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Valley Of Death: The Tragedy At Dien Bien Phu That Led America Into The Vietnam War

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  168 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Pulitzer Prize–winning author Ted Morgan has now written a rich and definitive account of the fateful battle that ended French rule in Indochina—and led inexorably to America’s Vietnam War. Dien Bien Phu was a remote valley on the border of Laos along a simple rural trade route. But it would also be where a great European power fell to an underestimated insurgent army and ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 752 pages
Published February 17th 2010 by Random House, Inc. (first published January 1st 2010)
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Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: vietnam-war
Some weeks after reading Ted Morgan’s Valley of Death, I was whiling away a lazy Saturday channel surfing and watching the baby lay on her play mat while speaking in her magical nothing-language to a stuffed lion. I was also desperately hung over and looking for something, anything, to take my mind off my stomach.

Finally, I settled on the History Channel’s all-day marathon of Vietnam in HD, which is a handsomely constructed documentary, incongruous only for the fact that four of the leads of En
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I finished the book – 637 pages - in record time. It was really hard to put down. If this had been a work of fiction I would have criticized the Valley of Death as being too improbable. However, you can’t make this stuff up. How did this French disaster happen? Is this just another French military disaster due to French arrogance? From Waterloo to Jean van de Velde’s loss at the 1999 British Open, history is full of French disasters like this one.

The story begins in the early 1940’s during WWII
Sep 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
How could the France which gave us the brilliant Charles Martel, Charlemagne, Turene, de Saxe and, of course, the incomparable Napoleon, have given us the nincompoops responsible for the idiocy which was Dien Bien Phu? It is hard to read as elite French Paratroopers and Foreign Legionnaires (largely comprised of ex-Waffen SS survivors of Stalingrad) are knowingly placed into a death-trap and bravely die in the face of overwhelming odds, incompetent senior staff officers and cowardly politicians. ...more
Frederic Murray
Jun 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
In summation after a 500 pages the book could read:

French Generals: " France will never Leave Indochina"

French Soldiers: "Duck"

I love a history that pulls no punches, with sub-chapter headings like "What the fuck are we doing here?!" Morgan leaves no doubt about where his sympathies lie, that's not a complaint, it is a virtue. Working from a great set of unearthed primary sources, both French & Vietnamese & American he reconstructs the folly of this battle.

It is a painful and madding r
Danny Knobler
May 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, se-asia
Very detailed, but manages not to get bogged down. Alternates between battles and diplomacy, and goes through a lot of Vietnam history that isn't that well known in this country.
Nov 03, 2010 rated it liked it

Ted Morgan's Valley of Death describes the 1954 French military defeat which led to the end of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. Dien Bien Phu is in northern Vietnam, near the border with Laos. At the time Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam were all French colonies. The most serious threat to continued French control was an insurgency in Vietnam, especially in the north of the country.

Morgan covers much more than the battle; the book begins with the series of events during the Second

Phil Deschler
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Phil by: Self
Excellent book on the history of the battle of Dien Bien Phu along with the political history taking place while the battle was being fought. He starts with the history of Indochina from the start of WW 2. You get a clear picture in detail of the battle. You feel craziness of the political scene while men were dying and wounded at Dien Bien Phu. It seems at that time in history that the political haggling was as much part of battle as the actual fighting. People used the battle to improve their ...more
Bob Mobley
Feb 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Ted Morgan's look at the twisting and changing fortunes leading the United States into the Vietnam War is an insightful examination of the trap placed upon our Strategic thinking by "Washington." Read in conjunction with Washington Rules, you will be very disturbed by the shortsighted views and positions held within the State Departmentand The Department of Defense. This is a book that looks at the quicksands surrounding leadership when decision makers allow their egos, and sense of power, to cl ...more
Vinh Dang
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
a history book is written in a way of a novel.
Dien Bien Phu from different perspectives.
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ted Morgan may have just written the last word on this epic battle which signalled the end of French colonialism in SE Asia. The Author has examined hitherto classified documents and studied the Battle on a larger canvas. While he has gone into the Battle itself in some detail, he has also examined the backdrop of power politics played out in France, US, UK and China, which ultimately led to the doom of the French forces and the creation of an independent Vietnam. There are fascinating insights. ...more
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
The author has done a good job devoting a substantial part of the book describing the political storm that is brewing behind the scenes, and not just in the Indochina region, but also thousands of miles away in Europe. Every battle is just the symptom of broader political turmoil and conflict.

The book offers a good description of the post-WWII political landscape in Europe: how the French is severely weakened but struggled to hold on to its colonial crown jewels in Asia, Russia is determined to
Barbara M
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Well, I read most of this book. I had to skip some of the accounts of technical military maneuvers, they were beyond me. But, this is an excellent book if you're interested in the topic. It's very well researched and organized. I learned a lot.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: war, read-partial
A very detailed and comprehensive account of the development of the Dien Bien Phu conflict, from the seeds of its beginning at the end of WW2 to the catastrophe it evolved into and how the Americans got increasingly embroiled in the conflict at every step of the way. A reference book for historians, this heavy tome made for difficult reading at times for the casual person, with its huge cast of historical figures, not just soldiers but diplomats and politicans, and coverage of seemingly trivial ...more
Jun 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Marvelous detail of the battle, the background, and the diplomatic struggles going on at the same time. It is clear now to me now why the U.S. felt it was necessary to send troops to Indochina.

The stories of the battle are vivid and full of heroism in a futile and politically mismanaged struggle.
J.L. Day
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Oh my GOD this is a must read, but requires a box.....maybe a case of Kleenex if you have a soul at all. A very bittersweet narrative of the harsh reality of surviving and dying in a place NO one wanted to be.

Thank you Veterans, Thank you for our FREEDOM.
Perry Andrus
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vietnam-war
a very good book. i read it after Embers of War because i wanted to learn more about the actual battle at DBP. both books cover the diplomatic history but this book did provide more detail on the actual siege.
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war
A thorough study of the event that defined post war France and shaped American History. Well done.
Mostafa Ali
May 08, 2015 rated it liked it
First of all, I don't mind reading 1000+ pages book, if I have to. However, half of this book can be removed without losing much, and this is what really annoyed me.
Edward Sullivan
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An epic chronicle of the events leading to the end of French Indochina and the beginning of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. An exhaustively detailed, insightful account.
May 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Lots of great information.
Don Kasprzak
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the true books to understand the US role entering Vietnam in the wake of the French disaster.
John Hardin
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very thorough account of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and how it shaped and affected global politics.
Chris F
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was reading part of this for work and don't have time to finish the whole thing, the hundred or so pages I did read we're very good.
Michael Mcquillan
rated it it was amazing
Oct 06, 2016
rated it really liked it
Mar 25, 2015
rated it it was amazing
Feb 06, 2017
Andy Alderman
rated it it was amazing
Dec 02, 2017
Don Payton
rated it it was amazing
Sep 15, 2015
Dennis Dowd
rated it really liked it
Mar 25, 2018
rated it liked it
Jul 24, 2015
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Born St. Charles Armand Gabriel, Comte de Gramont; he used the name Sanche de Gramont for a byline until he had his name legally changed to Ted Morgan in 1977; came to the United States in 1937, naturalized in February, 1977. He won the Pulitzer Prize, 1961, for local reporting written under pressure of a deadline; National Book Award finalist, 1982, for Maugham.

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