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Magnificent New Book on the Vietnam War

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I just finished reading Dr. Mark Moyar's new book Triumph Regained: The Vietnam War, 1965-1968 (New York: Encounter Books, 2023). Simply put, the book is magnificent, absolutely magnificent. Of all the dozens of books I've read about the Vietnam War, this is one of the very best, definitely in the top three. The book presents new evidence on Westmoreland's performance, on the charge that Westmoreland was vastly underestimating enemy troop strength, and on McNamara's repeated use of deception and distortion to downplay the effectiveness of U.S. military operations, among many other issues.

H. R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, says the following about Dr. Moyar's book:

         This book is impeccably researched and elegantly written. Mark Moyar availed himself of newly available materials to shed fresh light and understanding on a crucial period of the Vietnam War. Triumph Regained poses a compelling reinterpretation that is bound to make uncomfortable those who contributed to or accepted the conventional wisdom on the war that emerged across the past half century.

One major contribution of the book is that it makes extensive use of declassified/newly published North Vietnamese sources that shed important light on numerous issues about the war. Among other things, these sources reveal the following:

-- The North Vietnamese suffered a long string of damaging, demoralizing defeats in 1966 and 1967 and began losing their grip on the countryside in mid-1966. Their grip on the countryside decreased even more substantially after the disastrous offensives in 1968. After suffering the horrific defeats of 1968, in some areas the Communists literally had no one left who was willing to continue the struggle, while in some other areas their presence was so vastly reduced that it was meaningless.

-- American estimates of North Vietnamese combat deaths were not wildly exaggerated but were fairly close to the numbers revealed in North Vietnamese sources. 

-- The North Vietnamese launched the January 1968 Tet Offensive because they concluded that they were losing the war, that time was no longer on their side, and that they could not withstand years of continued American bombing raids, even though those raids were restricted from hitting numerous vital targets.

-- American bombing raids hurt the North Vietnamese war effort even more than the most optimistic American analyses concluded they did. They did far more damage than Western powers suspected or realized at the time. 

-- The Tet Offensives in 1968 (Tet I, Tet II, and Tet III) were such devastating military disasters that even the Hanoi hardliners (Le Duan, Le Duc Tho, etc.) agreed to abandon the strategy of engaging in large offensives and to rely mainly on guerilla operations for the next three years. 

-- Mutinies and desertions in the North Vietnamese army were considerably more numerous than was previously suspected or identified.

-- The North Vietnamese assault on Khe Sanh was no feint. It was a full-scale assault that Hanoi hoped would be another Dien Bien Phu. Instead, it ended up being a lop-sided defeat that resulted in enormous North Vietnamese casualties.

-- The South Vietnamese army fought well in the majority of cases. Hanoi's leaders were surprised by how fiercely South Vietnamese forces fought in the first Tet Offensive and exercised more caution when attacking them in the next two offensives that year. 

The publisher's description of the book is as follows:

          Triumph Regained: The Vietnam War, 1965–1968 is the long-awaited sequel to the immensely influential Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954–1965. Like its predecessor, this book overturns the conventional wisdom using a treasure trove of new sources, many of them from the North Vietnamese side. Rejecting the standard depiction of U.S. military intervention as a hopeless folly, it shows America’s war to have been a strategic necessity that could have ended victoriously had President Lyndon Johnson heeded the advice of his generals. In light of Johnson’s refusal to use American ground forces beyond South Vietnam, General William Westmoreland employed the best military strategy available. Once the White House loosened the restraints on Operation Rolling Thunder, American bombing inflicted far greater damage on the North Vietnamese supply system than has been previously understood, and it nearly compelled North Vietnam to capitulate. 

          The book demonstrates that American military operations enabled the South Vietnamese government to recover from the massive instability that followed the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem. American culture sustained public support for the war through the end of 1968, giving South Vietnam realistic hopes for long-term survival. America’s defense of South Vietnam averted the imminent fall of key Asian nations to Communism and sowed strife inside the Communist camp, to the long-term detriment of America’s great-power rivals, China and the Soviet Union.

The book also contains new information from Soviet sources, such as the fact that the Soviets were so fearful of a Nixon victory in the 1968 election that they offered to provide money and other support to Hubert Humphrey's campaign. Soviet ambassador Dobrynin actually met with Humphrey to extend the offer. Humphrey declined the offer.

Edited by Michael Griffith
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