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Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff
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Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  513 ratings  ·  37 reviews
"The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses. It was lost in Washington, D.C." - H. R. McMaster (from the Conclusion)

Dereliction Of Duty is a stunning new analysis of how and why the United States became involved in an all-out and disastrous war in Southeast Asia. Fully and convincingly res
ebook, 480 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 1997)
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"Dereliction of Duty" by HR McMaster dwells on inter-service politics and flaws in the civil-military relationship that typified by the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Vietnam War. McMaster is not shy about placing the blame on the generals for their failure to stand up to President Lyndon Johnson and his flawed strategy for prosecuting the war. They should have resigned instead of implementing the wrong strategy.

If a general disagrees with his president on a policy, he should resign or be fir
A good solid look at the disconnect between the civil and military leadership of the US Government and its escalating involvement in Viet Nam from JFK to LBJ in 1965. McMaster's scrutiny of the Joint Chiefs and their advice on commitment to South Viet Nam (as well as various entities at State, USAID, and the Director of Central Intelligence) and how the military experts were either ignored or shut down by an exclusive clique of like-minded people with access to the President is a great piece of ...more
Scott Holstad
This is a very detailed and somewhat shocking book telling of how America sunk itself into the Vietnam war fiasco, and it's truly a sorrow to read. I never knew Johnson, McNamara, the Bundy brothers and Taylor were such lying assholes, as well as Rusk, McNaughton and the other civilians in charge of planning the war. They lied to the Joint Chiefs, to Congress, to the American people and to the world (sounds like Bush, doesn't it?) in order to downplay the role America was taking in Vietnam, all ...more
Mark Fallon
A searing indictment of Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the White House staff and the Joint Chiefs for their actions and inaction during the lead up to the Vietnam War. Written by an active duty Army officer (then a Major, now a General), this book is based on meticulous research of meeting minutes and previously classified memos.

The tragedy is summed up in the final sentence: "The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in pursuit of self-interest, and above all, the ab
The title and subtitle of the book gives an accurate summary of what it is about. The author served in the Army and taught history at West Point. The blurbs in the book testify to the widespread praise of his research and the general agreement regarding his conclusions among many of his fellow warriors.

The Vietnam War was not the only event of its time that contributed to the increasing distrust of government, but the war was undoubtedly the most important. This book reminds us why. Dealing wit
This book is an incredible analysis of how and why the United States became involved in the disastrous war in Southeast Asia. This book pinpoints the policies and motives that Johnson, McNamara and other top brass created while lying to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the American public and the U.S. Congress as to why we needed more soldiers to fight a war we weren't winning despite the number of deaths that showed that.

It gives insight to Johnson's thinking on to keep his public image credible to t
Michael Burnam-fink
The definitive account of America's slow slide into the Vietnam War, McMaster explores how the Kennedy administration disabled the formal Joint Chief's advising process in favor of ad hoc committees of civilian advisers, cutting the military out of the decision-making loop. This insularity, coupled with President Johnson's duplicity and Secretary McNamara's arrogance lead America into war without a real decision on "why", or "how much." The consensus demanded by Johnson to foster his domestic ag ...more
John Hibbs
Not the most elegant or flowing prose, but the author depicts over and over again the passivity and parochialism of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the duplicity of Robert McNamara, as we slid into a major war. Left unsaid is that the stratagy and tactics for fighting the war were almost the exact reverse of what was needed. We got into the war and lost it because of the failure of the Joint Chiefs to do their job in the wake of the Truman and McArthur face-off. No one was willing to balance John ...more
James Cape
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I reccomend people interested in this subject to first read IN RETROSPECT by Robert McNamara. He admits some of the mistakes that he and Johnson made about the Vietnam war. I previously read the Pentagon Papers, and knew McNamara left out a LOT of poor decisions that he helped make. Dereliction of Duty reveals a lot more that were made by Johnson, the Bundy brothers and others in their inner circle as well. Their arrogance is evident from the start. They had Secretary George Ball comprise a repo ...more
With a title like that you already have an idea of what is inside. What makes this enticing is the background of the author. H R McMaster? was the commanding officer of the armored battalion that fought at the Battle of 73 Easting, one of the few stand up battles of the first Gulf War. And when you decisively win an armored battle at the odds of 30:120 against only losing one vehicle and one soldier died, you become known as a hero.

