly described as a commander with exceptional human insight and intelligence, his operations in Sicily, Normandy, and Nijmegen are barely outlined. While he is rightly praised as a far-sighted advocate of strategic and tactical airmobility and an early military critic of the Dulles ""massive retaliation"" policy, the wider foreign-policy context and inter-service politics associated with his positions is only sketchily explored. And while his disagreements with officialdom over the Indochina War are noted (he was directing Army plans and operations at the time of Dien Bien Phu), these debates are not pursued to the sources; there's mention of only a single document. This failure to follow through is most graphically evident in the treatment of Gavin's ""Enclave"" strategy for Vietnam, which urged the Johnson administration to adopt a defensive stance in the major South Vietnamese urban and coastal centers. But instead of an analysis of the feasibility of such proposals, we hear merely that Gavin was an early prophet of American defeat in Vietnam. Another Gavin concern, the American failure to construct an adequate response to revolutionary warfare, is also crucially ignored. Finally, the adulatory tone mars an otherwise interesting description of Gavin's ambassadorship to de Gaulle and stewardship of Arthur D. Little, the planning-and-consulting giant. Given a man considered by McGovern in 1972 as his Secretary of Defense, this is a feeble, lackluster job.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Archon/Shoe String Press