Cover image for The blood road : the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Vietnam War
The blood road : the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Vietnam War
Prados, John.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Wiley, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvi, 432 pages ; 24 cm
Geographic Term:
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DS558 .P74 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"Enormously illuminating. . . . John Prados can lead a reader, from the battle buff to the expert, through the series of campaigns near the DMZ and along Route 9 better than any other author I have read. . . . His understanding of the decision-making process in Hanoi is nuanced and sophisticated. . . . A first-rate book from a first-rate scholar." Robert K. Brigham, Vassar College

"The most comprehensive treatment yet of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and its place in the war." Washington Post

"An excellent book about one of the most important facets of the Vietnam War. . . . From now on it will be irresponsible for any Vietnam War scholar to deal with the strategy for this still controversial conflict without referring to The Blood Road, a thoughtful, painstakingly researched book." The Quarterly Journal of Military History

"A valuable work of interest to all scholars of the Vietnam War." Journal of Military History

Could the United States have won the Vietnam War if it had been able to cut off the Viet Cong from their North Vietnamese support by severing the Ho Chi Minh Trail? Acclaimed historian John Prados tackles this crucial question in this elegant, unprecedented, and exciting work of historical scholarship. Aided by recently declassified government documents and previously unavailable oral histories, memoirs, and interviews, Prados explores all sides of the conflict, providing details of the action in Hanoi and North Vietnam and avoiding the narrowly focused battle histories, atomized individual accounts, and overly generalized visions dominating previous histories.

A History Book Club Selection

Author Notes

JOHN PRADOS, Ph.D., is the author of nine other books on military history, including Combined Fleet Decoded, Hidden History of the Vietnam War, Valley of Decision, Keeper of the Keys, and Presidents' Secret Wars. Dr. Prados lives in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Prados, a military historian, has written the first comprehensive study of the role of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in determining the ultimate outcome of the Vietnam War. He vividly depicts the hardship and death encountered by those Vietnamese who carried supplies down from North Vietnam. Although Prados allows that those supplies were critical in supplying the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars, he effectively refutes those revisionist historians who claim the U.S. could have won the war by cutting the trail at supposedly critical points. He shows the successes and blunders on both sides, but he ultimately concludes that the war was not "lost" by the U.S. Rather, it was won by the determination, even fanaticism, of Vietnamese who viewed the struggle as resistance to foreign domination. Prados has provided a scholarly, readable, and quite convincing examination of an essential facet of the struggle. --Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Military historian Prados (The Japanese Navy in World War II) uses the notorious Ho Chi Minh Trail both as a focus for his history and as a metaphor for this blow-by-blow account of America's involvement in Vietnam. For the North, the trail was the "Truong Son Strategic Supply Route"; for Saigon, it was the path over which men and materiel moved to harry the South. And for the U.S., which supported the South after 1954, it was the "infiltration route" to the South and lower Laos, itself the "gateway to Southeast Asia" in America's Cold War against Communism. Prados draws on a wide array of sources, including formerly secret records of the U.S. government obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, to show how the American effort was unable to choke the flow of armaments, troops and civilians along the 12,000-mile road despite a "rain of destruction [that] peaked in 1969, when more than 433,000 tons of munitions fell on the land." Prados also describes the Cold War strategies of U.S. policy wonks like Walt. W. Rostow, JFK's main adviser on Indochina, and espionage services like the CIA. In sections specifically on the history of the Trail, Prados's massing of facts can be rough going. But when he treats the Trail as a microcosm of the war, it does allow for a measure of understanding of two devastating decades in Southeast Asia. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

"Plainly a Gateway to Southeast Asia": 1954-1960
Ants and Elephants: 1961-1962
The Watershed: 1962-1963
The Battle Joined: 1963-1964
Dark Road Ahead: 1964-1965
The World and The 'Nam
Squeezing Hanoi: 1965-1966
Indian Country: 1966-1967
Forks in the Road: 1967
Fire in the Night: 1968
Pinball Wizards: 1968-1969
A Strategy of Force: 1969-1970
No Plug in the Funnel: 1971
The Road Turns South: 1971-1975