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A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam
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A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  6,712 ratings  ·  181 reviews


When he came to Vietnam in 1962, Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann was the one clear-sighted participant in an enterpirse riddled with arrogance and self-deception, a charismatic soldier who put his life and career on the line in an attempt to convince his superiors that the war should be fought another way
Paperback, 896 pages
Published September 19th 1989 by Vintage (first published 1988)
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A great compliment to The Best and the Brightest.

This book focuses less on the domestic politics behind the Vietnam War and more on the military/operational realities than confronted the US military, as well as delving into the corruption of the South Vietnamese regime that the US tried to prop up 18 different ways, coup after coup after coup.

The conclusion of the book is basically that if the Vietnam War was ever winnable, it was no longer winnable after 1965-66. The failure of the LBJ administ
Nominally a biography of John Paul Vann--a soldier and civilian who was one of the first American Advisers in Vietnam at the beginning of American intervention and remained involved in the conflict until his death in 1972--this is actually the most complete history of the Vietnam War that I have ever read. I feel that, for the first time, I really understand this conflict, what lead to it, and why America could never have really won.

Among the things I never knew was that the Viet Cong was essen
I don't know of many books that win both the Pulizer and the National Book Award. Sheehan's book is one of them, and it shows.

An entirely engrossing narrative of the profound arrogance, paralyzing complaisance and careerism, and the incorrigible, altogether impenetrable ignorance of Americans in Vietnam. Generals Harkins and Westmoreland seem to have been the two most seriously impaired of the bunch. And as a result millions died. [Let's just say that in comparison 9/11 is only a vanishingly sma
Apr 22, 2012 David rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, inquiring minds
The Vietnam War is one of the most important events in modern history. This is one of the many books written about it.
The amount of detail is staggering. The research that went into this one book must fill a small library with notes, clippings, photographs, references, biographies, maps and more.
Take for example the first day in the Army of the central character in the book - John Paul Vann. This occurs on page 423 in my copy.
" During his first day at Camp Lee and for four days afterward the
I read this book in 1988 while a member of the "Book of the Month Club," before it became a best-seller and Neil Sheehan won a Pulitzer for this remarkable book, 16-years in the making.

And I've been talking about it ever since.

"A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam" is THE primer on contemporary US foreign policy and should be read by every student of American history. School boards should buy this book and stock the high school libraries (excuse me, "media centers") with a
A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan is a superior book that took 5 months, and every ounce of my concentration, to finish. I recommend it to anyone interested in American military history, specifically the Vietnam war, but warn you that you are in for a long, difficult read. Sheehan's research and writing style are without fault, I think. After all, he was there. The lynchpin of the book is John Paul Vann, a fascintating, complex man, who may have allowed the U.S. to win the war in Vietnam, had ...more
Rick Saffery
Oct 17, 2009 Rick Saffery rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
I've read this book twice and recommended it perhaps a hundred times more. I'll always hold Mr.Sheehan in the highest regard for the way he crafted this impressive work. The epic drama of the Vietnam war, as expressed through the lens of John Paul Vann, profoundly resonates with me as a former infantry soldier of the post-Vietnam era. One of the things I took away from reading this book is Vann's insight with respect to keeping the war personal. He shrewdly observed and held that had we prosecut ...more
Perhaps the most comprehensive book I have read about the largest cluster-feck I am aware of - The Vietnam War. What resonates most with me, is that the general tenor of this book, comports with the memories that my oldest brother, who served two tours in Vietnam as an Officer (being Honorably Discharged as a Major), shared with me individually - before, during, and after that experience, paralleling his unique, distinct and personal recollections.

This is an important book about a time and place
After absorbing this book I'm mentally exhausted from the sheer size and scope of the information contained in it. It was mind numbly daunting undertaking.

As much as I liked parts of it others became extremely taxing and confusing to follow. While I enjoy books with military engagements the endless stream of them, the personnel involved and the political intrigue around each of them in this one should have been significantly edited or removed altogether.

