Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War: Military Information You’re Not Supposed To Know, by James F. Dunnigan and Albert A. Nofi, St. Martin’s Press (an imprint of Macmillan), New York, $27.50.
This book exposes few secrets, and those exposed are not particularly dirty. That said, Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War is a valuable addition to a Vietnam War library. It contains a variety of information, displayed in numerous easily read graphs and charts.
James F. Dunnigan and Albert A. Nofi’s book thoroughly debunks some of the favorite myths surrounding the war. One such myth is that “America suffered a military defeat.” The United States never lost a battle in the field, but it did not win the political battle in Vietnam. The NVA defeated the United States the same way they defeated the French, but without the need for a Dien Bien Phu. Relying on typical Western impatience, the North Vietnamese avoided combat as much as possible, depending on newspapers and television to take the horrors of war into American living rooms.
One secret that was considered dirty by opponents of the war was the clandestine operations in Cambodia and Laos, where allied forces battled North Vietnamese troops protecting the Ho Chi Minh Trail and operating from Cambodian sanctuaries. Special Forces and other allied units operating outside South Vietnam were closely guarded secrets at the time, but have been widely written about in recent years.
Although it is well known within the military community, most Americans are surprised to hear that the U.S. Air Force dropped more bomb tonnage in Vietnam than they did in World War II and Korea combined. Of course, a Vietnam-era fighter-bomber such as the McDonnell F-4 could carry a larger bombload in weight than World War II bombers. The Vietnam War also lasted much longer than American participation in World War II.
The dirtiest secrets noted in this book have to do with the credentials and associations of various Vietnam War opponents. According to Dunnigan and Nofi:
Wilfred G. Burchett, leftist Australian journalist, was paid by the Russian KGB.Noam Chomsky, leftist intellectual and critic, was an ardent apologist for Pol Pot’s murderous Cambodian regime.William Sloan Coffin, a prominent clergyman critic, has since become an important voice in promoting U.S. involvement in Somalia, Bosnia and other places.Ira Einhorn, prominent anti-war and environmental activist and one of the founders of “Earth Day,” was indicted for murder in 1981. Bailed out by a coterie of leftist intellectuals, he jumped bail, taking refuge in France.Jane Fonda went with Communist Angela Davis to the Soviet-sponsored World Youth Festival.Abbie Hoffman, leader of the Youth International Party, specialized in causing riots, but was also a major cocaine dealer.As for the authors: Dunnigan has been a State Department, CIA and Army War College consultant; Nofi was the editor of a series titled The Great Campaigns of Military History.
Calvin G. Bass