Work Title: Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954--1965
Work Author(s): Mark Moyar
Cambridge University Press
552 pages, Hardcover $30.00
Reviewer: Karl Helicher
"The worst mistake we ever made was getting rid of Diem," lamented President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, a year and a half after the South Vietnamese President was murdered in a coup backed by the United States. Diem, as presented in most of the highly regarded narratives of the Vietnam War, including those of Stanley Karnow, David Halberstam, Fredrik Logevall, and many others, was a corrupt demagogue who brutalized the South Vietnamese people and was uncooperative with his American benefactors. Not so, says the author in this impressive and scrupulously researched revisionist history.
Moyar holds a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University, is the author of Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: The CIA's Secret Campaign to Destroy the Vietcong, and is currently Course Director at the U.S. Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia. This is the first of a two-volume reinterpretation of the war and it concludes with Johnson's 1965 decision to deploy ground troops to help bolster the South Vietnamese military, weakened by a series of coups and the inept leaders who followed Diem.
The Diem the author reveals is a patriot whose successful land reforms and tough anti-communism earned him the support of the South Vietnamese peasants and the grudging respect of the North Vietnamese military leaders. Although he was tolerant by Vietnamese standards, he was hated by Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge, the powerful Buddhist faction, and such reporters as...