Jim’s Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club Vol. LXI

Jim’s Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club Vol. LXI


One need not be a genius, or even a pseudo-intellectual, to know that war is hell — the body counts speak for themselves.
But having an understanding is one thing, and being buried in the grim details is quite another.
War is, indeed, hell, and the men who fight often are ordinary G.I. Joes trapped in extraordinary circumstances.
Khe Sanh, the site of the late 1967/early 1968 siege involving 6,000 U.S. Marines surrounded by 20,000 North Vietnamese troops, was described as “hell in a small place.”
Gregg Jones’ book “Last Stand at Khe Sanh: The U.S. Marines Finest Hour in Vietnam” is the story of that three-month stand conducted at the height of the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam, the nationwide attacks in which Vietcong and North Vietnamese troops failed to win the war even as they achieved a public relations triumph.
In the big picture, the epic battles at Khe Sanh were characterized to a worldwide audience as North Vietnam’s attempt to repeat its 1954 defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu. President Lyndon Johnson and top U.S. military commanders were determined not to let that happen.
But for the grunts on the ground, the contest was a day-to-day struggle for survival, fending on daily sniper, mortar and artillery attacks interspersed by full-scale assaults by enemy troops. Much of the time, American were required to live in underground bunkers and move about their embattled turf in trenches lines.
At best, life at Khe Sanh was miserable, filthy and depressing. At worst, life there meant death.
It’s a sad story, but what a story it is. Jones hits the nail on the head when he characterizes the Marines’ determination as the corps’ finest hour. Other soldiers in other battles may have been just as courageous, but no soldiers anywhere could have been more courageous.
So, too, were the North Vietnamese, who fought with amazing determination, courage and skill. Before they finally threw in the towel and pulled out, North Vietnamese soldiers died in astounding numbers, many of them vaporized in relentless B-52 attacks.
Jones’ book carefully weaves the big picture in with the smaller one — the soldiers themselves. He tells of life, death, heroism, foolhardy courage and, occasionally, what would be regard as failures of nerve under deadly extremes.
This fine book offers a very human story of soldiers living under inhuman conditions in a war most Americans would prefer to forget. Those who read it will find the story of Khe Sanh unforgettable.

Here are 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 Harm’s 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.
[-] “They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967” by David Maraniss.
[-] “Flashman” (a novel) by George MacDonald Fraser.
[-] “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and A World on the Brink” by David Margolick.
[-] “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City” by Jonathan Mahler.
[-] “Five Families: the Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires” by Selwyn Raab.
[-] “The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and the Golden Age of Basketball.” by John Taylor.
[-] “American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies” by Michael Kauffman.
[[-] “The Looming Tower: al-Qaida and the Road to 9/11” by Lawrence Wright.
[- ) “A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports” by Brad Snyder.
[-] “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis.
[-] “The Education of a Coach” by David Halberstam.
[-] “Arc of Justice: A Sage of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age” by Kevin Boyle
[-] “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan.
[-] “The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case” by James Neff.
[-] “The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House” by John Harris.
[–] “FDR” by Jean Edward Smith
(-) “The Unlikely Spy” (a novel) by Daniel Silva.
(-) “Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal” by Ben Macintyre
(-) “The Interpretation of Murder” (a novel) by Jed Rubenfeld
(-) “The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country” by Laton McCartney.
(-) “The Last Great Fight: The Extraordinary Tale of Two Men and How One Fight Changes Their Lives Forever”
by Joe Layden.
(-) “The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958 and the Birth of the Modern NFL” by Mark Bowden.
(-) “Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family” by Joaquin “Jack” Garcia.
(-) “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer
(-)  “Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi” by Neal Bascomb
(—) “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Goodwin.
(—) “His Excellency: George Washington” by Joseph Ellis.
(—) “Clemente” by David Maraniss
(—) “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963” by Robert Dallek
(-) “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler.
(-) “Tears in the Darkness” by Michael and Elizabeth Norman
(—) “The Scarecrow” by Michael Connelly (mystery novel).
(-) “Four Days in November” by Vincent Bugliosi
(—) “Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald.” by Edward Jay Epstein
(—) “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation” by Michael  MacCambridge
(-) “Billy Boyle” (fiction) by James Benn
(-) “The Ghost War” (fiction) by Alex Berenson
(-) “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President” by Candice Millard
(—) “Cobb” (a biography of baseball great Ty Cobb) by Al Stump.
(-) “The Boys in the Boat, Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Dan Brown.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at jdey@news-gazette.com or at 351-5369.

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