Cover image for Tour of duty : John Kerry and the Vietnam War
Title:
Tour of duty : John Kerry and the Vietnam War
Author:
Brinkley, Douglas.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, 2004.
Physical Description:
xii, 546 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
Electronic Access:
Publisher description http://www.loc.gov/catdir/description/hc044/ 2003068600.html
ISBN:
9780060565237
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Covering more than four decades, Tour of Duty is the definitive account of John Kerry's journey from war to peace. Written by acclaimed historian Douglas Brinkley, this is the first full-scale, intimate account of Kerry's naval career. In writing this riveting narrative, Brinkley has drawn on extensive interviews with virtually everyone who knew Kerry well in Vietnam, including all the men still living who served under him. Kerry also entrusted to Brinkley his letters home from Vietnam and his voluminous "War Notes" -- journals, notebooks, and personal reminiscences written during and shortly after the war. This material was provided without restriction, to be used at Brinkley's discretion, and has never before been published.

John Kerry enlisted in the Navy in February 1966, months before he graduated from Yale. In December 1967 Ensign Kerry was assigned to the frigate U.S.S. Gridley; after five months of service in the Pacific, with a brief stop in Vietnam, he returned to the United States and underwent training to command a Swift boat, a small craft deployed in Vietnam's rivers. In June 1968 Kerry was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade), and by the end of that year he was back in Vietnam, where he commanded, over time, two Swift boats. 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, he 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 from Southeast Asia, he joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), becoming a prominent antiwar spokesperson. He challenged the Nixon administration on Capitol Hill with the antiwar movementcheering him on. As Kerry's public popularity soared in April-May 1971, the FBI considered him a subversive. Brinkley -- using new information acquired from the recently released Nixon tapes -- reveals how White House aides Charles Colson and H. R. Haldeman tried to discredit Kerry. Refusing to be intimidated, Kerry started running for public office, eventually becoming a U.S. senator from Massachusetts. But he never forgot his fallen comrades. Working with his friend Senator John McCain, he returned to Vietnam numerous times looking for MIAs and POWs. By the time Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, Kerry was 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 ended.


Author Notes

Douglas Brinkley was born in Atlanta, Georgia on December 14, 1960. He received a B.A. from Ohio State University in 1982 and a Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 1989. He was a professor at Tulane University, Princeton University, the U.S. Naval Academy, Hofstra University, and the University of New Orleans. In 2007, he became a professor at Rice University and the James Baker Institute for Public Policy. He is a commentator for CBS News and a contributing editor to the magazine Vanity Fair.

