Come with me now deep into the heart of darkness [–] October 1967 [–] when American soldiers were fighting and dieing in Vietnam, college campuses were starting to churn with protest and a president was caught in a vise from which he would not escape.
Yes, it's time once again for another march into good reading, and my latest recommendation concerns all those subjects rolled into one fascinating story.
The book is "They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967" by Washington Post reporter David Maraniss.
It focuses on a few days in mid-October 1967 and tells the story of a tragic battle in the jungles of South Vietnam, student protest at the University of Wisconsin in Madison over on-campus job recruitment by the Dow Corp. and President Lyndon Johnson's fruitless search for a military or diplomatic solution to end the war in Vietnam.
This book is mostly about people [–] foot soldiers and their commanders from both sides, student protesters and university administrators, elected officials and their aides [–] and their stories drive the book.
It's a blow-by-blow account of combat in the jungle, conflict on campus and consternation over an unsolvable problem at the highest levels of the American government.
The military story focuses on the Black Lions, a unit of the U.S. Army's First Infantry Division that marched into a murderous ambush that left 61 soldiers dead and an equal number wounded. Whether the characters are career soldiers trying to carry out orders or draftees just trying to stay alive, the account of this disastrous and sometimes heroic battle and its aftermath paints everyone in very human terms.
The Dow protest follows a similar tone, explaining the viewpoints and motives of everyone from the most naive student protesters to William Sewell, a respected sociologist whose chancellorship at UW was marred by student protests. Ultimately, the Dow protest escalated from advocacy to civil disobedience and, finally, to a violent confrontation between police and protesters that drew national attention.
Finally, there's the Washington angle, where President Johnson watched helplessly as his inability to win in Vietnam or negotiate a settlement doomed his presidency.
While not happy, it's a terrific, well-told story about bad situation getting worse, producing consequences neither intended nor foreseen.
Here are the previous recommendations from Jim's Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club:
[– ] "Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission" by Hampton Sides.
[– ] "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris.
[– ] "A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord.
[– ] "April 1865: The Month That Saved America" by Jay Winik.
[– ] "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand.
[– ] "Lindbergh" by A. Scott Berg.
[– ] "The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963" by Laurence Leamer.
[– ] "The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case" by Sam Roberts.
[– ] "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" by Jane Leavy.
[– ] "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions" by Ben Mezrich.
[– ] "Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World" by Steve Neal.
[– ] "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis.
[– ] "Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone" by Martin Dugard.
[– ] "In Harms Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors" by Doug Stanton.
[– ] "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34." by Bryan Burrough.
[– ] "Flags of our Fathers," by James Bradley.
[– ] "Cary Grant: A Biography" by Marc Elliot.
[– ] "Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager" by Buzz Bissinger.
[– ] "Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York" by Kenneth Ackerman