a bright shining lie

BOOK REVIEW: A Bright Shining Lie

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A Bright Shining Lie Book Cover A Bright Shining Lie
Neil Sheehan

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time In this magisterial book, a monument of history and biography that was awarded the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, renowned journalist Neil Sheehan tells the story of Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann–"the one irreplaceable American in Vietnam"–and of the tragedy that destroyed that country and the lives of so many Americans. Outspoken and fearless, John Paul Vann arrived in Vietnam in 1962, full of confidence in America's might and right to prevail. A Bright Shining Lie reveals the truth about the war in Vietnam as it unfolded before Vann's eyes: the arrogance and professional corruption of the U.S. military system of the 1960s, the incompetence and venality of the South Vietnamese army, the nightmare of death and destruction that began with the arrival of the American forces. Witnessing the arrogance and self-deception firsthand, Vann put his life and career on the line in an attempt to convince his superiors that the war should be fought another way. But by the time he died in 1972, Vann had embraced the follies he once decried. He went to his grave believing that the war had been won. A haunting and critically acclaimed masterpiece, A Bright Shining Lie is a timeless account of the American experience in Vietnam–a work that is epic in scope, piercing in detail, and told with the keen understanding of a journalist who was actually there. Neil Sheehan' s classic serves as a stunning revelation for all who thought they understood the war. From the Hardcover edition.

 

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

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

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

Amazon.com Review: This passionate, epic account of the Vietnam War centers on Lt. Col. John Paul Vann, whose story illuminates America's failures and disillusionment in Southeast Asia. Vann was a field adviser to the army when American involvement was just beginning. He quickly became appalled at the corruption of the South Vietnamese regime, their incompetence in fighting the Communists, and their brutal alienation of their own people. Finding his superiors too blinded by political lies to understand that the war was being thrown away, he secretly briefed reporters on what was really happening. One of those reporters was Neil Sheehan. This definitive expose on why America lost the war won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1989.
About the Book

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A Bright Shining Lie, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Neil Sheehan was both Vietnam War history and biography of John Paul Vann.  John Paul Vann became an adviser to the Saigon regime’s military in the early 1960s as part of the MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam). MACV was created in response to the increase in the United States military assistance to the government of South Vietnam.  Vann was a critic of how the war was fought.  Vann viewed the Saigon regime as corrupt and incompetent.  As time went by, he also became increasingly critical of the U.S. military command, especially under Paul Harkins and later, William Westmoreland.  This was because US Military Command was unable to adapt to the fact that while backing a corrupt regime, it was against a popular guerrilla movement. Vann was aginst many of the tactics employed.  One of these tactics that Vann was highly critical of is the strategic hamlet relocation.  Vann felt that this was counterproductive to U.S. objectives and  further alienated the peasant population. Vann was unable to influence the military command.  He used the Saigon press corps including Sheehan, David Halberstam and Malcolm Browne to his views and criticisms be known.

The book begins with a prologue about Vann’s funeral on June 16, 1972.  Vann died from a helicopter crash in Vietnam after the Battle of Kontum. Sheehan, being a personal friend, was present in the funeral.

After the prologue, the book is divided into seven sections called “books.”  this includes the details of Vann’s career in Vietnam and US involvement in the Vietnam War.

Book I – Vann’s assignment to Vietnam in 1962.

Book II – The origin of the Vietnam War.

Book III – This is about the disastrous Battle of Ap Bac on January 2, 1963.  The South Vietnamese army suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Viet Cong.

Book IV – Vann’s criticism of the way the war was being fought, his conflict with the U.S. military command and his transfer back to the USA.

Book V – Vann’s personal history before his involvement in the war.  Sheehan examines alleged moral charges which were career stunting incidents.  Sheehan discusses how these incidents probably affected Vann’s future actions and career both in and after Vietnam.

Books VI and VII – Vann’s return to Vietnam in 1965 as an official of AID (Agency for International Development).  Also discusses the failure of Vann to implement a war-winning formula for the U.S. Army fighting in Vietnam.  And lastly, how Vann eventually compromised with the military system he once criticized.  Vann, technically retired from the Army, was in charge of more American troops in direct combat than any other civilian in US history.

A Bright Shining Lie is a great lesson in history even though it is supposedly a biography of John Paul Vann.  It helps the reader understand the causes of the Vietnam War and why the USA would have never really won.  This is a must read for Vietnam War buffs.

In 1998, HBO made the picture A Bright Shining Lie, a film adapted from the book, with Bill Paxton playing the role of Vann.  Checkout the movie HERE.

a bright shining lie

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About the Author
Neil Sheehan

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 and a National Book Award for his 1989 book A Bright Shining Lie, about the life of Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann and the United States involvement in the Vietnam War.

From Goodreads.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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