The Army and Vietnam / Edition 1

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Many senior army officials still claim that if they had been given enough soldiers and weapons, the United States could have won the war in Vietnam. In this probing analysis of U.S. military policy in Vietnam, career army officer and strategist Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr., argues that precisely because of this mindset the war was lost before it was fought.

The army assumed that it could transplant to Indochina the operational methods that had been successful in the European battle theaters of World War II, an approach that proved ill-suited to the way the Vietnamese Communist forces fought. Theirs was a war of insurgency, and counterinsurgency, Krepinevich contends, requires light infantry formations, firepower restraint, and the resolution of political and social problems within the nation. To the very end, top military commanders refused to recognize this.

Krepinevich documents the deep division not only between the American military and civilian leaders over the very nature of the war, but also within the U.S. Army itself. Through extensive research in declassified material and interviews with officers and men with battlefield experience, he shows that those engaged in the combat understood early on that they were involved in a different kind of conflict. Their reports and urgings were discounted by the generals, who pressed on with a conventional war that brought devastation but little success.

A thorough analysis of the U.S. Army’s role in the Vietnam War, this book demonstrates with chilling persuasiveness the ways in which the army was unprepared to fight—lessons applicable to today’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Review of Books
A story the moral of which Americans will ignore—are ignoring—at their peril.

— William L. Hauser

Washington Monthly
[Krepinevich] has focused on the U.S. Army, assessing its ability to meet the challenges posed by our military involvement in Vietnam from 1959 to 1975... From the Army perspective the account is certainly accurate, and devastating.

— William E. Colby

New York Times Review of Books - William L. Hauser

A story the moral of which Americans will ignore—are ignoring—at their peril.

Washington Monthly - William E. Colby

[Krepinevich] has focused on the U.S. Army, assessing its ability to meet the challenges posed by our military involvement in Vietnam from 1959 to 1975... From the Army perspective the account is certainly accurate, and devastating.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Krepinevich, a major with the Strategic Plans and Policy Division of the Army, raises serious questions about the military's ability to learn from its mistakes in Vietnam. The emphasis here is on the Army's stubborn insistence on pursuing a strategy of attrition, through large-unit operations and heavy firepower, and largely ignoring the political and social dimensions that form the foundation of successful counterinsurgency warfare. The result was a high-cost, low-payoff strategy which the Army stuck with until civilian leaders in the defense establishment openly challenged the policy after the Tet Offensive. Krepinevich praises the pacification programs of the Marines and suggests that their methods could have been profitably employed by the Army. More significantly, he suggests that the Vietnam experience has had little effect on the doctrine by which the Army is currently preparing for future low-intensity engagements. Illustrations. (July)
Library Journal
Why was the U.S. Army in Vietnam? What was the nature of the war? What was the Army's plan for winning? Was there a possibility the war could have been won? A career Army officer, Major Krepinevich answers these questions and argues in a cogent and probing analysis that the Army believed that its might and firepower left it no room to lose; and that, because of that belief, it really had no chance to win. This excellent book is well researched in recently declassified documents and well written. Because it is a broad survey, it opens more questions than it answers, leaving many interesting side trails for further research. For all readers interested in Vietnam, especially those who supported the war. Edward Gibson, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, Va.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801836572
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1988
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 318
  • Sales rank: 657,413
  • Product dimensions: 5.81 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. is a defense policy analyst who currently serves as President of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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