On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith, and Nationalist in the Viet Nam War, Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier by NguyÍ͂n CŰng Lu‚̩n: Two brilliant and important books that will change anyoneís understanding of the 1960ís.
††††††††† In 1998, when Cary Reich, a financial writer for Investorís Business Daily, virtually dropped dead at the age of 48 after having completed the well received volume one of The Life of Nelson Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer 1908 Ė 1958, a disappointed world wondered how this great magnum opus would be completed. His agent said he had already completed the research for the second volume.
††††††††††† There had never been a really good biography of Nelson Rockefeller if only because the Rockefellers had made secrecy a way of life. With the power conferred by so much money, many of the people in the know were on the family payroll and reluctant to betray the hand that fed them.
††††††††††† Now, along comes Richard Norton Smith with a one volume biography On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller.† This brilliant book, that benefits from Reichís research, reveals the extent to which Rockefeller, four term Governor of New York State and perennial aspirant to the presidency of the United States, through his foundations and expert study commissions, actually drove much of the domestic and international agenda in the 1950ís and 1960ís.† He hired and supported Henry Kissinger while Dean Rusk was president of the Rockefeller Foundation before becoming Secretary of State.
††††††††††† Smith has gained access to much personal documentary material that was unavailable to Reich.† Smith soft pedals the damage that Rockefellerís obsession with giant building projects did to New York Cityís and New York Stateís economy.† However, his exposition of Rockefellerís personality and foibles is brilliant and perceptive.
††††††††††† Amazingly, I came away from this book, not only with a much deeper understanding of the forces and personalities that shaped the all-important decade of the 1960ís, but secure in the knowledge that there is such a thing as being too rich.† I had always thought, and this book confirms, that Richard Nixonís greatest contribution to the United States of America is that he stood in the way of Nelson Rockefellerís becoming president of the United States.† For that alone, the nation should be eternally in Nixonís debt.
††††††††††† And we should be forever in Richard Norton Smithís debt for this brilliant and important biography.
Nationalist in the Viet Nam War, Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier by NguyÍ͂n CŰng Lu‚̩n, an incredible, intimate examination of the war from the perspective of a soldier who spent nineteen years in the South Vietnamese Army.† Lu‚̩n has no doubt that he was fighting on the right side.† Lu‚̩n was born in 1938 in a small village near Nam Dinh south of Hanoi. After 1945, when he was in the second grade, Lu‚̩nís village was in a no manís land between French and Viet Minh forces, so he alternately lived under both sides. †His father was a member of the nationalist party VNQDD. After his father was arrested and died in a Viet Minh jail, Lu‚̩n moved with his family to Saigon in the resettlement following the 1954 Geneva Accords.
In the early years of the war, Lu‚̩n was trained at Fort Bragg in 1957, and rose relentlessly in the ranks.† Uniquely, he spend three years as a director in the ChiÍu HŰ̀i program where he dealt with defectors from the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, so he has a really good understanding of the soldiers on both sides of the conflict. He returned for another course at Fort Bragg that ended in March 1975.† Nevertheless, he returned to South Vietnam, just in time for the end. After the collapse of South Vietnam, Lu‚̩n spent eight years in communist prisons in both north and south Vietnam.
After another eight years, he moved with his family to San Diego under the orderly departure program. Lu‚̩nís observations are important and priceless.† If nothing else, the complexities and nuances of the conflict are illuminated by someone who spent the thirty years from 1945 to 1975 immersed in the war.† This book makes the strongest possible case for why the United States was right to fight in Vietnam.† He claims that without American intervention, South Vietnam would have collapsed no later than 1967, and then the wholesale slaughter that the world witnessed in Cambodia would have been the fate of South Vietnam. For anyone looking for a book to make a veteran feel great about his or her service, this is it.