An informative, potentially controversial introduction to the war in Vietnam.

Vietnam 1968


A Vietnam veteran reflects on his experience in this book that’s part memoir and part historical analysis.

The Vietnam War continues to be a hotly disputed subject generations after its conclusion, and it’s often used as a model of military and foreign policy failure. Mastran (Privateer!: Building a Business Reforming Government, 2012), however, proffers a nuanced interpretation that avoids triumphalist revisionism and serves as a thoughtful corrective to the regnant view of U.S. involvement in Vietnam as an intractable quagmire. He divides his book into three sections; the first is devoted to his time as a cadet at West Point, the second to a concise synopsis of Vietnam’s history as a nation, and the third to his service as an officer in the U.S. Air Force during the war. The author, following in his father’s footsteps, encountered austere discipline while at West Point that prepared him to weather the chaos of war in an unfamiliar land. While he was a cadet, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, making it a near-inevitability that he would be sent overseas. He was then sent to Stanford University to get a master’s degree in operations research, and he ultimately worked for the directorate of special weapons in Vietnam. Mastran was part of a special team that worked on “anti-infiltration” technology designed to stop enemy movements in South Vietnam by providing necessary intelligence for bombing raids. He also worked on developing computer-based war-game simulations. Over the course of the book, Mastran weaves his own personal reflections into a wider narrative fabric that includes an account of the United States’ entanglement in Southeast Asia and the Cold War as well as of the partisan politics that dominated discussion of the war on the domestic front. He also furnishes a provocative view of the infamous Tet Offensive as a major military victory and laments what he considers to be the American media’s unfair coverage of the war. Mastran’s analysis is notably restrained and temperate, given his personal involvement, and manages to seamlessly combine a moving remembrance with acute geopolitical insight. Some of his most affecting conclusions reach beyond both arenas into something grander and more philosophical: “I also confirmed that humor could carry me—and others—through any kind of misery, whether at West Point, in Vietnam, or anywhere else.”

An informative, potentially controversial introduction to the war in Vietnam.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5078-0576-3

Page Count: 284

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?