A balance of narrative and pictures paints the broad strokes of the Vietnam War.
Considerable effort is made here by McNab to depict the Vietnam War in its many hues. The narrative has both chronological and episodic pacing, giving capsule summaries of key battles as well as yearslong military operations. He also provides big-picture context about the superpower conflict in the background, which is given texture by the more subtle elements at play: “Kennedy believed that he would never be re-elected if he lost Vietnam to the communists.” McNab’s storytelling has pepper and a pleasing absence of gloss: this was a nasty piece of business, from the Phoenix Program, which sought to convert Viet Cong and killed them if unsuccessful, to napalm and defoliants, drugs used by soldiers to cope, and the massacre at My Lai. The style of presentation—pungent squibs accompanying archival photographs and helpful cartography—makes for a history of the hot spots yet still manages to yield an overview of what became a conflict of global reach. Readers will be affected by photographs of American troops confronting homefront protesters with rifles, while the shootings at Kent State are remembered; so, too, the prison at Tuol Sleng, where tens of thousands of Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge.
An excellent starting point for understanding the Vietnam War, presented as a conflict that commenced with French colonial occupation and continues even today. (Nonfiction. 8-12)