TOUR OF DUTY: John Kerry and the Vietnam War

Douglas G. Brinkley, Author
Douglas G. Brinkley, Author . Morrow $25.95 (546p) ISBN 978-0-06-056523-7
Reviewed on: 12/22/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-06-058371-2
Compact Disc - 978-0-06-058372-9
Paperback - 546 pages - 978-0-06-056529-9
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Popular historian Brinkley's account of John Kerry's Vietnam experience could easily serve as the first part of a multivolume biography, examining the senator and presidential candidate's early life in rigorous detail. Entering the U.S. Navy soon after graduating from Yale in 1966, Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry commanded two Swift boat crews on river patrols in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. He kept "voluminous" notes during his service, maintained extensive correspondence with friends and family, and tape-recorded interviews with combat-seasoned comrades. With unrestricted access to this archival material and interviews with Kerry and surviving crewmates, Brinkley (coauthor with Stephen Ambrose of The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation ) depicts war in riveting detail, down to what music the crew of PCF-94 listened to on patrol. Though clearly centering his attention on Kerry, Brinkley also stresses the navy's under-recognized role in Vietnam while emphasizing the "true battlefield heroism" of American forces. Kerry's combat experiences make for gripping reading, and later sections on his high-profile role in the antiwar movement are equally engrossing, including the Nixon White House's efforts (involving a young Armistead Maupin) to discredit veteran-turned-antiwar-activist Kerry as a "phony." Final chapters fully address Kerry's political failures in the early 1970s while quickly summarizing later successes and how these successes were shaped by his Vietnam experience and ongoing relationships with fellow veterans. Though never intended as a political biography, this book offers perhaps the most insightful examination available of the character of this or any other Democratic candidate. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW . (Jan. 6)

Forecast: The first printing of 100,000 seems about right for such a timely book by a popular author. First serial went to the Atlantic Monthly. January 6 is a one-day laydown; that day, Brinkley will appear on the Today Show and The O'Reilly Factor.

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