Memoirs are a mixed lot really. Some parts of these particular memoirs were very funny. Particularly those dealing with Niven's early life. The laterMemoirs are a mixed lot really. Some parts of these particular memoirs were very funny. Particularly those dealing with Niven's early life. The later part of the book became a bit boring as an evolving list of the rich and famous people he had know. I suppose there had to be some regard for the libel laws but a more detailed observation of some of these people would have been welcome. I was ready for the end when it came....more
I expected more of this book given the title. It presents some of Sassoon's poems in a chronological format with brief notes that don't shed much lighI expected more of this book given the title. It presents some of Sassoon's poems in a chronological format with brief notes that don't shed much light on the man....more
This book was a bit deceptive on frist sight. it looks like a school text, and although it would be an ideal companion for seninior school study of OwThis book was a bit deceptive on frist sight. it looks like a school text, and although it would be an ideal companion for seninior school study of Owen's poetry, war peotry in general or the First World War it is more than that. It provides a context which gives a very human picture of Owen the young man. In the end I really enjoyed reading it and also the photographs. The next bebst thing to the actual artifacts. A great companion volume for anyone with an interest or any public library....more
It's always a difficult task to write a biographical novel and to remain reasonably truthful....and what anyway is truth when the author is literallyIt's always a difficult task to write a biographical novel and to remain reasonably truthful....and what anyway is truth when the author is literally imagining the inner thoughts of a number of people to create a portrait of the protagonist; in this case Rudolpjh Nureyev, one of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th century. Mc Cann pulls it of mastrefully, at least as far as weaving character is concerned. Whether the invention approximates this complex man, who knows but reading it I got a very strong sense of the person in question wheher Nureyev or not I cannot say, but it is certainly believable given what I know of him from other sources..
There were also several sections that were absolutely masterful, including the early section dealing with the treatment of Russian wounded during the Second World War.
I really enjoyed reading the book and McCann's writing has impressed me so much I will go looking for more of it....more
This is a very personal biography written by Fall's wife.Although it has its failings as a biography it is a fascinating piece of work that provides sThis is a very personal biography written by Fall's wife.Although it has its failings as a biography it is a fascinating piece of work that provides some insight into the character of this remarkable man. There is no doubt that he was the pre eminent scholar on Vietnam during his life and his analysis and opinions on the war as in progressed through the French and later the American manifestations were prescient' absolutely spot on.
Probably more fascinating still than Fall himself in this book is the exposure of the American attitude and treatment of this man who, had he been listened to by decision makers may have saved America from one of the greatest tragedies of its history. However that was not to be. The arrogance of "the best and brightest"including McNamara (who Fall regarded with pity and disdain) and the kingpins at the White house had their own agenda, mostly self serving. Combine the egos, that arrogance and the influence of the Vietnam lobby and the rabid anti communist fringe and there was no way anyone who was putting out a contrary message was going to be heeded. Although Fall was being sought regularly by American military people for his views and his analysis. He was effectively isolated by the Hawks and never got his 15 minutes in front of the President where it might have mattered.
Instead in typical style he was hounded by the FBI and slandered constantly in an effort to discredit him as a communist sympathizer (which he was not),though that was never quite achieved in the face of his scholarship and his deep understanding of the Vietnamese people and the war they were fighting. He knew what was going on and he refused to be snowed bythe system of deceit and lies that was the bulwark of the hawk camp,the vested interests prepared to serve their purposes at any cost.
Fall influenced some of the principal actors in the tragedy and was highly regarded by those who were on the front line. The remarkable thing is that the Americans learned nothing from the entire exercise, in the same arrogance and blind belief in their monopoly on "God' and what is right and the invincibility of their force of arms they charged into Iraq and Afghanistan and created yet another series of bungled enterprises that have cost them blood and treasure beyond account to no useful purpose.
The greatest liability the Americans carry is this blind self belief that is based essentially on their own propaganda. This somehow renders them incapable of intelligent reason when it comes to any matter that challenges their deeply held view of their rightness, always somehow blessed by God. We have seen almost a century of one disaster after another that when analysed is actually inimical to those values enshrined in their oft quoted Bill of Rights and Constitution....more
Of course the name Giap is familiar to anyone who has even a passing knowledge of the Vietnam conflict. Often lauded as a military genius there is a mOf course the name Giap is familiar to anyone who has even a passing knowledge of the Vietnam conflict. Often lauded as a military genius there is a mystique about the name and it is richly deserved. His triumphs in defeating the French, the Americans and in the conduct of the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia set him apart from most military leaders of the 20th Century as exceptional.It is not that he never made mistakes but that he learned from them and didn't repeat them.
This is a really interesting biography, given its size it can only be a summary but it is precise and well written. It left me with a greater understanding of the war of which I was regrettably a part. I was not so impressed by the inclusion of primary source material, I thought it added a great deal but was poorly incorporated into the text in most instances. Aside from that it was good history.
In addition to providing much I didn't know about Giap it confirmed many of the personal conclusions I had drawn for myself about the conduct of the war. Within three months of my arrival in Vietnam I knew the cause was not only lost but corrupt and mismanaged. Much that I observed left me feeling very uncomfortable about the American effort and the Australian penchant for attaching ourselves to their coat tails.
