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Year of the Hawk: America's Descent into Vietnam, 1965

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From a celebrated military historian, a powerful account of the most pivotal year of the Vietnam War—the cataclysm that forever changed America. The Vietnam War was the greatest disaster in the history of American foreign policy. The conflict shook the nation to its foundations, exacerbating already deep cleavages in American society, and left the country baffled and ambiva From a celebrated military historian, a powerful account of the most pivotal year of the Vietnam War—the cataclysm that forever changed America. The Vietnam War was the greatest disaster in the history of American foreign policy. The conflict shook the nation to its foundations, exacerbating already deep cleavages in American society, and left the country baffled and ambivalent about its role in the world. Year of the Hawk is a military and political history of the war in Vietnam during 1965—the pivotal first year of the American conflict, when the United States decided to intervene directly with combat units in a struggle between communist and pro-Western forces in South Vietnam that had raged on and off for twenty years. By December 1965, a powerful communist offensive had been turned back, and the US Army had prevailed in one of the most dramatic battles in American military history, but nonetheless there were many signs and portents that US involvement would soon slide toward the tipping point of tragedy. Vividly interweaving events in the US capital with action in Southeast Asia, historian James A. Warren explores the mindsets and strategies of the adversaries and concludes that, in the end, Washington was not so much outfought in Vietnam as outthought by revolutionaries pursuing a brilliant protracted war strategy. Based on new research, Year of the Hawk offers fresh insight into how a nationalist movement led by communists in a small country defeated the most powerful nation on earth.


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From a celebrated military historian, a powerful account of the most pivotal year of the Vietnam War—the cataclysm that forever changed America. The Vietnam War was the greatest disaster in the history of American foreign policy. The conflict shook the nation to its foundations, exacerbating already deep cleavages in American society, and left the country baffled and ambiva From a celebrated military historian, a powerful account of the most pivotal year of the Vietnam War—the cataclysm that forever changed America. The Vietnam War was the greatest disaster in the history of American foreign policy. The conflict shook the nation to its foundations, exacerbating already deep cleavages in American society, and left the country baffled and ambivalent about its role in the world. Year of the Hawk is a military and political history of the war in Vietnam during 1965—the pivotal first year of the American conflict, when the United States decided to intervene directly with combat units in a struggle between communist and pro-Western forces in South Vietnam that had raged on and off for twenty years. By December 1965, a powerful communist offensive had been turned back, and the US Army had prevailed in one of the most dramatic battles in American military history, but nonetheless there were many signs and portents that US involvement would soon slide toward the tipping point of tragedy. Vividly interweaving events in the US capital with action in Southeast Asia, historian James A. Warren explores the mindsets and strategies of the adversaries and concludes that, in the end, Washington was not so much outfought in Vietnam as outthought by revolutionaries pursuing a brilliant protracted war strategy. Based on new research, Year of the Hawk offers fresh insight into how a nationalist movement led by communists in a small country defeated the most powerful nation on earth.

36 review for Year of the Hawk: America's Descent into Vietnam, 1965

  1. 5 out of 5

    Christy (WeReadLikeThat)

    Year of the Hawk: America’s Descent Into Vietnam, 1965 by James A. Warren is a fascinating book about the people and events that precipitated the Vietnam War, as well as an account of the first troops sent to fight in that war. They were sent to Vietnam by President Johnson despite his campaign promise not to escalate our involvement and despite having been cautioned against it by many highly respected experts at the time. The soldiers there fought a difficult war, one without a clear enemy and Year of the Hawk: America’s Descent Into Vietnam, 1965 by James A. Warren is a fascinating book about the people and events that precipitated the Vietnam War, as well as an account of the first troops sent to fight in that war. They were sent to Vietnam by President Johnson despite his campaign promise not to escalate our involvement and despite having been cautioned against it by many highly respected experts at the time. The soldiers there fought a difficult war, one without a clear enemy and without the support of a majority of the people back home. Nonetheless, they fought bravely, with many enduring serious injuries and even years in POW camps. It saddens me that so many lives on both sides of the war were upended by the decisions of just a handful of people in power. This book is very well-researched and includes both American and Vietnamese perspectives and reports. I struggled to follow the frequent military terminology (platoon, battalion, flak, sorties, etc.), but still learned a great deal from reading it. If you have an interest in American history then I would highly recommend this book to you.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Seigler

