The Battle of Ap Bac: They did Everything But Learn from It.

Author:Cirafici, John L.
Position::Book review
 
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The Battle of Ap Bac: They did Everything But Learn from It. By David M. Toczek, 2007. The Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Md.: Maps. Tables. Diagrams. Illustrations. Photographs. Notes. Appendices. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xxviii, 185. $19.95 Paperback ISBN: 1-59114-853-1

Ap Bac is in many ways an obscure, short-duration, and relatively small-scale engagement in a war far away and 45 years ago. It was a clash early in the Vietnam War during the advisory phase, between battalion-sized elements of the Viet Cong insurgents and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). U.S. Army involvement consisted of a handful of advisors and helicopters. So why are we revisiting this minor battle?

For students of the Vietnam War and of the presidential decision-making process in that phase of the war, the Battle of Ap Bac was a watershed event. Before the battle, the United States was in the relatively low-key and very limited advisor phase of the war. Because of misinterpretations of the war in general and of what the battle signified, the United States in its aftermath made a series of fateful decisions that led by 1965 to full-blown, direct involvement in major combat in Vietnam. This book steps the reader through events and decision-making surrounding the battle and the conclusions drawn not only at the tactical level, but also--and much more importantly--in Washington at both the White House and at the Pentagon. As Toczek makes abundantly clear, "they did everything but learn from it." The author argues that it should have been obvious to senior military leadership and the Kennedy Administration that U.S. policy was headed in the...

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