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Embers Of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam

4.43 of 5 stars 4.43  ·  rating details  ·  476 ratings  ·  112 reviews
The struggle for Vietnam occupies a central place in the history of the twentieth century. Fought over a period of three decades, the conflict drew in all the world’s powers and saw two of them—first France, then the United States—attempt to subdue the revolutionary Vietnamese forces. For France, the defeat marked the effective end of her colonial empire, while for America ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 864 pages
Published August 21st 2012 by Random House (first published January 1st 2012)
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We Were Soldiers Once... and Young by Harold G. MooreAbsolutely Nothing by Mark A. CooperA Rumor Of War by Philip CaputoA Bright Shining Lie by Neil SheehanDispatches by Michael Herr
Vietnam War Books
26th out of 89 books — 68 voters
Nocturne, Opus 1 by Norene MoskalskiEmbers Of War by Fredrik LogevallThe Quiet American by Graham GreeneWild by Cheryl StrayedThe Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
6 Best of 2012
2nd out of 7 books — 3 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,610)
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Matt
Fredrik Logevall’s Embers of War is not the first book I’ve read about the First Indochina War. However, it is the first book that doesn’t deal specifically with the infamous 1954 battle of Dien Bien Phu, which pitted the dying empire of France against the insurgent-nationalist Viet Minh.

Reading solely about Dien Bien Phu, without any accompanying context, is the historical-reading equivalent of eating all the frosting off a cupcake. In order to avoid relative habits currently practiced with ze
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Joseph
Fredrik Logevall's The Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the making of America's Vietnam takes Vietnam's struggle for independence to its very beginning and carries it through the beginning of America's “real” involvement in the war. It is clearly written and written in great detail. Logevall backs up his book with eighty-three pages of bibliography, roughly one page for every ten written.

At the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919, a young Vietnamese man in a rented morning coat comes to
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James Wilhelm
Embers of War explains the forty year history of Vietnam leading up to the debacle of U.S. involvement. It is a captivating and important book that I highly recommend to anyone with an interest in history or the Vietnam War.
Jimmy
I had the good fortune of hearing the author speak and then talking to him a bit about the Vietnam War. The book won the Pulitzer Prize. Excellent, especially in its "what if" tendencies.

In June 1919, a young man from Vietnam set out to approach the world leaders gathered in Paris to present them with a petition entitled "The Demands of the Vietnamese People." He especially hoped to reach Woodrow Wilson whose fourteen points seemed to promise self-determination for all people. The petition spok
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John
"Embers of War" is a page-turning account of how the United States became enmeshed in Vietnam after the Second World War and how those entanglements led to the Vietnam. What makes the book especially interesting to American readers, is how Longevall, a historian at Cornell University, tells the story through the lens of the France's war in Indochina after World War II, so in that sense the book is really two stories: a gripping account of the French war that lasted from between 1945/46 to 1954 o ...more
Jerome
A comprehensive, well-organized, engrossing and very well-written history of the French war in Indochina that led to the beginning of US involvement in that region. Logevall begins with the Japanese occupation during the world war up to 1959.

Logevall’s coverage of US involvement with the Diem regime is very good, and he does a great job explaining the remarkable number of ill-formulated and sometimes unrelated decisions made in this time period. One of Logevall’s points is that pretty much every
...more
Converse
Got to about page 399 of this history of (mainly) the French war in Indochina after the Second World War. By this point in the narrative many French politicians wanted out but they were not sure how to do this given the enthusiasm of the new Eisenhower administration in the United States for continuing the war. The author emphasizes that the steps that American adminstrations saw as necessary for a successful (i. e. non-communist) outcome in Vietnam required steps, such as a path for Vietnamese ...more
Stan
This book is fascinating. How many of we Americans knew that Ho Chi Minh had tried to see President Wilson in Paris in 1919 to try to get the USA to help Vietnam gain her independence from France? My guess is not many. Professor Logevall leads us through the history of Ho Chi Minh and his attempts to gain freedom from Vietnam's colonial ruler, shows us how it may have been much different had Roosevelt lived, and takes us through Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations as no one ...more
James Murphy
Readers love to discover books which articulate what they've always known and understood. Embers of War fits my ideas of America's involvement in Vietnam. For that reason it's not surprising I'd like the book and consider it important in that it voices perspectives long needing to be made clear.