The same goes for some of the sections of
The book centers on the career of Lt. Col. John Paul Vann, whose story illuminates America’s failures and disillusionment in Southeast Asia. Vann, a field adviser to the South Vietnamese Army, became appalled at the corruption of the South Vietnamese regime, South Vietnam’s incompetence in fighting the Communists, and the regime’s brutal alienation of the South Vietnamese people. He found his superiors too blinded by political lies to understand that the war was being thrown away, and he secretl ...more
Walking through a book store one day I spotted this book and purchased it on the fly. Best that I can remember I purchased the book because: 1) It won a Pulitzer, 2) It won the National Book Award, 3) It was a National Bestseller; and 4) It's about the Vietnam War, a place and event I was told by the draft board that I could expect to visit (I didn't). This was an interesting book with lots of history. At the time I read it I had no idea who John Paul Vann was. And, maybe that was one point the ...more
Sheehan's "...Vietnam" is certainly no disaster.
Aaron Million
Sobering, grim look at the incredible hubris that led to America becoming hopelessly (and, at times, helplessly) entwined in Vietnam. Sheehan, who was a reporter for UPI and, later, the New York Times, frames the book generally around a biography of a maverick Lt. Colonel in the Army: John Paul Vann. However, there are sections of the book where Vann is either not mentioned at all, or only fleetingly. For most of the book, Sheehan deftly juxtaposes something specifically having to do with Vann, ...more
This is one long, arduous, meticulously-researched and detailed book about our involvement in the Vietnam War. The author did his homework well, and earned a Pulitzer prize for it. Only the most die-hard readers of war history should attempt it. The book is very challenging to read because of the preponderance of Vietnamese names, political figures, and geography. That being said, it is worth the time spent. As a Vietnam-Era veteran, it filled in a lot of blank spaces for me. The story fixates o ...more
Kathryn Muratore
Dec 26, 2009 Kathryn Muratore rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who enjoy reading about military strategy
I learned an awful lot about the Vietnam war. I enjoyed the political history of the war and the more biographical sections of the book. But, overall, the book was way to detail-oriented and focused on military conflicts and strategy for my taste.
I was a little bothered by the hagiography feel the book had. John Vann was pretty despicable in my view as a person, but the author is willing to make excuses for him. To be sure, he had a bad childhood - a fascinating read in the rubber-necking at a
I've had this on my to-read list for 15 years or so, so when a copy became available a few days ago at Half Price Books for $1 it was a no-brainer. I started reading this today while waiting in the long line at the polling booth; I thought it entirely appropriate on election day to begin reading a book about a war and the conflicting policies that got us into it and kept us in it, since all the hubris and misguided do-goodery and righteousness that got us into Vietnam is of the same ilk as has g ...more
Kenneth Barber
This book deals with the career of John Paul Vann and his career in Vietnam. He first went there as a military advisor with the US army. He served a year then left the army but later returned to Vietnam as a pacification person with the state department He saw clearly that we could not win the war without sweeping social changes in South Vietnam The government we installed was corrupt, stealing everything they could from our aid. They also lacked the urge to fight. They were more concerned with ...more
What a magnificent book! It won a Pulitzer; it probably should have won ten. It is both the story of the war in Vietnam as well as the story of one very flawed man who fought it, ending up as the second highest commander, after Creighton Abrams, with control over all U.S. troops in the central highlands section of Vietnam.

Sheehan was a reporter in Vietnam and knew John Paul Vann very well. He gives us not only the history of the war, but a sense of the profound and systemic nature of the reason
This is one of the best books I have ever read. A fascinating and engaging look at America's involvement in Vietnam, couched in the story of John Paul Vann's life. I poured through the 800+ pages in a short time because I was fascinated by the story, the writing and the historical perspective that Neil Sheehan brought to the book. It read very much like a novel, yet still was packed with insight, historical background and compassion for the real people involved. I will never look at the Vietnam ...more
Jeffrey Miller
I read this book when it first came out and loved it. It's time to re-read this book again.
Hoskins Trible
It's only appropriate for a biographical history of the Vietnam War to open with the funeral of the protagonist. You know going into the whole thing that it won't be a happy tale, but it'll certainly be an interesting one.