His first book, Jean Monnet: The Path to European Unity, was published in 1992. His other works include Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years, The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House, Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress, The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day, and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion, The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Cronkite, and Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America. He also wrote three books with historian Stephen E. Ambrose: The Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938, Witness to History, and The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation: From the Louisiana Purchase to Today. He has won several awards including the Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Naval History Prize for Driven Patriot and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The Vietnam War has deep footprints, especially for political candidates whose valor in combat often becomes a key platform plank. Presidential candidate John Kerry's service as a navy gunboat captain in the Mekong Delta is a key part of his stump speech. For Kerry and his campaign, however, Vietnam is especially defining in that it showcases not just leadership under fire but also the development of his antiwar activism, which established Kerry as an articulate opponent of the war with the credentials to give his words weight. Brinkley's account follows an adventurous young Kerry as he enlists straight out of Yale and requests dangerous river duty, where he witnesses horrible things, gets wounded, and becomes anxious about the distance between the administration's objectives and the experiences of soldiers. Yet Brinkley also consistently strives to show us that Kerry was different from other soldiers--more intellectual, less prone to vice, always striving for perspective on his actions. Built out of interviews and historical research, as well as Kerry's diaries, there is enough of a war narrative here to satisfy Vietnam buffs, even if they aren't interested in Kerry's politics. Political buffs will do best to wade patiently through the combat action, which is followed by the veteran's antiwar testimony before Congress. This would be a timely book even if Kerry weren't running for president. --Brendan Driscoll Copyright 2003 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Popular historian Brinkley's account of John Kerry's Vietnam experience could easily serve as the first part of a multivolume biography, examining the senator and presidential candidate's early life in rigorous detail. Entering the U.S. Navy soon after graduating from Yale in 1966, Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry commanded two Swift boat crews on river patrols in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. He kept "voluminous" notes during his service, maintained extensive correspondence with friends and family, and tape-recorded interviews with combat-seasoned comrades. With unrestricted access to this archival material and interviews with Kerry and surviving crewmates, Brinkley (coauthor with Stephen Ambrose of The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation) depicts war in riveting detail, down to what music the crew of PCF-94 listened to on patrol. Though clearly centering his attention on Kerry, Brinkley also stresses the navy's under-recognized role in Vietnam while emphasizing the "true battlefield heroism" of American forces. Kerry's combat experiences make for gripping reading, and later sections on his high-profile role in the antiwar movement are equally engrossing, including the Nixon White House's efforts (involving a young Armistead Maupin) to discredit veteran-turned-antiwar-activist Kerry as a "phony." Final chapters fully address Kerry's political failures in the early 1970s while quickly summarizing later successes and how these successes were shaped by his Vietnam experience and ongoing relationships with fellow veterans. Though never intended as a political biography, this book offers perhaps the most insightful examination available of the character of this or any other Democratic candidate. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Jan. 6) Forecast: The first printing of 100,000 seems about right for such a timely book by a popular author. First serial went to the Atlantic Monthly. January 6 is a one-day laydown; that day, Brinkley will appear on the Today Show and The O'Reilly Factor. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

