TWENTY YEARS AND TWENTY DAYS by Nguyen Cao Ky

TWENTY YEARS AND TWENTY DAYS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An informal memoir in highly polished as-told-to style, by the former South Vietnamese air commander, 1965-67 chief of state, vice-president under Thieu, and current resident of Virginia. Ky began working with the Americans in the 1950s when he and CIA operative William Colby airlifted secret agents into North Vietnam. With uneasy US backing, he became prime minister amid pleas from the armed forces that he end post-Diem chaos (""My wife's first reaction was: 'No way'""). Chronically speaking his mind to American generals, ambassadors, and presidents, Ky voiced familiar complaints about US conduct of the war: manipulation of South Vietnamese coups, failure to understand the country's culture, responsibility for unprecedented corruption, and above all refusal to either make an all-out fight or keep a low profile like the Soviets and Chinese. Ky sees various turning points for South Vietnam. His government's 1968 refusal to agree to a bombing halt ""deprived the Democrats of their election victory""; Watergate prevented Nixon from blackmailing Hanoi with a new laser bomb; and in 1975, the US forbade Ky to fight a ""Stalingrad"" in Saigon. The Marshal, who says his public admiration for Hitler was based on Hitler's restoration of strength to Germany, does indeed seem a proto-fascist with his rhetoric about revolution and his disdain for ""politics""; but above all he remains a synthetic figure and the book a mere curiosity.

Pub Date: May 10th, 1976
Publisher: Stein & Day