Saturday, August 15, 2009

09.25 To What End by Ward Just

To What End (1968) by Ward Just
Trade, PublicaAffairs, 179 p.

Continuing in my exploration of some of the more well regarded books covering the Vietnam War, I decided to read To What End. Ward Just was a correspondent “in country” for several years for the Washington Post. The book reads like an expansion of several pieces presented as chapters.

Similar to many other books on the era I have read the presentation is haphazard to some degree. Perhaps I am reading the wrong accounts but if one reads an account of WWII there is a certain clarity and sequential presentation of the events interspersed with analysis. Vietnam books seem to always be vignette driven – almost chaotic. For men who wrote right after the war there is probably a reason for this. The war was chaotic, dirty, undisciplined and difficult to analyze.

Ward Just admittedly wrote this book before the war was over and he wrote it quickly. He writes some vivid and detailed chapters on the South Vietnamese political scene in the heart of the war. These parts are very interesting and make you see how many competing regional, national and international interests there were at the time. Not entirely unlike Afghanistan right now.

In the end the best parts of this book are the small moments that he recounts being a journalist along for the ride. The jungle, the ambushes, the heat all combined to wear down soldiers in myriad ways.

A worthwhile book in the canon of Vietnam War literature but not the first one I would go to.

No comments: