The Year of the Hare: America in Vietnam, January 25, 1963-February 15, 1964.


FRANCIS X. WINTERS, The Year of the Hare: America in Vietnam, January 25, 1963-February 15, 1964 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1997), 292 + pp. $29.95 cloth (ISBN 0-8203-1874-4).

The Vietnam War was a tumultuous era in world history, characterized by conflict, discord, and a general atmosphere of combativeness. Lasting several years, the war divided Vietnam into two spheres, with the government of South Vietnam being aided by the United States, and insurgent communists drawing help from North Vietnam. Francis X. Winters examines one of the most important years of the Vietnam War, January 25, 1963 to February 15, 1964. Winters's research draws on a number of sources, ranging from in-depth interviews with key members of the Kennedy administration, to the multivolume publication titled The Foreign Relations in the United States, 1961-1964, Vietnam, to the general records of the U.S. State Department for 1963. This provides Winters with an extremely effective base for the analysis of salient issues and important actors at the time.

The book begins with a prologue that sets the stage and provides the reader with general knowledge of the environment in Vietnam for the year under examination. The main focus of the prologue concerns the events leading up to and the actual decision to overthrow the South Vietnamese leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, in November 1963. President Kennedy was pressed by certain members of his administration that the coup was a necessary choice, given that Diem was not only a difficult and troublesome ally but resisted American efforts to take over Saigon's war effort. Pressure on President Kennedy to support and enact the coup came from a variety of different directions, such as governmental officials, the media and influential writings by sources such as The New York Times, and members of his own presidential administration. As Winters points out, "the Kennedy administration policies were a blend of profound moral indignation against Diem and his family, on the part of Dean Rusk, George Ball, and Averell Harriman, and political opportunism by President Kennedy himself, who finally decided to allow Diem to be sacrificed on the altar of American public opinion despite his own lingering sympathy of Diem" (p. 4). In essence, driving Diem from power provided an opportunity to instill the Western values and ideologies of a representative form of government in South Vietnam. Kennedy, after realizing that Diem would not reform his repressive...

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