Tiger in the Barbed Wire: An American in Vietnam, 1952-1991

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9780028810089: Tiger in the Barbed Wire: An American in Vietnam, 1952-1991

A former US Foreign Service officer and a novelist, Howard R. Simpson lived in Vietnam during both the French and the American involvements. In the 1950s he went on patrols at Dien Bien Phu as a USIA war correspondent, covered the fall of Hanoi, acted as a press adviser to Premier Diem, and was shot at during the Revolt of the Sects. In the 1950s he was a press adviser to Prime Minister Khanh. Simpson recently returned to Vietnam, and whilst there he interviewed General Giap. In this book he offers an insider's account of an explosive period. As he progresses from neophyte to "old Indochina hand", he describes what Vietnam was like then and what it is like today.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Memoir of Vietnam by the author of A Very Large Consulate (1988) and other novels, including one about the French war against the Vietnamese (To a Silent Valley, 1961). Well over half of Simpson's book concerns his tenure as press officer for the US Foreign Service in Saigon, 1952-55. Simpson got along well with the French, and the set-pieces here are his accounts of the battle of Dien Bien Phu and the vital engagement at Nasan that prefigured that great turning point. Particularly affecting are the desperate hopes of the French commanders and their Algerian/Moroccan/Legionnaire troops as the battle goes badly and they beg, in vain, for American air support. There are shades of Graham Greene's The Quiet American in Simpson's depictions of the dying French empire and the brash but naive American opportunism; and the portraits of the eternally patient General Giap and of the corrupt Diem regime are painstakingly informed, not only from Simpson's personal observations but also from declassified accounts. The chronicle ends with Simpson's 1991 return, as a correspondent, to Hanoi and Saigon, where he visits the set of the French-made film Dien Bien Phu, in which he is a character. He meets with General Giap, who muses on the inevitability of his peasant army's victory. But mostly what Giap and others want, Simpson explains, is for the American trade embargo to be lifted and for Vietnam's economy to achieve its considerable potential. The embargo, says Simpson, has lost every rationale and is now simply ``vindictive.'' Particularly engaging as a chronicle of French defeat and, despite all best advice, the taking up of the doomed struggle by the US. -- Copyright 1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

The author was one of the few Americans whose career in Saigon spanned the French and American eras; he served first as a press officer with the U.S. Information Agency, then as press adviser to South Vietnamese ?/fine.gs premier Ngo Dinh Diem and prime minister Nguyen Khanh. With verve, wit and an engaging readiness to admit mistakes, he evokes the exotic pre-Westmoreland years and the growing French resentment of the muscling-in Amerloques' "dangerous tendency toward criminal naivete." Simpson visited the French fortress of Dien Bien Phu before it fell to the Vietminh, toured villages with Khanh (the inhabitants, he reports, were "alternately wooed and punished" by the Saigon government and the Vietcong) and became part of the seething intrigue that characterized the difficult transition from the French to the American "military assistance command" mission. His memoir sheds new light on the inner workings of the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office, which was essentially the American ministry of information and propaganda in Saigon. Simpson retired from the foreign service in 1971 to become a novelist ( The Jumpmaster ), returning to Vietnam in 1991 as a journalist to obtain an unusually revealing interview with the legendary North Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap, which is included here.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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