McMaster looks at the 10 men who were on the Joint Chiefs during
Dereliction of Duty tells the story of how the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the early and mid sixties failed to give their honest and unbiased advice to the President about what actions the US should take in dealing with the situation in Vietnam. The author shows how the judgments and predictions of the heads of the each of the branches were influenced not by what they thought was the best course of action for national security. The generals and admirals modified their judgments in order to gain ...more

"...McNamara refused to consider the consequences of his recommendations and forged ahead oblivious of the human and psychological complexities of war." (page 327)

"McNamara...viewed the war as another business management problem that, he assumed, would ultimately succumb to his reasoned judgment and others' rational calculations." (page 327)


"General Westmoreland's 'strategy' of attrition in South Vietnam, was, in essence, the absence of a strateg
In a masterful study of military strategy gone awry, the author (a professional Soldier) argues persuasively that President Lyndon B. Johnson wanted to fight the war on poverty, not the war in Vietnam, and that the president made decisions he believed would allow him to do both. The result was a recipe for disaster that the Joint Chiefs of Staff exacerbated by failing to provide the president with their best advice. Dereliction of Duty is a cautionary tale about how military and civilian leaders ...more
Mark Grether
While I was drawn in by the subject from working at the LBJ Library, I was also interested in seeing the managing of the war from the perspective of the author. A tough read about politics, war, and death.
I went to this book after mentions of McMaster's methods out of "Adapt" by Tim Harford. While I was looking for some insight to getting things done in an entrenched bureaucracy, what I got was a cold, clammy slap in the face. These folks were playing politics against harsh realities, but you ju
upsetting. focuses almost entirely on Johnson, McNamara, Taylor, and the JCS. everyone gladly lies to each other, everyone gladly lies to the American people, everyone single-mindedly pursues their own agenda. no one considers pulling the emergency stop handle, because they're all too worried about themselves, too convinced of their own bullshit, or both.

= 60,000 US KIA and 300,000 WIA, 200,000-300,000 ARVN KIA with another 1,000,000 WIA, 1,000,000 NVA and VC dead with another 600,000 wounded, a
ok book, difficult to read
I started with Bernard Fall's seminal book A Street Without Joy and moved to this one. It's hard to make up your mind whether blunders committed by the White House and Pentagon leadership during this time were solely the work of devious machinations or also the work of sheer blind stupidity. Demented colonialism mixed with a fool's errand pride and ignorance.

Also see:

The New Legions by Donald Duncan
The Betrayal by William R. Corson
About Face by David Hackwiorth
It you like histories of the bureaucratic minutiae and system failures that lead to bad advice badly given, institutional paralysis in the face of collapsing strategy and a determined refusual to accept reality (which I do) you will love this book.

McMaster is a serving career Army officer with a PhD. in history. He has the analytical tools to do justice to the story of how the Joint Chiefs of Staff failed the nation in during the Vietname war.
David Teska
A truly great and sad tale out of the Vietnam War of how the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chairman avoided doing their job of advising the President on military affairs and thus paved the way for LBJ and McNamarra to greatly widen the war in Vietnam. H.R. McMaster wrote a masterstroke with this one. Any student of military history, Vietnam, and the role of elected officials and military leaders in war should read this book.
Yeah, you read that right. I gave four stars to a book I couldn't finish. McMasters was an enlisted soldier turned researcher, and the first guy to dig through the declassified files that revealed how the Vietnam War was invented. What he found is shocking, and his reporting his profound and thorough. I just reached a point where I felt I could fill in the blanks--and that doing so was just going to make me more depressed.
Jim Duncan
Insightful accounting of the failures that led to US involvement in Vietnam. Looking forward to getting another perspective when Caro's last volume on LBJ comes out.
McMaster astutely documents the disastrous cast of flawed individuals and the broken decision-making process that led us into the Vietnam debacle. Interesting to look at McNamara and LBJ as the "villains" in this foreign policy failure when they are often viewed as heroes for their respective political accomplishments (McNamara - Cuban Missile Crises; LBJ - The Great Society).
Slow reading like a history book but filled with detailed information on the strategy behind getting involved in the Vietnam War. It covers President Johnson's own agenda and his close knit staff's inability to direct the war effort. The JCS is often left out or delayed in their opinion for fighting the Vietnam War. The time frame is the initial stages of the Vietnam War - 1963-1965.
McMaster's book is a detailed look at the U.S. decision making process up until the full Americanization of the Vietnam war in 1965. While interesting and thought provoking, I wouldn't recommend it as the first book you read about the Vietnam war. I would have benefited from his academic reexamination a lot more if I had read a more general overview first.
This is a surprisingly coherent and complete synopsis of the bureaucracy that lead got us into the Vietnam War. It's a rather frightening tale: how could our leaders be so vain and so timid? It has scary parallels to current situations. Definitely worth the read if you want to know more about or nations history.
Robert Snow
What a stinging indictment of the Johnson Administration and the foolish policies in South East Asia. What a goat rope... no clear plan for getting into or out of Vietnam. Dereliction of Duty is a great title, a very disturbing book because its all true!
Steven Howes
Regardless of your opinions regarding the Viet Nam War, this book will most likely sicken and disturb you. It will make you wonder about our government's decision making processes and how policies are set and carried out.
Eye opening account of how electoral politics, personal agendas, and public opinion came together and clashed during the Vietnam years. It's not the best narrative, but it is still quite interesting and worthwhile.
Thought this was a remarkable exposé of the machinations which sunk us ever deeper into Vietnam. Really excellent and upsetting.
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Major General Herbert Raymond McMaster is a career officer in the U.S. Army. As of this writing (September 2013) he is commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Ft. Benning, Georgia. General McMaster gained some notoriety in 1997 when his doctoral dissertation was published as 'Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam ...more
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