    The Vietnam War is arguably the greatest single debacle in American military history: an epic, long war which saw our armed forces win on the battlefield but lose in the all-important sense of securing South Vietnam from the threat of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Communist threat, because in many ways the "Commies" did a better job of winning hearts and minds than we and our erstwhile allies in Saigon could manage. I've been reading a lot about the war over the last few years, perhaps in s The Vietnam War is arguably the greatest single debacle in American military history: an epic, long war which saw our armed forces win on the battlefield but lose in the all-important sense of securing South Vietnam from the threat of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Communist threat, because in many ways the "Commies" did a better job of winning hearts and minds than we and our erstwhile allies in Saigon could manage. I've been reading a lot about the war over the last few years, perhaps in some way to come to terms with whatever it was about the war that made my birth father (a Vietnam vet) who he was (in the sense of "a guy who fathers a child and then misses that child's life"). I've read many great books about the conflict ("A Rumor of War" and "Dispatches" are the two tops so far), and this one isn't quite in their league. But it does a good job of explaining why 1965, the "year of the hawks," was such a crucial turning point, a year in which the war was lost even before it properly began for American forces in-country. "Year of the Hawk," by James A. Warren, examines the tentative steps that the Kennedy and Johnson administrations took towards expanding American influence in South Vietnam and in trying to combat the insurgency of the civil war experienced in that country between the corrupt Diem government (and the no-less-corrupt governments that succeeded it) and the forces of North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, bent on uniting the country into one Communist unit in the wake of Indochina's defeat of the French colonialists in 1954. Warren pulls no punches in his assessment of the "best and brightest" who formulated the policy of American involvement, from Dean Rusk and Robert McNamera to General William Westmoreland and Johnson himself, a president obsessed with power who saw any effort to let the Vietnamese war play out without American involvement as a betrayal of JFK's aggressive behind-the-scenes support for what was supposed to be a democratic republic in the country's southern realm. The book is at its best when detailing the chronology of events leading up to the first introduction of American ground forces in 1965 (Marines landing at the beach at Da Nang), and in the boardroom discussions about how the war was supposed to unfold (versus the reality of what happened once the Army and other American services met the enemy on the field of battle). In his descriptions of the combat itself, I have to say that Warren loses me a little; I had a hard time keeping straight the various divisions and battalions and so on engaged in battle. But the combat itself is rendered in graphic, sometimes gory, detail, and lends to the overall thesis of the book about America's profound inability to be of any help in securing South Vietnam from the clutches of Ho Chi Minh and his allies. Beholden to the view (mistaken, as it turns out) that the North Vietnamese were being directed in their actions from either Moscow or Bejing, American strategists never considered that the quest to unite the two Vietnams lay in a more nationalistic, less Communist direction, or that the ways in which to win over the South were not through awesome displays of firepower but in little acts of charity and aid that could foster goodwill among the peasants and farmers who didn't trust the Saigon government to have their best interest (a belief which was correct, in that Saigon's government looked down upon the rural inhabitants of the country). The amount of expenditure wasted in the pursuit of goals that could never be realized is one of the overwhelming tragedies of the war, a hubris on par with Greek tragedy in the sense of "Americanization" that was doomed to failure. The American forces counted success in body bags; the Vietnamese saw success in the gradual erosion of their opponents' will to continue the fight. "Year of the Hawk" is a very well-done chronicle not just of the year in which America committed to Vietnam, but also of what we lost as a nation in doing so. We lost the moral high ground in many ways, and 1965 would prove to be the beginning of the period we have experienced since, the push and pull between being the leaders of the Free World and being the world's biggest punching bag for everything that's wrong. Vietnam was the conflict that we never should've gotten into, and we're still dealing with the repercussions of that conflict some sixty years since we first began looking at the war as something we could help conclude on our terms. As James A. Warren demonstrates, we should've never even bothered.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ernest Spoon

    Essentially a long ¨Military History¨ essay, ¨Year of the Hawk¨ is concise, yet detailed, look at the USA´s descent into madness that was the War in Vietnam. I was 15-years-old in 1965, and kind of caught up in the Cold War rhetoric coming out of Washington and the press. By 1966 I was changing my mind about Vietnam. By ´67 I was definitely anti-war. In retrospect, it´s too bad Lyndon Johnson didn´t pull the plug on the government in Saigon 1966, like Joe Biden did in Afghanistan in August of 20 Essentially a long ¨Military History¨ essay, ¨Year of the Hawk¨ is concise, yet detailed, look at the USA´s descent into madness that was the War in Vietnam. I was 15-years-old in 1965, and kind of caught up in the Cold War rhetoric coming out of Washington and the press. By 1966 I was changing my mind about Vietnam. By ´67 I was definitely anti-war. In retrospect, it´s too bad Lyndon Johnson didn´t pull the plug on the government in Saigon 1966, like Joe Biden did in Afghanistan in August of 2021. Of course the sorriest fact about Vietnam is, the idiot son of an asshole, who had spent his Vietnam era military duty in a ¨champagne¨ unit of the Texas Air National Guard, committed the US to not one but two mini-Vietnams, Iraq and Afghanistan. However George Dubya Bush paid scant political price for his blunder. Both those wars were fought by an all volunteer force. The AVF was a knee-jerk reaction to the massive draftee army that fought in Vietnam. The creation of the AVF, its supporters, ranging from Vietnam Veterans Against the War to its chief architect, ¨free market¨ economist Milton J. Friedman, was touted as an antidote to endless warfare. In the 1960s and 70s college students made up the bulk of anti-Vietnam War activists. With presidential wars being fought by ¨those who wanted to be there,¨ college students didn´t give a shit in the 2000s.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carl

  5. 4 out of 5

    Perry Fong

  6. 5 out of 5

    John W

  7. 4 out of 5

    Garry Wilmore

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elliot

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

  10. 5 out of 5

    Liam

  11. 4 out of 5

    Krzysiek (Chris)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Boiko

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

  14. 5 out of 5

    Victoria (RedsCat)

  15. 5 out of 5

    James Harrison

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kovan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

  19. 5 out of 5

    Warrick

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mackenzie Virginia

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christa

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emrys

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steve Spencer (he, him, his)

  26. 5 out of 5

    A.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bob McCormick

  29. 5 out of 5

    Clare Mcnally

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

  31. 5 out of 5

    Zoe Garden

  32. 5 out of 5

    Noah

  33. 4 out of 5

    Bill Holmes

  34. 4 out of 5

    Beck

  35. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  36. 5 out of 5

    Zachery Barger

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