This war was without doubt one of the greatest examples of an overbearing arrogance and an underestimation of the enemy which led to one of the most devastating defeats in military history. It is arguable that the American military has still not fully recovered now, a generation later.
Giap had a very poor opinion of the Americans as an adversary. He considered them overconfident in their own abilities and the overdependent on the efficacy of technology;inflexibly tied to a logistical tail as concerned with providing air conditioning and ice cream as it was artillery rounds, and without the morale and sense of commitment or necessary willingness to sacrifice to win. He was right on all counts.
Westmoreland, his adversary was ill suited to the task. He was a big scale commander with extensive experience and training for WW2/NATO Cold War style operation. He chose to learn nothing from the French and repeated their failed strategy on the assumption that technological expertise and firepower would make the difference. It is absolutely astounding that with all their intelligence gathering potential that even as late as 1969 the US Army had not developed detailed analysis of the principal characters who were their adversaries. They could give minute details about some insignificant local guerrilla in the delta but knew nothing of the lives and thoughts of Giap, Le Duan or Le Duc Tho, let alone the thousands of senior commanders on the other side. They had little idea of the basic underlying principles of the North's strategy and much that had been written by their most adept adversaries had not even been translated into English let alone studied in detail.
The Australian Army also went to Vietnam as its Government decreed but after just one operation in conjunction with the Americans demanded their own independent area of operations deeming American methods in the field unsuited to the purpose and contrary to all the experience they had gained over the previous two decades. It is telling that Westmoreland regarded the Australian effort as insufficiently aggressive. The Australian approach was of course based on experience in Malaya. Borneo and New Guinea and adapted many of the traits of guerrilla fighting learned in those places. It was dependent on skillful low level infantry tactics at short range. Hunt and kill.
The one major successful tactic employed by the French was the deployment of units in the same way as the Viet Minh deployed. The use of these groups (GCMAS and GMI) were the most effective effort by the French and these units lived with the locals in the jungle and hunted their enemy. Their success was not only something the French high command ignored so did the Americans who came after them. They also ignored the advice of their own mid level officers like David Hackworth and Paul Vann, who supported this king of operation. It was the antithesis of all that Westmoreland's approach was predicated upon. Too many vested career interests to abandon what was clearly failing in favour of what demonstrably worked.An Australian, Barry Petersen developed a similarly successful effort in the Central Highlands in the early part of the War. Westmoreland was suitably impressed but irritated that and American had not made vbeen responsible for such success. His CIA handlers had him removed and replaced by an American fairly promptly thereafter, the whole effort collapsed as a result and the VC were ale to retake the advantage they had lost.
Most importantly Westmoreland, the American Command and the politicians made the fatal mistake of viewing the Vietnamese through the prism of their own characters applying the limitations that would have prevailed had Americans been in control of the PAVN, the VC and the North. They would have folded of course, at almost every turn. It was that very characteristic that the North relied upon. They knew that if they could just string it out long enough and spill enough American blood they would prevail and they did. This was despite major military defeats particularly,during Tet 1968.
More remarkable still than the ineptitude with which they conducted this war against an underestimated enemy about which they knew nothing is the fact that the Americans have approached Afghanistan looking trough the same prisms and that's why the end result will be another defeat that will simply gut the American soldier. There are few examples of good men who fought hard being so poorly served by their commanders and their political leaders than the US Forces in Vietnam. It was a great shame, my heart still bleeds for those who were so ill served....more
What a great story. I met Barry Petersen in Bangkok a decade ago and I really enjoyed our short conversation. he impressed me as a down to earth, pracWhat a great story. I met Barry Petersen in Bangkok a decade ago and I really enjoyed our short conversation. he impressed me as a down to earth, practical man with great humility. I enjoyed the story. of course it is well know in military circles, what I found fascinating was the intrigue and the machinations of the Americans. All ego! So typical! Nothing much has changed, They still seem to have the view of themselves and their military that often stands out of all proportion to their effectiveness on the ground. They always bring their own mind set to anything and dominant in that is the idea that since they are the greatest they must always know best. add to that the opportunity for career promotion the Vietnam War provided for many after such a long hiatus and you have the makings for the worst qualities of military leadership that often seemed so much in evidence from field grade up. These people as it turned out were a far greater danger to Petersen than the VC and in the long run they managed as they do to dismantle a highly successful program and replace it with something that served no one but perhaps themselves personally. The Australian Army also has its share of these people, all organizations do but the Yanks really seem to have had the market cornered. Many of their Vietnam Combat veterans cite poor leadership at this level as one of the main reasons for the failure of their efforts in Vietnam and for their own personal sense of alienation. These self seeking incompetent people were the primary cogs in the green machine
I also found the short note on Malaya and his tour with 2 RAR interesting. That was the same time that I was in Vietnam and I agreed whole-heartedly with his observations on the corruption and poisoning not only of the whole of Vietnamese society but the war effort itself by the American approach to just about everything. The description of the infantry operations in the field were right on the knocker.
This book is offers an insight into one of the great tragedies of history. The use, abuse and abandonment of the Montagnard by the US and its allies. These people are still paying today for that treachery. It is one of the most shameful episodes of US history in Asia, and there have been a few!...more