Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time
In this magisterial book, a monument of history and biography that was awarded the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, renowned journalist Neil Sheehan tells the story of Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann–"the one irreplaceable American in Vietnam"–and of the tragedy that destroyed that country and the lives of so many Americans.
Outspoken and fearless, John Paul Vann arrived in Vietnam in 1962, full of confidence in America's might and right to prevail. A Bright Shining Lie reveals the truth about the war in Vietnam as it unfolded before Vann's eyes: the arrogance and professional corruption of the U.S. military system of the 1960s, the incompetence and venality of the South Vietnamese army, the nightmare of death and destruction that began with the arrival of the American forces. Witnessing the arrogance and self-deception firsthand, Vann put his life and career on the line in an attempt to convince his superiors that the war should be fought another way. But by the time he died in 1972, Vann had embraced the follies he once decried. He went to his grave believing that the war had been won.
A haunting and critically acclaimed masterpiece, A Bright Shining Lie is a timeless account of the American experience in Vietnam–a work that is epic in scope, piercing in detail, and told with the keen understanding of a journalist who was actually there. Neil Sheehan' s classic serves as a stunning revelation for all who thought they understood the war.
Praise for A Bright Shining Lie
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AND THE PULITZER PRIZE
"Dazzling . . . vividly written and deeply felt, with a power that comes from long reflection and strong emotions."
–The New York Times Book Review
"Masterly . . . a compelling, graphic and deeply sensitive biography [and] one of the few brilliant histories of the American entanglement in Vietnam . . . Sheehan's skillful weaving of anecdote and history, of personal memoir and psychological profile, [gives] the book the sense of having been written by a novelist, journalist and scholar all rolled into one."
The New York Times
"If there is one book that captures the Vietnam war in the sheer Homeric scale of its passion and folly, this book is it. Neil Sheehan orchestrates a great fugue evoking all the elements of the war."
The New York Times Book Review
"A brilliant work of enormous substance and ambition. In telling one man's story [A Bright Shining Lie] sets out to define the fatal contradictions that lost America the war in Vietnam. It belongs to the same order of merit as Dispatches, The Best and the Brightest and Fire in the Lake."
"The Washington Post Book World[A Bright Shining Lie] is more than a biography. It is also a compelling and clear history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Mr. Sheehan's book . . . is the best answer to any American who asks: 'How could this have happened?'"
The Wall Street Journal
"Enormous power . . . full of great accomplishments . . . Sheehan has written . . . the best book ever about Vietnam."
"One of the milestones in the literature about the war."
–The Christian Science Monitor