Written by acclaimed historian Douglas Brinkley, this is the first full-scale, intimate account of John Kerry's Navy career. Brinkley has drawn on extensive interviews with everyone who knew Kerry well in Vietnam. Kerry also entrusted to Brinkley his letters home and his voluminous "War Notes" -- journals, notebooks, and personal reminiscences written during and shortly after the war.
Throughout Tour of Duty Brinkley deftly deals with such explosive issues as U.S. atrocities in Vietnam and the bombing of Cambodia. In a series of unforgettable combat-action sequences, Brinkley recounts how Kerry won the Purple Heart three times for wounds suffered in action and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Navy's Silver Star for gallantry in action.
When Kerry returned home a highly decorated soldier, he joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, becoming a prominent antiwar spokesperson. He challenged the Nixon administration and as Kerry's public popularity soared, the FBI considered him a subversive. Brinkley reveals how White House aides tried to discredit Kerry. Refusing to be intimidated, Kerry ran for public office, eventually becoming a U.S. senator. He never forgot his fallen comrades. Working with Senator John McCain, he returned to Vietnam numerous times looking for MIAs and POWs, becoming the leading proponent of "normalization" of relations with Vietnam. When President Clinton officially recognized Vietnam in 1995, Kerry's three-decade-long tour of duty had at long last finally ended.
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Historian Douglas Brinkley's insightful Tour of Duty covers John Kerry's heroic Vietnam service (where he won the Silver and Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts) and the fervent antiwar campaign it eventually spawned. Born to Boston Brahmin heritage, the son of an American diplomat, John Forbes Kerry was a child of good fortune--an eventual Yalie whose personal hero (John Fitzgerald Kennedy) shared his initials. However, Kerry's privileged upbringing instilled in him not a sense of entitlement, but a burning sense of public service. Though equally obsessed and revulsed by the burgeoning Vietnam conflict, Kerry's sense of duty led him to enlist in the Navy (after graduating Yale), and then volunteer for training as captain of a Swift boat (small aluminum vessels that patrolled the coastal waters and narrow, dangerous tributaries of Vietnam's massive Mekong delta). Brinkley's meticulous research relies on Kerry's detailed wartime diaries, logs, and interviews, (published here for the first time) as well as a wealth of accounts of the Navy's first extensive "brown water" riverine campaign since the Civil War. Those harrowing months only deepened Kerry's antipathy to the war, and he returned to become one of the most articulate leaders of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Brinkley's account gives crucial human dimensions to a man whose seeming aloofness has long plagued him. With Americans again dying in a controversial war halfway around the world, one cannot help but wonder if Kerry will yet again be able to pose the haunting question first put to a Congressional panel thirty years ago: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" --Jerry McCulleyAbout the Author:
Douglas Brinkley is director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies and professor of history at the University of New Orleans. Brinkley's recent publications include Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company and a Century of Progress and The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation with Stephen E. Ambrose. He lives in New Orleans with his wife, Anne, and daughter, Benton.
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