Formula for Failure in Vietnam

The Folly of Limited Warfare


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About the Book

Drawing on a range of sources, including original interviews with the commanders ordered to fight a land war in Southeast Asia, a former U.S. Army infantry officer recounts his experiences in Vietnam as a company commander and as a battalion- and division-level operations officer carrying out those orders. The crucial flaws of the Johnson Administration’s strategy of attrition are analyzed—the failure to seal off the theater of battle from Chinese and Soviet resupply, and allowing North Vietnamese forces to maintain sanctuaries in Laos, Cambodia and even North Vietnam.

About the Author(s)

William A. Hamilton served 20 years on active duty including two years in Vietnam, 57 days in Cambodia, two years with the Air Force, and one year with the Navy. His numerous awards and medals include the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, four Bronze Stars (two for valor) and the Purple Heart. He lives near Granby, Colorado.

Bibliographic Details

William Hamilton

Foreword by Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, USAF (Ret.)

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 173
Bibliographic Info: glossary, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7994-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3818-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Foreword by Thomas G. McInerney 1
Preface 3
I. Setting the Stage for Failure 7
II. An Army in Search of a Mission 19
III. Beware of the Pale Civilian 23
IV. A War in Search of Strategy 39
V. Riverine Warfare—On the Potomac 61
VI. Troops, Time, Tet, and Truth 82
VII. Conduct Unbecoming 106
VIII. One War Too Far 126
Epilogue 135
Glossary 143
Bibliography 145
Index 161

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “This is the best book yet on the origins of the Vietnam War and how politicians continue to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory”—Lt. General Thomas G. McInerney, USAF (Ret.), former fighter pilot who served four combat tours in Vietnam
  • “Why was the American public so poorly informed about the War in Vietnam? For some of the answers read: Formula for Failure in Vietnam, in particular, read Chapter VI ‘Troops, Time, TET, and Truth.’”—Joseph L. Galloway co-author of We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Drang—The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam (1991), and co-author of We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam (2009)
  • “Right on target! Formula for Failure in Vietnam exposes the thinking of those who made the Vietnam War impossible to win and how our political leadership keeps making many of the same mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq.”—Rear Admiral H. Denny Wisely, USN (Ret.), former commander of the Navy’s Blue Angels, former commander of the USS John F. Kennedy, and recently the author of Green Ink; Memoirs of a Fighter Pilot
  • “For those seeking answers as to how the United States became bogged down in Vietnam, Formula for Failure in Vietnam is a must read. Carefully researched and documented the book details the strategic mistakes made in Washington, D.C. between 1965 and 1968 and how partisan politics made the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 just another meaningless piece of paper.”—Colonel Richard Roberts, USA (Ret.), former infantry company commander in Vietnam with the famed 101st Airborne Division; “As the commander of one of the three artillery batteries that fired at least 10,000 shells during the 1st Battle of the Ia Drang, what Dr. William Hamilton records in his book Formula for Failure in Vietnam about the fighting in Vietnam rings true with me.”—Lt. Colonel Robert L. Barker, USA (Ret.)