VALLEY OF DECISION: The Siege of Khe Sanh by John & Ray W. Stubbe Prados

VALLEY OF DECISION: The Siege of Khe Sanh

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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. 1st, 1991
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin