cover image The Hidden History of the Vietnam War

The Hidden History of the Vietnam War

John Prados. Ivan R. Dee Publisher, $27.5 (347pp) ISBN 978-1-56663-079-5

Prados (The Presidents' Secret Wars) offers a rare fresh look at the war in Southeast Asia. Instead of trying to cover it chronologically from start to finish, he has illuminated the ``high'' points and dilated on issues moving into eclipse. He brings into focus Lyndon Johnson's role in the 1954 Dien Bien Phu crisis, when LBJ was Senate minority leader; defines the political characteristics of the South Vietnamese Army; describes how the Buddhist Struggle Movement hindered that army's anticommunist efforts; defines U.S. intentions in the air war to a degree not seen previously; and explains President Nixon's controversial order to mine Haiphong Harbor in 1972. Of lesser significance but equally interesting, Prados considers such matters as the Viet Cong's radio-intelligence efforts, which, as he shows, were thoroughly professional. About the infamous U.S./government of South Vietnam Phoenix Program, which targeted the Viet Cong leadership but often rounded up and indiscriminately killed ordinary Vietnamese citizens, he writes, ``The antiwar protestors were right that Phoenix constituted a massive civil rights violation on a national scale.'' Turning to the tumultuous home front, Prados skillfully analyzes the Nixon administration's efforts to discredit American veterans' groups that opposed the war. (May)