cover image 10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War

10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War

Philip Caputo, . . S&S/Atheneum, $22.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86231-1

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and Vietnam veteran Caputo (A Rumor of War ) pulls no punches in this portrait of the Vietnam War. In his introduction, Caputo movingly depicts the war's impact on him personally, but also objectively presents the events. "The Vietnam war has three dubious distinctions: It was the longest and most unpopular war in American history and the only war America ever lost," he begins. After setting the stage with the heating up of the Cold War, Caputo begins a three-part exploration of the Vietnam War's origins: French colonialism, the dividing of Vietnam, and America's intervention. The design packs a visual wallop: a strong full-page photographic or cartographic image appears opposite a clean and succinct discussion of the topic (usually one theme per spread), while a sidebar offers "quick facts," such as the six presidents involved in the war (from Truman to Ford), or explanations of terms like "Viet Cong." The full-page and inset photographs are dramatic and often haunting (e.g., a marine crouched in a pagoda on the Ho Chi Minh Trail). Caputo's balanced approach offers evidence of atrocities and humanity on both sides of the conflict. He documents how American soldiers developed unique combat techniques for guerilla warfare and for the terrain, such as the use of special forces, helicopters and Agent Orange. The narrative also spotlights the homefront—antiwar protests and songs, plus the impact of the publication of the Pentagon Papers. Caputo offers readers an intelligent, close-up view of a defining time in world history, with many pertinent insights and lessons for today. All ages. (Oct.)