“The Making of a Quagmire” by David Halberstam


The Award-Winning author of this book tends to bring to the reader an insight into what took place during the Vietnam War. The book, which was written in the 1960s during the war, gives an analysis of the mistakes made by the American military and the misconceptions by the political leaders during this war.

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Important Lessons Learnt From The Book

This captivating book brings to light the real scenario of what happened during the Vietnam War rather than what is shown in the movies. Halberstam paints the real picture of accounts that took place in the years 1961-1962 that led to the involvement of the American political arena and the military. The book aids the reader to understand the role of political leaders in any war when he talks about the end of the Ngo-Diem era by a coup in the early 1960s. Halberstam claims that President Ngo Dinh Diem failed to get the exact detailed information from his underlings on the bad things that were happening in other provinces. Ignorance portrayed by the leaders is also brought to the attention of the reader by the author. Ambassador Nolting and Harkins failed to take a keen interest in the poor progress of the war but were quick to give information based on their own opinions to President Kennedy, McNamara, and Rusk.

The Role Of Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu

Married to President Diem’s brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, Madame Nhu held a prestigious position in the political arena. Originally a Mahayana Buddhist, she converted to be a Catholic upon her marriage to Ngo Nhu which was his religion. Chapter 8 of the book and in particular page 127 highlights the crisis faced by the Buddhists in early 1962. The crisis was blamed on the strong anti-Buddhists beliefs held by Madame Nhu. Her hatred is brought to light by the accusation of throwing a bowl of soup at President Diem upon hearing that he was about to sign a compensatory statement to the relatives of Buddhists protestors who had been killed by police. Further, when Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist protestor torched himself in Saigon as a protest against Buddhists’ shootings by Diem’s administration, Madame Nhu was overjoyed by the act labeling it a ‘barbecue’. She even offered to give the protesters matches and fuel. The book brings out the evil character of Madame Nhu during the war. It is a particularly very sad fact that the American advisors had to deal with such traitors and sadists as their allies in a quest to end the war.

The Press Vs The Government

Finally, it is important to look at the two bodies that played an important role during the war and determine which of the two was right. The author, who in this case might represent the press recounts the happenings firsthand as a journalist and has no reason whatsoever to be biased. On the other hand, the government by concealing vital information fails in its credibility to be relied on in their opinion of what happened in Vietnam. The press is, therefore, to be trusted.


The Making of a Quagmire is a book worth reading to get a truthful insight from an unbiased party about the shocking events during the Vietnam War. It gives a whole new perspective about the contribution of the Americans under the era of President Kennedy.

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