In Retrospect: The tradegy and lessons of Vietnam - Robert McNamara

First off, this book by former Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara will be polarizing.  Whether US should have been involved in the first place, whether the communist threat to world peace was real, and whether the war was 'winnable' but just pursued wrongly by its leaders, its still a controversal topic. Being the 'architect' of the American response to Vietnam's kicking out French colonial power after WW2, McNamara was directly involved in the policies, the key players, and how the war was pursued. Having kept silent all these years until this book was written, what he has done here is one big Mea Culpa. The book is perhaps one man's attempt to make peace with mistakes of his past. Given that perspective, you will either admire his honestly or find it incredulous that he did not draw those conclusions during the war.  At the end, I don't think he really brings much new to the American Vietnam experience. However, as a document to the one person that was intimately involved in that conflict, its worth reading if you have an interest of this era, but ultimately its not going to give you a new perspective on the war.

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Vietnam: A History- Stanley Karnow

This book was orginally written in 1983, but was revised in 1990 with additional interviews. Karnow was a reporter who was in Vietnam during the war, and had access to many primary sources. This is an excellet book that gives an account of the American involvement in Vietnam.  But be forwarned that it is exactly that, the American's experience and perspective in Vietnam. Nor is this a military history of the war, but a political history only - military details are only mentioned in the larger context of the whole conflict.  Some may disagree with some of his conclusions, but they are well argued. Given those caveats, this is a very good one volume introduction into the Vietnam war.

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