Embers Of War: The Fall Of An Empire And The Making Of America's Vietnam

by Fredrik Logevall

Random House Publishing Group | January 14, 2014 | Trade Paperback |

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WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
 
Written with the style of a great novelist and the intrigue of a Cold War thriller, Embers of War is a landmark work that will forever change your understanding of how and why America went to war in Vietnam. Tapping newly accessible diplomatic archives in several nations, Fredrik Logevall traces the path that led two Western nations to tragically lose their way in the jungles of Southeast Asia. He brings to life the bloodiest battles of France's final years in Indochina-and shows how, from an early point, a succession of American leaders made disastrous policy choices that put America on its own collision course with history. An epic story of wasted opportunities and deadly miscalculations, Embers of War delves deep into the historical record to provide hard answers to the unanswered questions surrounding the demise of one Western power in Vietnam and the arrival of another. Eye-opening and compulsively readable, Embers of War is a gripping, heralded work that illuminates the hidden history of the French and American experiences in Vietnam.
 
ONE OF THE MOST ACCLAIMED WORKS OF HISTORY IN RECENT YEARS
Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians • Winner of the American Library in Paris Book Award • Winner of the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award • Finalist for the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • The Christian Science Monitor • The Globe and Mail
 
"A balanced, deeply researched history of how, as French colonial rule faltered, a succession of American leaders moved step by step down a road toward full-blown war."-Pulitzer Prize citation
 
"This extraordinary work of modern history combines powerful narrative thrust, deep scholarly authority, and quiet interpretive confidence."-Francis Parkman Prize citation
 
"A monumental history . . . a widely researched and eloquently written account of how the U.S. came to be involved in Vietnam . . . certainly the most comprehensive review of this period to date."-The Wall Street Journal
 
"Superb . . . a product of formidable international research."-The Washington Post
 
"Lucid and vivid . . . [a] definitive history."-San Francisco Chronicle
 
"An essential work for those seeking to understand the worst foreign-policy adventure in American history . . . Even though readers know how the story ends-as with The Iliad-they will be as riveted by the tale as if they were hearing it for the first time."-The Christian Science Monitor
 
"A remarkable new history . . . Logevall skillfully explains everything that led up to Vietnam's fatal partition in 1954 [and] peppers the grand sweep of his book with vignettes of remarkable characters, wise and foolish."-The Economist
 
"Fascinating, beautifully written . . . Logevall's account provides much new detail and important new insights. . . . It is impossible to read the book without being struck by contemporary parallels."-Foreign Policy
 
"[A] brilliant history of how the French colonial war to hang on to its colonies in Indochina became what the Vietnamese now call 'the American war.'"-Esquire
 
"An excellent, valuable book."-The Dallas Morning News

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 864 Pages, 5.91 × 9.06 × 1.18 in

Published: January 14, 2014

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375756477

ISBN - 13: 9780375756474

Found in: History

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Embers Of War: The Fall Of An Empire And The Making Of America's Vietnam

Embers Of War: The Fall Of An Empire And The Making Of America's Vietnam

by Fredrik Logevall

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 864 Pages, 5.91 × 9.06 × 1.18 in

Published: January 14, 2014

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375756477

ISBN - 13: 9780375756474

Read from the Book

chapter 1 “The Empire Is with Us!” In the late afternoon of june 18, 1940, the tall, stiff-backed Frenchman walked into the BBC studios in London. His country stood on the brink of defeat. German columns were sweeping through France and had entered Paris. The French government under Marshal Philippe Pétain had fled for Bordeaux and had asked the Germans to state their terms for an armistice. These were the darkest days in the country’s history, but General Charles de Gaulle, who had arrived in London the day before, was convinced that France could rise again—provided that her people did not lose heart. De Gaulle had met earlier in the day with Prime Minister Winston Churchill and had secured permission to make a broadcast to France. He was pale, recalled one of those present, with a brown forelock stuck to his forehead. “He stared at the microphone as though it were France and as though he wanted to hypnotize it. His voice was clear, firm, and rather loud, the voice of a man speaking to his troops before battle. He did not seem nervous but extremely tense, as though he were concentrating all his power in one single moment.” De Gaulle’s thoughts that day were on the French Empire, whose resources, he sensed, could keep France in the war and fighting. And they were with Britain and the United States, great powers with whom he could ally. “Believe what I tell you,” de Gaulle intoned into the microphone, “for I kn
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From the Publisher

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
 
Written with the style of a great novelist and the intrigue of a Cold War thriller, Embers of War is a landmark work that will forever change your understanding of how and why America went to war in Vietnam. Tapping newly accessible diplomatic archives in several nations, Fredrik Logevall traces the path that led two Western nations to tragically lose their way in the jungles of Southeast Asia. He brings to life the bloodiest battles of France's final years in Indochina-and shows how, from an early point, a succession of American leaders made disastrous policy choices that put America on its own collision course with history. An epic story of wasted opportunities and deadly miscalculations, Embers of War delves deep into the historical record to provide hard answers to the unanswered questions surrounding the demise of one Western power in Vietnam and the arrival of another. Eye-opening and compulsively readable, Embers of War is a gripping, heralded work that illuminates the hidden history of the French and American experiences in Vietnam.
 
