How the war in Vietnam came to represent the outer limits of feasible American intervention, how the working of the democratic process finally forced President Johnson to abandon a policy of escalation, and why the particular events of March 1968 signaled the end of an era constitute the subject matter of this prize-winning, firsthand account. As under secretary of the Air Force from October 1967 to February 1969, Townsend Hoopes had an insider's perspective on events. His book is both compelling memoir and searching historical inquiry. For this new paperback edition, Mr. Hoopes has written a supplemental chapter interpreting the final events of 1973-75 and assessing with masterful clarity the whole period of American involvement in Vietnam, from 1945 to 1975.
Hoopes' book is "first a memoir and then, perhaps, a history" of the six months of vitriol and vacillation over Vietnam that culminated in LBJ's bombshell announcement of March 31, 1968, that he was refusing military requests for a major new infusion of troops, proclaiming a partial bombing halt, asking North Vietnam for negotiations, and withdrawing from the 1968 Presidential race. Obviously there is no attempt at impartiality in a book which calls the war an "intractable tragedy" on the first page, and in the course of the narrative Hoopes (as Under Secretary of the Air Force) politely plies his superiors with increasingly dovish memoranda. But the real hero of the story is Clark Clifford, newly appointed Secretary of Defense, whose own personal volte-face to the dove faction (et tu, Clark?) was decisive in bringing the President round. Hoopes gives some consideration to how we got in (a "fateful combination" of LBJ's uncertainty in foreign affairs and his advisors' simplistic Cold War dogmatism) and how we can get out, but his real contribution is the clearly written inside information on the Administration in work and fray. (Kirkus Reviews)