War of Numbers: An Intelligence Memoir

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Overview

After he left the CIA in 1973, Adams sat down to write an account of his years in the agency. Adams loved intelligence work and that enthusiasm shines throughout the unfinished book he left when he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1988. He had planned[...]to write a definitive account of the numbers controversy and the failure of American intelligence during the Vietnam war. Scholars will regret that Adams did not live to carry out his plan, but what he left is perhaps more precious still - a book wonderfully ...
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Overview

After he left the CIA in 1973, Adams sat down to write an account of his years in the agency. Adams loved intelligence work and that enthusiasm shines throughout the unfinished book he left when he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1988. He had planned[...]to write a definitive account of the numbers controversy and the failure of American intelligence during the Vietnam war. Scholars will regret that Adams did not live to carry out his plan, but what he left is perhaps more precious still - a book wonderfully alive, full of vivid characters, crisp dialogue, and a special feel for the strange world of intelligence analysis, where the only thing worse than being right too late is being right too soon. There have been many accounts of the Vietnam war by the soldiers who fought it and the Washington officials who ran it. Adams watched the war from a unique vantage point; for years the secret intelligence documents all crossed his desk. By the end of 1967 Adams knew the war was unwinnable, and he spent the next fifteen years explaining what had gone wrong to anyone who would listen. With the exception of a few brief editors' notes, War of Numbers is exactly the way Adams put it down on paper - as readable as a novel, and perhaps the best single account yet written about the politics of intelligence.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Adams, an intelligence analyst with the CIA, discovered evidence in 1966 that the number of Vietnamese communist soldiers in Vietnam was closer to 600,000 than the 280,000 count made by the Pentagon. Unable to persuade CIA director Richard Helms to convene a board of inquiry, he unsuccessfully took his appeal to Congress and the White House, then resigned from the agency in '73 to write this account of the affair. His central argument is that General William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, had deliberately overlooked some 300,000 Vietcong militiamen in order to buttress the government line that the U.S. was winning the war. In 1980 Adams was hired as a consultant for the CBS documentary The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception , based largely on the evidence he had uncovered; the film caused Westmoreland to file a much-publicized libel suit against the network, with Adams a co-defendant. Westmoreland dropped the suit before it went to jury. Adams died in 1988, leaving the memoir unfinished, but far enough along to explain how the CIA and top military brass--with White House encouragement--misled the Congress and the American people about enemy strength before the 1968 Tet Offensive. The expose offers a convincing inside look at CIA analytical techniques during the Vietnam war. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Adams was the CIA analyst whose persistence led to the making of the controversial CBS documentary, ``The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception,'' the program that landed CBS in an equally famous lawsuit with Gen. William Westmoreland. In this memoir, he takes us behind the scenes to see what might be called ``The Making of a Deception: The Inside Story.'' Initially, Adams charged that the CIA had underestimated Vietcong military strength. Quitting the agency in 1973, he undertook his own investigation, a lengthy labor cut short by his death in 1988. Though not completed, his book is more than a rehash of yesteryear's bureaucratic battles-and more even than delicious inside gossip. Adams paints a fascinating and personalized picture of the back-room, political wartime CIA. While experts and ex-spooks will debate the reliability of Adams's story, readers will find it fascinating. Some of his tales are worth the price of the book alone. Recommended for informed readers.-Henry Steck, SUNY Coll. at Cortland
From the Publisher
"More than a rehash of yesteryear's bureaucratic battles, and more even than delicious inside gossip, Adams paints a fascinating and personalized picture of the backroom, political wartime CIA." - Library Journal

"A stunning account by a man of impeccable integrity, of the corruption of U.S. military intelligence in Vietnam." - Mike Wallace

"If someone were to ask me what three books they should read to understand what happened in Vietnam, I would say: Street Without Joy, by Bernard Fall; Honorable Men, by William Colby; and War of Numbers by Sam Adams. . . . There are probaboly 5,000 books on Vietnam. War of Numbers will become a classic." -- Lt. Col. H. Thomas Hayden, The Marine Corps Gazette

"As spellbinding as a mystery story -- which of course it is." -- The Boston Globe

One of "the most important books of the Vietnam War -- Adams has had the last word, in permanent defiance of those who would re-write the war to doublethink specifications." -- The Chicago Tribune

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780737228267
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press
  • Publication date: 5/5/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256

Meet the Author

Sam Adams was a graduate of Harvard College and from 1963 to 1973 was an intelligence analyst for the CIA. Adams died in 1988. The Sam Adams Award is given annually to an intelligence professional who has taken a stand for integrity and ethics. The Award, established in 2002, is given by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, a group of retired CIA officers.
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Read an Excerpt

SAM ADAMS LOVED intelligence work, and that enthusiasm shines throughout this memoir of his years with the Central Intelligence Agency. His career was dominated by an epic struggle over Vietnam -- over military attempts to hide the true size of the enemy forces there, and over the integrity of the intelligence process. Adams's insistence on telling the truth caused an ungodly ruckus in both Washington and Saigon at the time, and years later, after the CIA had threatened to fire him (on thirteen occasions!) and he had quit the agency in disgust, Adams brought his story back up to the surface more loudly than ever in a CBS television documentary which eventually resulted in a notorious trial on libel charges brought by General William Westmoreland.
After leaving the CIA, Adams sat down to write an account of his life at the agency. There is nothing else quite like the story he tells. "More than a rehash of yesteryear's bureaucratic battles," said Library Journal, "and more even than delicious inside gossip, Adams paints a fascinating and personalized picture of the backroom, political wartime CIA."
"A stunning account," wrote Mike Wallace, "by a man of impeccable integrity, of the corruption of U.S. military intelligence in Vietnam."
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