ONE OF THE MOST ACCLAIMED WORKS OF HISTORY IN RECENT YEARS
Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians • Winner of the American Library in Paris Book Award • Winner of the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award • Finalist for the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • The Christian Science Monitor • The Globe and Mail
 
"A balanced, deeply researched history of how, as French colonial rule faltered, a succession of American leaders moved step by step down a road toward full-blown war."-Pulitzer Prize citation
 
"This extraordinary work of modern history combines powerful narrative thrust, deep scholarly authority, and quiet interpretive confidence."-Francis Parkman Prize citation
 
"A monumental history . . . a widely researched and eloquently written account of how the U.S. came to be involved in Vietnam . . . certainly the most comprehensive review of this period to date."-The Wall Street Journal
 
"Superb . . . a product of formidable international research."-The Washington Post
 
"Lucid and vivid . . . [a] definitive history."-San Francisco Chronicle
 
"An essential work for those seeking to understand the worst foreign-policy adventure in American history . . . Even though readers know how the story ends-as with The Iliad-they will be as riveted by the tale as if they were hearing it for the first time."-The Christian Science Monitor
 
"A remarkable new history . . . Logevall skillfully explains everything that led up to Vietnam's fatal partition in 1954 [and] peppers the grand sweep of his book with vignettes of remarkable characters, wise and foolish."-The Economist
 
"Fascinating, beautifully written . . . Logevall's account provides much new detail and important new insights. . . . It is impossible to read the book without being struck by contemporary parallels."-Foreign Policy
 
"[A] brilliant history of how the French colonial war to hang on to its colonies in Indochina became what the Vietnamese now call 'the American war.'"-Esquire
 
"An excellent, valuable book."-The Dallas Morning News

About the Author

Fredrik Logevall is John S. Knight Professor of International Studies and professor of history at Cornell University, where he serves as director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.

Editorial Reviews

“This extraordinary work of modern history combines powerful narrative thrust, deep scholarly authority, and quiet interpretive confidence.” —Francis Parkman Prize citation   “A balanced, deeply researched history of how, as French colonial rule faltered, a succession of American leaders moved step by step down a road toward full-blown war.” —Pulitzer Prize citation “Fredrik Logevall’s excellent book Choosing War (1999) chronicled the American escalation of the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. With Embers of War, he has written an even more impressive book about the French conflict in Vietnam and the beginning of the American one. . . . It is the most comprehensive history of that time. Logevall, a professor of history at Cornell University, has drawn from many years of previous scholarship as well as his own. And he has produced a powerful portrait of the terrible and futile French war from which Americans learned little as they moved toward their own engagement in Vietnam.” — Alan Brinkley, The New York Times Book Review *Editor''s Choice* “Superb . . . penetrating . . . Embers of War is a product of formidable international research. It is lucidly and comprehensively composed. And it leverages a consistently potent analytical perspective. . . . Outstanding.” —Gordon Goldstein, The Washington Post   “A monumental history . . . a widely researched and eloquently written account of ho
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Bookclub Guide

1. Scholar A.J. Langguth writes, "These days, any history of Vietnam, no matter how scholarly and objective, will be read for what it teaches us now." Do you agree that the history of Vietnam primarily teaches us about war today? How does that approach expand your reading of Embers of War?

2. Logevall engages seriously with counterfactual history: "The story of the French Indochina War and its aftermath is a contingent one, full of alternative political choices, major and minor, considered and taken, reconsidered and altered." What are some of the major forks in the road that Logevall points to? How does the concept of choice versus inevitability change your understanding of the major players?

3. Two sides of Ho Chi Minh - nationalist and communist - struggle for prominence in his historical legacy. Which interpretation does Logevall lean towards? What about you? How does his identity shape your understanding and opinions of the War's outcomes?

4. On the other side of the same coin, the U.S. grappled with anti-colonial and anti-communist instincts. For the U.S., how was the conflict in Indochina a part of the cold war and how was it not?

5. Domino theory played a role in U.S. decision-making in Vietnam. However, a 2007 study of over 130 countries in the 20th century found that states are rarely influenced by changes in their neighbors' internal governmental structures. What does Logevall find flawed about the domino theory? What was so seductive about the concept in the 1950s?

6. In what ways does Logevall show individual leaders - determined, passionate, flawed - driving historical outcomes? Is it possible to separate the role of a single person from larger global forces? 

7. The battle of Dien Bien Phu was the first time in the history of colonial warfare that Asian troops defeated a European army in fixed battle. In the early days of the First Indochina War, the French and the Viet Minh seemed mismatched militarily, the French having a large advantage. What changed between 1945 and 1954, and why might the initial assessment of the French advantage have been wrong?

8.

General Westmoreland, who commanded US military operations in Vietnam from 1964 to 1972 said, "Why should I study the lessons of the French? They haven't won a war since Napoleon." How did the Americans see themselves as different from the French? In terms of goals? National identity? Military prowess? From today's perspective, how do you think the Americans were different from the French, if they were at all?



9. We all know the ending of Logevall's story. How does Logevall create suspense while avoiding sensationalism in a familiar historical narrative?

10. Logevall writes a good deal about Graham Greene and The Quiet American.  What does the novel say about America's eventual fate in Vietnam? What kind of observer does Logevall show Greene to be? Why do you think a novelist was able to read the circumstances in Vietnam more clearly than others, including journalists and military and political leaders?

11. Look over Logevall's endnotes. Where did most of his research come from? How do you think these sources shaped his conclusions? Do you notice any trends in both his primary and secondary source? Does anything surprise you?

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