Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty

Viet Nam magazine

"What other outcome was there?"

That question was posed by Daniel Elsberg, father of the Pentagon Papers, in a chance encounter with (I think) Steve Sherman at a conference about the Vietnam War. The second issue of Viet Nam Veterans for Factual History is an attempt to answer Mr Elsberg's question. Was Vietnam an "unwinnable war"? VVFH Magazine is a free download (contributions are welcome, of course) at the website. You must register, if you haven't already done so; and if you have registered, you must log in. You'll then be given the password that opens the PDF. (If you're new to the site, you should download volume one as well.)

Personally, I've never been entirely convinced that the United States lost that war, which is the conventional wisdom. How do you lose a war when your last combat troops left the scene of battle two years ago? However that may be, there's a lot of good reading in this second issue of VVFH Magazine, as there was in the first. I expect to be still learning from it when November rolls around.

This is a much-hyped book, and I'm afraid I contributed to the hype with my Wall Street Journal review the other day. Temper your expectations! It's a good read, but it's hardly the earth-shaking event promised by the blurbs. (A blurb, as perhaps you know, is praise from a well-known colleague who probably hasn't read your book, and who expects you to return the favor with equally fulsome praise for one of his.) The Escape Artists is a good read, though the story is slow to begin and can be confusing at times. In brief, thirteen British officers (no enlisted men need apply, of course) tunneled out of the Holzminden prison camp in 1918. Altogether, twenty-nine officers got out before the tunnel collapsed. Nine of them covered the 120 miles to the Dutch border, on foot, while the tenth -- a fluent German speaker -- brazenly boarded trains that took him on a scenic tour of western Germany, dining meanwhile in cafeterias and even stopping for a shave and haircut before he walked across the border to freedom. For more, see my WSJ review.

Also reviewed this month on the Warbird's Book Club: Rampage, a searing history of the Rape of Manila in February 1945, and Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, a streaming mini-series well worth six evenings of your time.

And a close-out sale

Over the years, I've accumulated a pile of books now out-of-print or just bought in too-large quantities. I'm selling them off for $5 each. Add $5 for Media Mail postage in the United States (only), no matter how many books your order. They include three novels: Now Comes Theodora: A Story of the 1960s, The High Country Illuminator: The Ski Bums of Avalon, and Remains: A Story of the Flying Tigers. For non-fiction, there's the 2007 HarperCollins edition of Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and His American Volunteers, A Vision So Noble: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and the War on Terror, the Smithsonian hardcover of Glen Edwards: Diary of a Bomber Pilot, and The Country Northward: A Hiker's Journal.

They'll be autographed and mailed straightaway, as long as they last. Media Mail takes about a week in the Lower Forty-Eight. Get the order blank here. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford

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