Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam” as Want to Read:
Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  1,013 Ratings  ·  67 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Dereliction of Duty, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Dereliction of Duty

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Scott Holstad
Aug 26, 2012 Scott Holstad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Barry Sierer
Mar 04, 2017 Barry Sierer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
McMaster has done a commendable peace of work detailing the machinations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sec Def Robert McNamara, and LBJ. LBJ attempted a constant balancing act by trying keep the Joint Chief’s from publicly opposing military operations in Vietnam by pretending to take parts of their advice and promising “more later” in terms of less restrictions on future military operations, while simultaneously ordering carefully limited operations that were largely ineffective to “dissuade” Ha ...more
Jul 09, 2009 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Vietnam war.

It's been a few years since I read "Dereliction of Dut
Andrew Carr
In Dereliction of Duty H.R. McMaster provides a devastating portrait of an administration which stumbled evermore into a war it had no interest in and no understanding of.

McMaster’s central concern is to show the decision making processes that pre-determined a US loss in Vietnam. He begins with John F. Kennedy’s administration showing how its personnel (such as Secretary for Defence Robert McNamara), its structures (ad hoc, personal and without formal committees) and its key ideas (via the exper
Mark Fallon
Mar 09, 2012 Mark Fallon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
It's funny. Everytime I read another book of the Vietnam Era Episode it always rotates around the usual suspects LBJ...McNamara..The Joint Chiefs of Staff....and I'm going to quote verbatim from the on the last page..."The failing were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self interest, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people" .Then it becomes unfunny. There's a sense of sadness that permeates this reading . The book was written by H.R. Mc ...more
Scott Pierce
Mar 02, 2017 Scott Pierce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-military
McMaster's conclusion is that there was plenty of blame to go around, from the political leaders who at times misled or mistrusted the military to the military leaders who failed to develop their own coherent plan (and did not understand how to fight a war that had elements of conventional and counterinsurgency) and present it to the civilian leaders and hold those leaders accountable.
Yukari Watanabe
Feb 28, 2017 Yukari Watanabe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hope McMaster can help President Trump making a better judgement.

My Japanese review:
Oct 03, 2007 Louis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military, history
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
Nov 19, 2008 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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

In spite of its expansive sounding title, this book has a fairly narrow focus. It begins approximately in the Kennedy administration and goes on to spend most of its time in 1964-65, where it ends. It also stays mostly in Washington. There is little discussion (aside from coups and the Gulf of Tonkin) of things happening on the ground in Vietnam. If you are completely new to the Vietnam War this shouldn't be your first book on it.

McMaster argues that LBJ was powerfully, primarily concerned with
Jan 03, 2015 Dwight rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam
Dereliction of Duty is an interesting examination of the key players and decision-making processes that led to America’s involvement in Vietnam and guided the parameters of the conflict during the Johnson administration. McMaster paints a picture of a shifting collection of priorities to which war aims were nearly always secondary:

How will it play in the press?

Can it improve our re-election chances?

Can we straddle the divide between seeming soft on communism and being
perceived as warmongers?

Sep 08, 2012 Scottnshana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 24, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 12, 2008 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
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
Rick Cheeseman
Apr 06, 2015 Rick Cheeseman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great analysis. A re-read for me...highly recommended.
Mar 04, 2017 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: viet-nam-war
This is a superb book on our "choice" to enter into the Viet Nam War. It has the same subject as "Into the Quagmire" by VanDenMark but emphasizes the place the Joint Chiefs of Staff played, or did not play, in the slide into that war. The book is more depressing than Into the Quagmire because the professionals who should have decided strategy were manipulated by the political side of the Presidency and by their own individual service rivalries into a failure to exercise professional judgment in ...more
James Cape
Jan 06, 2013 James Cape rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, military
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book has been on my unread shelf for 11 years; now seems as good a time as any to give it a go. It’s unclear the degree to which it will serve him in his current role, but suffice it to say that H.R. McMaster knows something about poorly-run decision-making processes, professional services being cut out of the White House loop, and the prioritization of unrelated political objectives when considering military operational matters.

