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Review Essay

What Really Happened in Vietnam

The North, the South, and the American Defeat

In This Review

Hanoi's War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (The New Cold War History)
Hanoi's War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (The New Cold War History)
By Lien-Hang T. Nguyen
The University of North Carolina Press, 2012, 464 pp. $34.95 Purchase

Northern nemesis: A Vietcong soldier taking part in the Tet offensive, 1968 (Getty Images / Agence France-Presse)

This past Memorial Day, U.S. President Barack Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War with a speech at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. "Even now, historians cannot agree on precisely when the war began," he said. "But if any year . . . illustrated the changing nature of our involvement, it was 1962." It's a debatable choice. The United States was already deeply involved in combating the Communist-led insurgency in South Vietnam in the late 1950s and before that had supplied and bankrolled France's losing effort against Ho Chi Minh's revolutionary forces. Historians usually date the start of the Second Indochina War -- what the Vietnamese refer to as "the American War" -- to 1959 or 1960. 

Still, there is no question that Washington's military commitment deepened appreciably in 1962, as vast quantities of U.S. weapons,

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