VINH LONG by Harvey Meyerson


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The author left his Chicago Daily News post in Paris to spend much of 1967-8 in Vinh Long, a province in the heart of the Mekong Delta. He does for it what Ward Just (in To What End, 1968) did for wartime Saigon, with greater urgency and information value than Just's memoir. The book comprises five separate parts, beginning with a description of a pacification project whose showcase hamlet was basically loyal to the NLF and whose specific origins and objectives, were plain silly. Meyerson succeeds here in laying bare the problematic webs of military-civilian, ARVN-American interactions. Next an account of a spring 1967 battle which examines both Viet Cong organizational forms and the substance of US ""advisory and support"" efforts. Meyerson views Tet as a large-scale parallel to this battle, underlining the same misconceptions about the permanence of military victories at given times and places which kept the US command ignorant and off-guard. The fourth section describes a young civilian adviser's disorientation and cumulative frustration; the fifth deals with the American belief in Viet Cong collapse Meyerson found on his last (December 1968) visit to the province. The book fulfills its aim of telling us ""how the game is played"" -- the epistemological basis for cockeyed statistics, the vested personal interests on all levels, the dysfunctional military structures and the profound solipsism of key officials' judgments of the Vietnamese.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 1969
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin