In This Review

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann And America In Vietnam

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann And America In Vietnam
By Neil Sheehan
861 pp, Random House, 1988
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This extraordinary book is many things: a biography of the legendary John Paul Vann (1924-1972), the courageous, outspoken and morally flawed professional soldier who committed himself to fighting the war in Vietnam with an intensity that Herman Melville would have understood; a compelling portrait of the fact of battle; an excoriating account of the corruption and brutality of the South Vietnamese regime; an indictment of the American generals and civilians who directed the war; implicitly an essay on the place of the military in American society and a commentary on American political values. The author worked on the book for 16 years, combining his own experience as a combat journalist in Vietnam with extensive interviews and archival research. Enthralling.