Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Valley of Decision The Siege of Khe Sanh

by John Prados and Ray W Stubbe Naval Institute Press 2004. $32.95. ISBN 1591146968. Soft cover. 551 pages.
Widely acknowledged as the definitive history of the siege of Khe Sanh when first published in hardcover in 1991, this book tells the whole incredible story of one of the most pivotal and bloody battles of the Vietnam War. Historian John Prados and Khe Sanh survivor Ray Stubbe recount the brutal seventy-seven days of combat and present the larger political context that formed the all-important backdrop to the events on the battlefield in 1968.
From the first direct hit on the fifteen-hundred tons of ammunition stockpiled in the U.S. compound, through the day and night patrols, pounding mortar fire, and shifting battle lines, the words and deeds of the men of Khe Sanh are brought to life with a skillful combination of documentation and eyewitness accounts—from both sides of the conflict.Trying to write a review of this book, one word comes to mind right away - wow! The coauthors were truly a wonderful match - one had done a fantastic job of compiling material and the other a talented writer in his own right. The latter compiled the material that would make for good narrative. 
Two things really stood out from the Battle of Khe Sanh - electronic monitoring and the effects of B-52 strikes.
US Forces placed listening devices on the Ho Chin Minh trail and other strategic locations in the Republic of Vietnam. These were an effective tool of both estimating enemy troop strength and intentions.
Probably the greatest fear of North Vietnamese soldiers and something that caused numerous desertions, was the B-52 strike. Never before had this reviewer read about the demoralizing effect of being bombed by an aircraft you couldn't see or hear due to their elevation.
This work ranks as one of the finest written on the Vietnam conflict and should be on the bookshelf of anyone studying this period.

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