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Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  128 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews

“Westmoreland is a great book, a classic by an author who knows his subject well and tells the story without hesitation.†— General Donn A. Starry, U.S. Army (ret.), Commander, Army Training and Doctrine Command (1977–1981)

Is it possible that the riddle of America’s military failure in Vietnam has a one-word, one-man answer?

Unless and until we understand General W

Hardcover, 416 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2011)
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Dec 29, 2011 Marc rated it really liked it
This is a strong and convincing indictment of William Westmoreland's dismal leadership of the American war in Vietnam. Well written, well researched and well argued.
James Murphy
May 09, 2012 James Murphy rated it liked it
This is another biography which assassinates its subject. As the title indicates, Sorley lays a large part of the blame for America's defeat in Vietnam on William Westmoreland, commander of U. S. forces there from 1964 to 1968.

He'd had an exemplary military career. He was a West Point graduate, saw combat in World War II and Korea, rapidly rose through the ranks in distinctive commands, including that of Superintendent of West Point. But Sorley's description is of a man not considered one of the
Jan 27, 2013 David rated it liked it
I served under Gen. Westmoreland, and I came away from the book a little disappointed--not in the author, who did a superb job, but in the highest ranking General I ever had anything to do with. I knew his story in Vietnam was murky, but so was everything else. This book made me realize without doubt that Gen. Westmoreland emobodied a mindset which did lead to our defeat in that unnecessary adventure.
Apr 19, 2012 Clyde rated it liked it
Three and one half stars.
Lewis Sorley did a stupendous amount of research for this book. There is so much detail that it is almost suffocates the narrative at times.

I don't think he makes his case, however, that Westmorland lost the Vietnam War. He has convinced me that Westy played a large, perhaps pivotal, role in the loss. But, the war was very big and multifaceted; there is plenty of blame to go around. I lay a lot also on Presidents Johnson and Nixon, on McNamara, and on the US Congress. He
Dec 07, 2011 Charles rated it really liked it
I didn't think much about U.S. commander Gen. William Westmoreland when I was in Vietnam. He was long gone by 1970. But the more I learn about Westmoreland the more I agree with the author of "WESTMORELAND: The General Who Lost Vietnam." The guy was promoted above his abilities and didn't have the historic context or brainpower to beat an insurgency. I did not know that Westmoreland was allowed almost a free hand for the first four years of our combat involvement in South Vietnam. Everybody defe ...more
Oct 08, 2011 Robert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vietnam
This book will not go down with many people who have a need to believe that the United States could not have achieved the goal of preserving South Vietnamese independence with competent leadership at home and abroad. I probably would have fallen into that camp had I not previously read Sorely's excellent predecessor to this volume, "A Better War." It also made me more receptive to this author that I had also read his biographies of Harold Johnson and Creighton Abrams.

It also will not go down wel
Michael Wiggins
Jan 27, 2012 Michael Wiggins rated it liked it
I bought this book for my father, who served two tours in Vietnam. Westmoreland grew up near here, and I wanted to find a better finish for this man who seemed to have started so well in life. It just wasn't to be found. The author was fairly rough on the general, but for the most part I couldn't disagree. I do believe, however, that the general was in an undeniably tough position fighting an unpopular, unconventional war while yoked to a fairly micromanaging commander-in-chief. But... no excuse ...more
May 10, 2012 Jim rated it liked it
while i agree with mr. sorley's general interpretation he also tends to tends to be hagiographical towards those he admires and overly denunciatory towards those he does not.
Gene Ledesma
Sep 17, 2012 Gene Ledesma rated it really liked it
Amazing that this guy was in charge of anything.Creighton Abrams should have been the man in charge, but it was all politics as usual with LBJ
David Thompson
Apr 28, 2013 David Thompson rated it liked it
"Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam" is a biography that I resisted reading for about a year or so. Sorley's work, which covers Westmoreland's childhood through death, has been touted as very one-sided. After working my way through the book, I can concur.

That being said, there is certainly something to gain by looking into the life of a general officer irrefutably linked in our Army's history, regardless of his success or failure.

With a decent knowledge of his performance during the Viet
Mark Mortensen
Author, historian and PhD scholar Lewis Sorley accumulated great credentials and respect during 20 years of service in the U.S. Army. Sorley’s bold title selection certainly grabbed my attention and although he might have been a bit harsh on Four-Star General Westmoreland his facts were substantiated by others.

America was quick in its attempt to put the Vietnam War out of mind and move on, but for many of that semi-divided generation the long event was a life altering focal point. The war most

Westmoreland provides the tragic look at the life of the man who led the armies in Vietnam and spent a lifetime trying to recover his reputation. Westmoreland was one of the most impressive military careers in the countries history from command of battalions to the 101st Airborne to superintendent of West Point to Chief of Staff. Finally he became the man in charge of Vietnam. All impressive for a man who did not hold any advanced military degrees or attend much beyond his first captaincy at Wes
J.P. Mac
Mar 12, 2014 J.P. Mac rated it really liked it
It's been said that a commander is judged by his actions and his actions by their result.

