A blow-by-blow overview of the Khe Sanh siege, which, more than 20 years after, still ranks among the Vietnam War's most controversial episodes. Prados (Keepers of the Keys, The Sky Would Fall, etc.) and Stubbe (a retired Navy chaplain who served at Khe Sanh) meld narrative and oral history to provide a stunningly detailed record of the bitter engagement. Combining big-picture perspectives with vivid accounts of small-unit actions, they pay effective tribute to the men who fought in one of the few pitched battles between American troops and North Vietnamese regulars, while giving US commanders the benefit of precious few doubts. Khe Sanh straddled Route 9, an old colonial road linking coastal Vietnam to Laotian market towns along the Mekong. During 1967, General Westmoreland began expanding the Special Forces camp there in hopes of using it as a springboard for an assault on Communist sanctuaries across the border—a scheme eventually rejected by LBJ. In the meantime, during the Tet offensive of 1968, the fortified outpost became the site of a major confrontation pitting about 6,000 Marines against two reinforced NVA divisions. Despite obvious differences, the American media likened the protracted encounter to Dien Bien Phu, where the French suffered a crushing defeat in 1954. As a practical matter, though, air superiority and a decisive advantage in firepower gave outnumbered US forces a substantive victory; the subsequent abandonment of the combat base after it had served its purpose, however, clouded this perception. Nor do the authors shed new light on the clash's outcome. Indeed, they leave essentially open the question of what both sides hoped to accomplish. Pending declassification of archives or the emergence of yet- unknown sources, Prados and Stubble provide as well-rounded a briefing as is available on a bitterly debated campaign. The engrossing text (marred only by a patent reluctance to trust the motives of military brass and their civilian masters) includes 64 photos (not seen), plus 16 helpful maps.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-395-55003-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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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

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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