Cover image for Facing the phoenix
Facing the phoenix
Grant, Zalin.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, 1991.
Physical Description:
395 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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DS557.7 .G72 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating
DS557.7 .G72 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Journalist/author Grant writes about the defeat of the US in Vietnam, focusing on Tran Ngoc Chau, a Vietnamese soldier and statesman who advocated a subtle application of political and military programs instead of the heavy-handed military approach that was adopted by the US. Annotation(c) 2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Buyer, beware of this title. Only five pages discuss the controversial Phoenix counterinsurgency program during the Vietnam conflict. The rest cover any number of aspects to the 30-year-long war, as it was waged from the U.S. side. By now, scores of participants have placed their views on the public record, and Grant, a journalist, collates them into a behind-the-scenes-style history. Much of his impetus derives from the what-if legacy of the U.S. intervention. What if the U.S. had backed Ho Chi Minh in 1945? Hadn't incited Diem's overthrow in 1963? Had applied pacification more intelligently? Since answers indicate the "lessons" to be learned from Vietnam, and no one, even 15 years later, agrees on what those lessons are, it is presently impossible to prefer this account to any other. With Grant's book, the collection will get one that jumps from scores of bureaucratic conflicts and personalities with the C.I.A., the U.S. embassy in Saigon, and the military to the requisite number of reporters' war stories. A valiant attempt to organize vast material via the career of Thau Ngoc Chau, an anti-communist Vietnamese nationalist. ~--Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

Grant's absorbing book deals with the so-called Other War in Vietnam, fought by Americans and South Vietnamese who believed the key to victory lay not in counting corpses but in defeating the Communist political organization in the villages. The central figure: Tran Ngoc Chau, who served the Saigon government in turn as a province chief, head of the pacification training program and secretary-general of the national assembly. According to the author, Chau probably contributed more to the pacification effort than any other Vietnamese. Grant traces his activities in concert with Edward Lansdale and other political-action operatives, bringing into focus the local successes of the Other War (especially during William Colby's tenure as U.S. pacification chief) and revealing how the program was compromised by the actions of ``murderous mercenaries operating as enforcers for corrupt province chiefs.'' Chau was ultimately betrayed by his Viet Cong brother, abandoned by the CIA, jailed by President Thieu on trumped-up charges and captured by the North Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon. He survived and now lives in Los Angeles. Grant ( Over the Beach ) tells Chau's dramatic story well, and readers will learn much about the failed pacification effort. Photos. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The author of Over the Beach ( LJ 11/1/86) and Survivors ( LJ 2/1/86), former Vietnam War correspondent and Army officer Grant turns his attention to pacification efforts in Vietnam, including the CIA's controversial Phoenix program. Based on his own experience and extensive interviews with recognized key players, Grant's study begins with post-World War II Hanoi and hopscotches from Saigon to Washington to California, covering 30 years in an attempt to explain the personal actions and motives of Vietnamese and American officials. For a basic sketch of Phoenix and the CIA involvement in Vietnam, standard histories of the war suffice--e.g., Stanley Karnow's Vietnam ( LJ 10/1/83), John Ranelagh's The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA ( LJ 6/1/86), Cecil B. Currey's Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American (Houghton, 1989). Unique is the story of Tran Ngoc Chau, noted Vietnamese general and government official, who advocated a political rather than military solution to the war. Although the excess of personal and peripheral detail is distracting, Grant's energetic style and his analysis of little-publicized political controversies will hold the attention of casual or scholarly readers. For comprehensive collections on the CIA and Vietnam-era politics and most academic libraries. Notes, index, and photographs not seen.-- Pamela J. Peters, SUNY at Oneonta Lib., N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Some of the most widely read, influential, and generally considered classic books about the US ordeal in Vietnam have been written by journalists who covered the war. Two books that epitomize this genre are David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest (CH, Mar'73) and Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie (CH, Apr'89). One gets the sense from reading Grant's volume that he resents their success. Having also covered the war, and moreover having learned the Vietnamese language, Grant portrays those like Halberstam and Sheehan (and indeed, almost all journalists who were there), as ambitious, arrogant opportunists whose ethnocentrism distorted their analysis almost as much as did William Westmoreland's. By focusing on the sorry tale of Tran Ngoc Chau, a South Vietnamese official and proponent of pacification who was interned by both Saigon and Hanoi, Grant seeks to correct the misimpressions his predecessors created. Unfortunately, he has little to contribute. Chau's story is interesting and generates sympathy. But most of Grant's effort goes into arguing the merits of pacification over conventional tactics and to presenting personality profiles about and short vignettes concerning a number of the more controversial and engaging characters. Yet this has already been done--and done better--by those he criticizes. With its more "hawkish" viewpoint and occasionally valuable additions to the record, this book should be read as a supplement to but not in place of the "classics." -R. H. Immerman, University of Hawaii at Manoa