If so, then history must take a stern view of General William Westmoreland. Famous for his command of American forces in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968, Westmoreland stands accused of being a careerist, promoted above his competence level, who fought Vietnam with the wrong tactics and allowed the Johnson Administration to use him politically as casualties rose and battlefield success grew more elusive.

A complex m
Alex Milledge
Aug 12, 2014 Alex Milledge rated it it was ok
Westmoreland, although he looks typecasted to be a American General, did not do what a general should do - win the war.

Although the book wants to point blame to Westmoreland as the single word answer to the US failure in Vietnam, it would be awfully hard to point blame when in running a government, many people are to blame surely. After reading McNamara's book, the Johnson Adminstration acted on a faulty plan with a lack of intellgience, failing to understand the enemy. Westmoreland was putting
Apr 01, 2012 Andrew rated it liked it
This is a real divisive book as Sorley really drags Westmoreland's name through the dirt. Many professional historians and military officers will cringe at this biography due to the continual attacks on Westmoreland.

All that being said, Westmoreland should not get off easily for his time as MACV Commander. Sorley highlights numerous instances where Westmoreland was either confused or lying, and his decision to make the Vietnam War a war of attrition and firepower proved to be unsuccessful at be
Mar 21, 2012 Reuben rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography-read
This is not a great book. Actually, it's rather mediocre. At times Sorley does a really good job of conveying Westmoreland's story, his life, the failure in Vietnam, and how Westland ultimately allowed that failure to define him as a person.

However, Sorley spends way too much effort not only criticizing Westmoreland but straight out calling him an incompetent soldier and deceiver more interested in 'shaping history' than doing his job. This much narrative eye rolling is unnecessary and unprofes
Steven Voorhees
Jul 06, 2016 Steven Voorhees rated it really liked it
He was the general straight out of central casting. He had everything going for him. But he never really lived up to his promise. I bet the treatises about General William Childs Westmoreland already published well illustrate his life's tragic AND tumultuous trajectory. But Lewis Sorley's magisterial (if malevolent) biography of Westy should be called definitive. Sorley gives the reader Westmoreland's entire life journey -- one that, of course, had a very significant stop in Vietnam (he was comm ...more
Andrew McKee
Jul 23, 2015 Andrew McKee rated it liked it
This book shines when discussing the struggles of battlefield strategy and tactics in Vietnam, and the complex web of controversies within the military and political US leadership. Perhaps the target audience is best considered folks with an interest in the Vietnam War or military leadership specifically, for it portrays well a character too ambitious for his own good, who ascended to levels of power that he had not the ability or experience to handle. I agree with other reviewers that at times ...more
Mar 26, 2015 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a decnt read. Clearly based as an opinion based book which chrionicles the life and more specifically the pinnacle of Westmorland's career when he lead out forces in three key years during the Vietnam war.

Pretty critical take here on Westmorlands strategies, styles, actions, and persona throughout.

If you believe Westmorland should take a big chunk of the blame for the Vietnam debacle, you will see eye to eye with this read.

Pretty well written, despite the clear agenda. Some good data.
Dan Ward
Aug 20, 2014 Dan Ward rated it it was ok
I couldn't finish this book. It just didn't hold my interest. The author clearly had an ax to grind with westmoreland from the beginning and I was surprised to find out that his career was in the military. The book just felt like a retelling of statistics without letting me into the real story.
Richard McMahon
May 27, 2015 Richard McMahon rated it really liked it
It's not only hard to believe, but terrifying to think that one man could have caused the United States to lose the war in Vietnam. Yet, that's exactly what author Lewis Sorley sets out to do in this book. The truly frightening thing is that he pretty much succeeds.
William B.
Dec 06, 2016 William B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don't Tell me I'm Wrong

Westmoreland actually believed he was infallible. He portrayed the faulty ugly American attitude that "We are Number One," and the world is indebted to the USA. Vietnam taught us differently,but Westmoreland never read that book.
Miguel Hdz
It was biased against the General, the author seems to blame everything on him, when in reality he did not control the political aspect of the war, the General was not without his shortcomings, but to blame the outcome of the war only on him....seems to me unfair.
Sep 30, 2015 Sharon rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
A well-researched nonfiction about a sad, lonely, and inept man, who spent his life in the wrong place at the wrong time.
John Rydenbark
John Rydenbark rated it really liked it
Oct 23, 2013
Sam rated it it was amazing
May 31, 2014
Jack rated it liked it
May 21, 2014
Andy rated it really liked it
Aug 11, 2015
George rated it it was ok
Jun 21, 2016
David Brown
David Brown rated it it was amazing
Jan 11, 2012
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Lewis Sorley's Westmoreland 3 5 Feb 02, 2015 02:01PM  
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