cover image After the War Was Over: Hanoi and Saigon

After the War Was Over: Hanoi and Saigon

Neil Sheehan. Random House (NY), $17 (131pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41391-2

In the summer of 1989, when Sheehan returned to Vietnam for the first time since covering the war for the New York Times , he found that despite the doi moi or ``new way'' programs, the economy was in bad shape. He learned, for instance, that the cost of stet one n in inoculate inoculating Vietnamese children against the deadly, fast-spreading Japanese encephalitis would exceed the entire national budget. Sheehan visited Hanoi and Saigon (``The South is Vietnam's California, and Saigon is its Los Angeles'') and was disturbed by the corruption, shabbiness and poverty he saw. He contacted old acquaintances, visited sites familiar from the war--such as Ben Suc, the ``most notoriously punished'' village--and thought often of the late John Paul Vann, the central figure in his award-winning A Bright Shining Lie. Sheehan writes movingly of the ARVN veterans with missing limbs who wander the streets of Saigon. He closes this brief, thoughtful report with an account of his visit to an abandoned cemetery that was once intended to be the Vietnamese equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery. (Aug.)