VIETNAM by Spencer C. Tucker


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paper 0-8131-0966-3 A concise, analytical survey of Vietnamese military history that concentrates on the French and American 20th-century wars. Former US Army captain Tucker (Military History/Virginia Military Institute) presents a readable, fact-filled examination of the military history of Vietnam. He begins with a brief history of the Southeast Asian nation, starting with its legendary founding in the third century b.c. Tucker clearly shows that the dominant feature of Vietnam’s first thousand years was nationalist rebellion against Chinese domination. Tucker offers detailed examinations of the French colonization of Vietnam and the 1946—1954 French Indochina War—two areas that most American Vietnam War histories treat perfunctorily at best. His treatment of the American war takes up more than half the book. Tucker sticks mainly to military matters in his analysis of that controversial, highly political war. He makes a case that, from the beginning, the American military strategy was flawed because it focused on conventional warfare and paid too little attention to counterinsurgency. The “inability” of the American military establishment “to forecast the [guerrilla] military threat” in the late 1950s “was the first great US military mistake in Vietnam,” he says. Tucker strongly criticizes commanding general William Westmoreland and “officials in Washington”—especially President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger—for drastically underestimating the will of the North Vietnamese. Westmoreland’s attrition strategy, Tucker says, was particularly ill suited against “the Communist strategy of protracted warfare.” Tucker uses a good deal of statistical information throughout this well-documented book. A military historian’s approach to Vietnam’s wars. (maps, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8131-2121-3
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999


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