This is a fairly narrowly-focused and clearly-written history,
Bill C
Mar 23, 2017 Bill C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The lessons to be learned from this history should be studied by anyone who thinks they understand today's political environment

Like many in my age group, I went to Viet Nam as a soldier. As I read this book. I got angry and disappointed that the Nation's leadership failed to lead! History is a leveled that can step back and look at our successes, failures, hubris, and arrogance. All were reflected in this book. On reflection, the lesson I think we all need to take away is that when you fail to
Mar 08, 2017 Hadrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, usa, war, nonfiction
Caustic, withering study of how the United States government blundered into the Vietnam War, covering the period from 1961 to July 1965. Choose a page almost at random, and you'll find phrases such as "human failure" or "abdication of responsibility".

McMaster's focus is entirely on senior leadership. Two presidents (mostly Lyndon Johnson), and their senior circle of advisers - SECDEF McNamara, CJCS Maxwell Taylor, the rest of the JCS, GEN Westmoreland, and many more. There is much failure of re
Mar 06, 2017 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert McNamara was a right bastard who should be charged posthumously for the crimes he committed against this country.
Mar 03, 2017 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very scholarly, detailed analysis of how we began in Vietnam. The evidence is damning and hopefully is a lesson learned for the future.
Scott Browne
Mar 09, 2017 Scott Browne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been on my shelve for a decade and decided to read it with his recent promotion. I hope he does a better job than the guys in the book.
Sharon McNeil
Mar 16, 2017 Sharon McNeil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well worth wading through this dense, doctoral thesis-type book. During the years covered by McMaster in this book, I was a single mom, working and going through college, then grad school. Seems I really didn't pay attention to the geopolitical world back then. But I thoroughly appreciate this book, now that I'm a retired librarian with minimal parental duties. Hmm, maybe a president should pay more attention to military expertise at his fingertips. As well as to State dept. appointees......
Timothy  Hoff
Mar 04, 2017 Timothy Hoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
General McMaster's Tour de Force

The American disaster in Vietnam was the grim result of President Lyndon Johnson's subordinating military concerns to his domestic Great Society agenda. In doing so, Johnson and those loyal to him, deceived Congress in particular and the American people in general about the nature and scope of America's involvement in a major Asian land war. McMaster details how the intricate web of deceit managed to avert disaster for so long.
Mar 02, 2017 Bahramo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up because of General McMaster’s recent position of National Security Advisor to the President. One of the best history books I’ve read. A detailed account of how entrenched bureaucracy, playing politics along party lines while ignoring harsh realities can affect the world. The negative results of having the wrong people advising the President of the United States. This book is a coherent and sobering account of the results of high-level decision-making (or rather gross micromanage ...more
Feb 26, 2017 Art marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Will Trump Take ‘Brutally Forthright’ Advice From McMaster, the new national security adviser who wrote this book about the lessons of not speaking up for the truth?
Sep 13, 2014 Franz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
David Steece, Jr.
Sep 19, 2015 David Steece, Jr. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam, history
This is one of the densest books of history I have ever read. Almost a "microhistory" of LBJ and his staff's decision making process in the key period between 64 and 65 (with a little background on Kennedy & the New Frontiersmen in the beginning.) Dates, documents, names, and acronyms bounce around in what feels like a meeting-by-meeting breakdown of the thought processes behind things like: OPLAN 34A, the DESOTO patrols and the resulting Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the air war over North V ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam
  • Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime
  • This Kind of War
  • On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War
  • America's Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975 (Fourth Edition)
  • The Village
  • Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945
  • The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy
  • Street Without Joy
  • Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton
  • Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers
  • The Savage Wars Of Peace: Small Wars And The Rise Of American Power
  • Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam
  • The Army and Vietnam
  • Lincoln and His Generals
  • Once Upon a Distant War: David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, Peter Arnett--Young War Correspondents and Their  Early Vietnam Battles
  • The Ravens: The Men Who Flew In America's Secret War In Laos
  • Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice
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
More about H.R. McMaster...

Share This Book