The book uses the story of John Paul Vann's struggle against the ignorance of American leadership in Vietnam and the Southern Vietnamese's weak corrupt leaders to portray the wrongfulness of the motives behind the war, but especially the mistakes in the execution of the war.

A masterpiece. A history of America's involvement in Vietnam, woven into the biography of a very interesting man. This book could be the entire syllabus for a course on the Vietnam war. Maybe the best part is the understanding it conveys of characters such as Bundy, Rostow, and McNamara. In American culture they are often portrayed in black and white terms. Sheehan does much, much better than that. It's amazing to think that one man wrote this book and that it was only part of his life's work.
A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan

John Paul Vann believed that the US was fighting the wrong kind of war in Vietnam when he arrived in 1962. He spent countless hours and days trying to convince his superiors of a better way of fighting the war to ensure a victory for the US and her allies. When Vann died in 1972, he believed and supported the ways in which the US was fighting and was informing everybody that the US was winning the war in Vietnam.

I have al
Procyon Lotor
Eccellente moneta nonconvertibile Un pregevole lavoro giornalistico scritto come un romanzo. Il chi come dove quando e perch� di un fallimento che secondo l'intervistato - tesi ancora oggi ritenuta dubbia - poteva essere un successo condiviso con le popolazioni locali. Contesto l'applicabilit� delle lezioni apprese alle situazioni odierne Iraq e Afghanistan inclusi. Un elemento, (non altro che ci� che fecero gli USA in Italia) la costruzione di rapporti paritari con la parte volonterosa della po ...more
Michael Andersen-Andrade
A Bright Shining Lie is a brilliant book that chronicles the brutal, senseless and tragic U.S. war against Vietnam by following the career of John Paul Vann. Vann was a repugnant megalomaniac in both his professional and personal life and he epitomized everything that was evil and criminal about the mindset of the 20th Century American war monger. As I read this book it became crystal clear why the U.S. war against Vietnam was doomed from the beginning. I burned with anger, horror and disgust as ...more
Adam Ashton
Wow. Now I understand why everyone calls this book a must-read. It is. No other work so expertly alternates between Saigon and Washington in exploring the disaster of the Vietnam War. It's framed around John Vann, an Army officer who recognized why America's allies in South Vietnam would not succeed as early as 1962, and yet went on to become one of the establishment figures arguing for a never-ending commitment to a failing war.

Author Neil Sheehan, the NYT reporter who broke the story on the P
Robert Cruthirds
This is a great book about the history of the Vietnam War and a brilliant soldier named John Paul Vann. Sheehan is an excellent writer, he lived in Vietnam during the war as a journalist, and his research is meticulous.
Very detailed, well written and comprehensive. This is required reading for those who attempt to understand why things went so wrong with Vietnam. After a second reading of this book, I still wonder.
This book is powerful, intelligent, poignant -- in listening to it I found myself more than once shaking within. The tragedy described in the brilliant narrative lives with us still.
Steve Woods
It was bad enough to go through it to know who sent us there and why just makes it harder still!
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I continue read the book. 5 14 Jan 20, 2015 10:37PM  
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Cornelius Mahoney "Neil" Sheehan is an American journalist. As a reporter for The New York Times in 1971, Sheehan obtained the classified Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg. His series of articles revealed a secret U.S. Department of Defense history of the Vietnam War and led to a U.S. Supreme Court case when the United States government attempted to halt publication.
He received a Pulitzer Prize
More about Neil Sheehan...
A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon The Arnheiter Affair After the War Was Over: Hanoi and Saigon The Pentagon Papers: As published by The New York Times- The Secret History of the Vietnam War The Battle of Ap Bac (A Vintage Short)

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