Britain, America, and the Vietnam War (Book Review)

Reviewed by Peter Brush
By Sylvia Ellis
Praeger, Westport, Conn., 2004

The war in Vietnam was an enduring and damaging factor in the relations between the White House and 10 Downing Street during 1964-68. Despite persistent pressure, Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration was unable to get the British government to provide even limited military support for Vietnam. British historian Sylvia Ellis analyzes Anglo-American relations during that period, the first half of the Vietnam War, on the basis of official British and American declassified files and other published sources. Themes include the nature and workings of the special UK–U.S. alliance and the relationship between politics and personalities (LBJ and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson).

The British felt that a military solution would lead to a confrontation with either the Chinese or Soviets, and therefore favored a negotiated settlement to the conflict. Wilson paid a price for his public support of the United States since most Europeans and members of the Commonwealth opposed the war. Although the war provided a severe test, the special relationship was strong enough to endure the challenge to Anglo-American relations. Ellis makes an important contribution to the historiography of the war, but with more than 1,200 chapter notes this scholarly monograph will be slow going for the casual reader.

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