Logevall's huge book is a comprehensive history of the French return to Indochina following the defeat of Japan in 1945, how it found there a burgeoning nationalism and a free Vietnam already proclaimed u
...more
Susan
Aug 22, 2012 Susan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those involved in the 60s, military people, history buffs w/ interests in Southeast Asia
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Well researched and sweeping in scope, this book was provided to me by the publisher as part of Goodreads.com First Reads program.

Embers of War: the Fall of an Empire and the making of America's Vietnam is a rather large book; covering the years from 1919 to 1959, before the US enaged the Viet Cong in many years of a war that was divisive both at home and within the military ranks. The amazing amount of research it contains demonstrates that a shocking history of errors and miscalculation served
...more
Steven
A First Reads giveaway:
Embers of War is the most exhaustive account of America’s failure to learn from France and its futile decade-long military involvement in Vietnam. Complete with maps and rare photographs, Logevall’s text, lively and detailed, chronicles all the pretexts and miscalculations of what George F. Kennan called “the most disastrous of all America’s undertakings over the whole 200 years of its history.”
Max
How did America become involved in Viet Nam and why was American policy so dysfunctional? Logevall lays it all out from French colonization in 1873 to 1959 with the killing of the first Americans to later have their names engraved on the Viet Nam War Memorial. He covers Ho Chi Minh’s lifelong nationalism from his attempts to meet President Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 through the decision in 1959 as President of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam to help the Viet Cong in the Sou ...more
Jordyn
* I won this in the FTC giveaway

This book is a phenomenal choice for any history buff, it was gripping and kept you interested until the end. I would absolutely recommend it :)
Julian Haigh
Logevall weaves so many narratives together connecting with characters on both a personal level, as well as placing their histories in a larger context of the 'international' movement to 'save' Vietnam.

From the overcompensating Charles De Gaulle for Frances embarrassment in WW2 attempting to 'save' their imperialist civilization mission to Ho Chi Minh's international political understandings of the importance of the American position, even as early as 1919, and the American position hardening f
...more
Mike Kershaw
Embers of War by Fredrik Logevall is subtitled The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam. It could probably be better subtitled "Kicking the Can Down the Road". Logevall spends 700 pages demonstrating that successive American administrations, from Truman's to Kennedy's, acted in a manner which almost inexorably led America to war in Vietnam. He does this by focusing at the strategic and diplomatic level, with just enough of the French combat experience in Vietnam to provide conte ...more
Dan
You know a book about Vietnam is going to be thorough when it starts in the mid-1800s. This is an incredible story, beginning with the initial French colonial rule and ending in 1960, just when most U.S.-focused books on the war begin.

It is an outstanding telling of French and American involvement in Vietnam. That said, it is a massive book, and a commitment to sit down and read. Some of the nitty gritty diplomacy details get a little tiring, while other parts of the book (like the battle of Die
...more
Carrieg
If you are really, really interested in the Vietnam war, you should read this book; it's fascinating. If you aren't and 700 pages of non-fiction is not your thing, then stay away. It's long and detailed, and the pay-off is a new understanding of the long slide into war.

I'm quite interested, and I loved it. As a Baby Boomer (born near the end of the boom years), the Vietnam war was the backdrop to my childhood. My father, a military doc, spent a year there, and the war or war protests were alway
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Tom Marshall
Simply an outstanding book. Insightful, colorful, expertly researched (with ample citations which lead to numerous websites with tremendous videos and linked works) and exceptionally well-written with an engaging narrative style.

If you are going to read only two works on the Wars of Vietnam (but don't just limit yourself to two!), it's this and Neil Sheehan's "A Bright Shining Lie."
The two best narrative histories on the Indochina Wars, and two exquisite works of history.
Jerome
This book was especially interesting to me because I was enlisted in the USMC the fall of 1954. At the time, even though I was stationed in Japan, we knew nothing about Vietnam or what was going on in Washington DC or how close we came to going into North Vietnam. Armed forces radio, the only radio station available kept us in the dark. Thanks to Winston Churchill England would not play along with the American Commie phobic war mongers and we stayed where we were for ten years.
Stevemid


Along with the assassination of JFK, the Vietnam war was the seminal event of my life. Although our ability to help to end the war gave us a sense of power, the disillusionment regarding America's involvement in the war hangs like a cloud over my generation. Why were we there? How did we get is so wrong? What could we have done differently?