A campaign biography? (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Tour of Duty John Kerry and the Vietnam War Chapter One Up from Denver The sun was glaring through the windshield of Richard J. Kerry's single-engine light aircraft as he prepared for takeoff from a runway in northern Virginia on February 27, 1954. Mild, with temperatures in the mid fifties, no clouds in sight, it was a perfect day to fly. During World War II Kerry had served the United States government as a pilot in the Army Air Corps, flying DC-3s and B-29s. Now he was based in Washington, D.C. , serving as an attorney for the State Department's Bureau of United Nations Affairs. This was, however, to be his final flight. With his eleven-year-old son John sitting in the rear seat, Kerry, now a civilian,started the engine and checked his navigational charts. Everything was in working order. "Don't touch the stick," he cautioned his son before takeoff. "Not until you're older." Anybody who knew the austere and hardworking Kerry well thought of him as a man with an intense, careful disposition, a pilot whose logbook was as tidy as an accountant's ledger. This particular book, beige in color and three-quarters full, had been kept since 1940. During World War II he had crisscrossed America numerous times, including long stints in Alabama, Ohio, California, and Colorado. Today was no different from any other flight day: he carefully scrawled "Alexandria Local Aeronca" in his book. He was hoping to give his son an aerial view of metropolitan Washington sites. Usually Kerry never editorialized in his log: just the no-nonsense facts. But on this last flight he made an exception, writing something personal: "Flight over Mt. Vernon with Johnny."The flight lasted for only a brief forty minutes. But forty years later he sent the logbook and wings to his son with a note on his law firm stationery: "Is this last entry prophetic?" Richard Kerry was probably referring to his son's passion for flying, but the flight over Mt. Vernon may inadvertently touched a different prophecy. Even when he was an eleven-year-old boy, there was a feeling that John Forbes Kerry was touched with destiny -- or, more accurately, that public service was instilled in him by his parents. There was, however, a touch of the parvenu in all of this, a fierce family belief, not unlike that which Joseph Kennedy imposed on his four sons, that the Kerry boys -- John and Cameron -- could accomplish any feat, no matter how dif ficult. But to do so would take discipline. A touch of old-fashioned chauvinism, however, prohibited Richard Kerry from fully instilling the same attitude in his two daughters, Margaret (Peggy) and Diana. What was important was that his two sons were not slouches. Concepts like diligence, duty, and loyalty were instilled in them, with tenderness usually coming last. Like the fathers in so many second-generation immigrant families, Richard Kerry believed his boys could accomplish anything in America, even following in the oversized footsteps of George Washington, making it all the way to the White House. "Excelling was the Kerry family ethic" is the way Washington Post reporter Laura Blumenfeld explained it. She gave an example as a case in point: Richard Kerry taught his sons how to steer a boat under a blanket, so they would learn to navigate in the fog. "He definitely promoted tough love," Peggy recalled. "He wanted us to be equipped with the harsh realities of the real world." The story of Richard Kerry's rise is one of overcoming obstacles. Born in 1915 in Brookline, Massachusetts -- the same Boston suburb where John F. Kennedy was born two years later -- Richard Kerry was a handsome, erudite boy, always fighting against the odds. His father, Fredrick A. Kerry, was actually a Czech Jew named Fritz Kohn who had fled the aggressive Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1905, brutalized by anti-Semitism. Three years before his arrival in America he married Ida Lowe, a beautiful Jewish musician from Budapest. According to the Boston Globe , the young couple simply studied a map of Europe, found County Kerry in Ireland, and chose it as their last name. Baptized as Catholics, they moved to Chicago with their young son Eric, where Fredrick (or Fred as he was called)earned a living as a business manager. Eventually they moved to Brookline, known as the "town of millionaires" in the early 1900s, had two additional children, Richard and Mildred, and earned a reputation as good neighbors. The local newspaper deemed Fredrick "a prominent man in the shoe business"; his shop was located at 487 Boylston Street in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. He seldom missed attending Catholic church services on Sunday. (He kept it secret that he was of Jewish descent.) With a two-story, Arts and Crafts-style house in Brookline -- designed by John C. Spofford -- located at 10 Downing Road, a black Cadillac parked in front and three healthy children running happily about, it seemed, to the outside world, that the Kerry family exemplified the American dream. That notion was brutally dispelled on November 23, 1921, when a depressed Fred Kerry, wandered into the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, walked into the men's room, and shot himself in the head. The Boston Globe published a short story about the suicide, which took place at 11:30 A.M. , claiming he had died instantly. "Kerry had been ill for some time, and he became despondent as a result," the obituary read. "He left his home about the usual hour this morning, and his spirits seemed to be low. After going to his place of business he came out and went to the hotel where he took his life." It's hard to fully understand how such a grisly death affects a six-year-old boy, but Richard seemed to internalize the suicide. Thinking of it as a badge of shame, he coped with the loss of his father by ignoring it ... Tour of Duty John Kerry and the Vietnam War . Copyright © by Douglas Brinkley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War by Douglas Brinkley All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. xiii
Prologue: April 22, 1971 (Washington, D.C.)p. 1
Chapter 1 Up from Denverp. 18
Chapter 2 The Yale Yearsp. 39
Chapter 3 California Boundp. 65
Chapter 4 High Seas Adventuresp. 77
Chapter 5 Training Days at Coronadop. 98
Chapter 6 Trial by Desertp. 117
Chapter 7 In-Countryp. 129
Chapter 8 PCF-44p. 154
Chapter 9 Up the Riversp. 188
Chapter 10 Death in the Deltap. 209
Chapter 11 Braving the Bo De Riverp. 231
Chapter 12 Taking Command of PCF-94p. 254
Chapter 13 The Medalsp. 281
Chapter 14 The Homecomingp. 319
Chapter 15 The Winter Soldierp. 346
Chapter 16 Enemy Number Onep. 378
Chapter 17 Duty Continuedp. 412
Epilogue: September 2, 2003 (Charleston, South Carolina)p. 435
Timelinep. 459
Glossaryp. 464
Interviewsp. 466
Notesp. 468
Selected Bibliographyp. 498
Acknowledgmentsp. 519
Indexp. 525