James G. Zumwalt
5.0 out of 5 stars Oral History at Its Best — Relevant to Future Strategy, Policy, Acquisition, Tactics, June 29, 2015
I received this book as a gift from the author, a fellow Marine retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, sometimes mistaken for his father, Admiral Zumwalt. I have gone through it twice. It is immediately in my top five books on Viet-Nam from an intelligence point of view, the other four books being:
The Tunnels of Cu Chi: A Harrowing Account of America’s Tunnel Rats in the Underground Battlefields of Vietnam
Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars
War without windows: A true account of a young Army officer trapped in an intelligence cover-up in Vietnam
None So Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam
This book is utterly unique as a systematic review, from the point of view of the Vietnamese, of every aspect of strategy, policy, acquisition, and tactics. It includes insights on both mediocre Chinese training of the Vietnamese that had to be discarded, and fearful behavior on the part of Soviet pilots and trainers that the Vietnamese found troubling.
This book is LOADED with empathy and ethics as well as common sense. It is an anti-war book from that point of view — perhaps to be read alongside Marine Corps General Smedley Butler’s War is a Racket (The Profit That Fuels Warfare): The Anti-war Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier — but it is also a deep primer for ignorant policy makers all too quick to sell out their own countries in support of elective wars they have been bribed to embrace, see for instance
and it is also a superb manual on operations and tactics — the constant cat and mouse game, the constant changing of tactics the allowed a barefoot force with virtually no heavy equipment to defeat the most expensive, most armored, most technologically “advanced” force on the planet. I would add John Poole’s books to the related reading, but really do want to stress that this book by James G. Zimwalt is in a class of its own.
As I reflect on the persistent ethical shortfalls I find across the US military, from Navy Sailing to Army officer corps lies to Air Force fraud as the default value, what keeps coming back to me is the “root” nature of ethics. We get into elective wars justified by lies because everyone lacks ethics from the policy makers that accept financial, religious, and ideological lobbying to the flag officers that forget their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies domestic and foreign to the craven media to the sheep-like poorly educated public and the lower elites who don’t have “skin in the game” because we eliminated the universal draft. At lower levels, because corruption is endemic at higher levels, the lack of accountability, the abuse of petty authority, the avoidance of due process, are a pandemic.
This is a moving and provocative book. It is a book absolutely worthy of being included in every ROTC, War College, and mid-career academy including the Office of Personnel Management executive development training course on national security. It is a book you could read many times over and find something new each time. Like Robert McNamara, the author has grown greatly in the aftermath of loyal unquestioning service and he knows, as I now know, that the greatest act of patriotism in any service is to always be ready to question authority.
Robert David Steele
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