Embers of War answers those questions with in depth, documented research into history of the war and all the players on Vietnamese, French, and US sides, and
...more
Kelly
Fredrik Logevall covers the rise of Ho Chi Minh, the First Indochina War, and the political intrigue that eventually led to America’s full military commitment in Vietnam. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel like an expert after you’ve read it; comprehensive, authoritative, lucid, and tight as a drum.
Sharky
Obviously well researched and very readable. Sad to read of our missed opportunities to avoid that tragic conflict, and troubling to see us making some of the same mistakes today.

This was a First-reads giveaway.
Joseph
Well, truthfully, i didn't read it ... There is detail and there is detail, but this one crossed over into minutia ... Not for me ... Might be a good reference book for a geek.
Phillip Jones
As I have indicated in other reviews, there are some historical events about which conventional wisdom has so solidified that it has turned into dogma. This is especially true about the greater Vietnam conflict. So many have poured so much of their intellectual, political, and other identity into a dogmatic perspective that the story has become an intellectual black hole from which exploration of new and alternate views is not allowed to escape. Fredrick Logeville performs and excellent job at a ...more
Michael Elkon
This book is damn near perfect history. Clear, lucid prose. Sharp analysis. Good use of sources. Willing to offer opinions where necessary.

The most interesting parts of the book for me:

1. Oliver Stone based "JFK" on the notion that Kennedy would have kept us out of Vietnam and was murdered by people associated with the Military-Industrial Complex because they did not want the US to pull out. This book doesn't deal with JFK in great detail because of the time period involved, but it does point ou
...more
Nari
I haven't read an epic war history text since my undergrad years, and at over seven hundred pages, this was work--but work that I'm glad I undertook. The chapters were well organized and the sentences aptly formed. Logevall did a fine job balancing data with interpretation; although some might dislike his occasional (and well-founded) assertions, I welcomed them because they helped make sense of the chaos in a bright and objective way.

Despite the book's broad time span, at times it felt too det
...more
Don Kasprzak
One of the best researched works regarding France's colonial war in Vietnam and America's long entry into our deep nightmare. An amazing read that justly deserves recognition as last year's Pulitzer Prize winner in History. The early warning signs were all there from Ho Chi Minh's effort to present President Woodrow Wilson a declaration for Vietnam's independence in Paris 1919 .... to Eisenhower's offer of two atomic bombs to ensure French troops would survive the siege at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
Jamie
This incredibly dense and involved look at the socio-political environment that embroiled most of the world in the Vietnam War is informative without being dry and seems amazingly balanced and reasonable. Not quite condemnatory, it is however quite harsh, both in analysis of policy and in description of character in the players involved. It deals with ego and xenophobia, with arrogance and overconfidence, with brutality and desperation, with selfish motives and not-quite-up-to-the-task "altruism ...more
Matt
*i received this book through a Goodreads giveaway. Thanks to those that made it happen!*

It's hard to gripe about things received for free. Unfortunately, i have to preface this review with a gripe. At some point around page 150 in my reading, clusters of pages began to fall out. These clusters were between 10 and 200 pages. By the end of the book, more than half had fallen from the book, despite my feeble attempts at repairing it. It was essentially FUBAR by the time i'd skimmed over my minimal
...more
Jeff
Embers of War was long, and only covered certain years and certain topics in detail. For example, it is not a detailed military history with specifics of the French and Viet Minh order of battle and various engagements. I found it very insightful, and it made me re-think some of my views about the Vietnam conflict. For example:

1. France. I thought of the French role as being driven by the desire of a fading colonial power to hang on to its empire and refuse to accept modern realities. Certainly,
...more
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“The soldiers were overwhelmed and blinded by the forces of nature, by the soaking vegetation, the mountains that vanished in the clouds, the rivers swirling with turbid, dangerously rapid water, by the mud, the heat, by everything. It was a formless, green-gray world, devoid of outline, inimical, a world in which every movement, even eating was an effort.” 0 likes
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