Lost Inside the Machine

A historian describes the paranoia of soldiers trapped in an unwinnable war

Those of us who served in World War II were untroubled by ambiguities. We were the "good guys," our cause was righteous, and our clear but difficult task was to push back the "bad guys." I arrived in Vietnam as a correspondent 25 years later, just as the first shots were being fired--and, on and off, spent more than a decade there. I sensed from the beginning that however the embryonic conflict evolved, it would be drastically different from any in our past, and it was.

We oozed into Vietnam, starting with President Harry Truman's decision to subsidize the French in...

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