Without Honor

Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia, Updated Edition

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About the Book

In a new and updated second edition, this book—first published in 1983—provides a detailed review of the end of the Vietnam War. Drawing on the author’s eyewitness reporting and extensive research, the book relies on carefully reported facts, not partisan myths, to reconstruct the war’s last years and harrowing final months. The catastrophic suffering those events brought to ordinary Vietnamese civilians and soldiers is vividly portrayed. The largely unremembered wars in Cambodia and Laos are examined as well, while new material in an updated final chapter points out troubling parallels between the Vietnam War and America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

About the Author(s)

Arnold R. Isaacs, freelance writer and educator, reported on the closing years of the Vietnam war during six years in Asia as a correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. Following his career in daily journalism, he continued to travel widely as a teacher and international journalism trainer. He lives in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Bibliographic Details

Arnold R. Isaacs
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 446
Bibliographic Info: 37 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8635-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4584-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface to the New Edition 1
Preface to the First Edition 5
Part I: The Peace
Chronology 9
Chapter  1. “This war will never end”: January 28, 1973 12
Chapter  2. The Paris Agreement 21
Chapter  3. Ceasefire 65
Chapter  4. “An army with a country”: Thieu’s Vietnam 85
Chapter 5. The Americans Leave (1) 102
Part II: The Pawns
Chronology 121
Chapter 6. Laos: The Kingdom of Lane-xang 126
Chapter 7. Cambodia: “The land is broken” 148
Chapter 8. Fall of the Khmer Republic 190
Part III: The Fall
Chronology 233
Chapter  9. “A broken sword” 236
Chapter 10. Collapse 272
Chapter 11. “It is like an avalanche” 303
Chapter 12. “Your mission is very heavy” 340
Chapter 13. The Fall of Saigon 353
Chapter 14. The Limits of Credibility 388
Chapter Notes 407
Bibliography 425
Index 435

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Without Honor should be required reading for any American politician contemplating the issues of war, particularly American involvement in a war in Asia.”—The VVA Veteran

• “Forty years on, ‘Skip’ Isaacs’s Without Honor remains an indispensable feature in any Cold War historian’s professional library. This updated edition, with new insights on the limits of American power abroad, showcases the human element of war that far too many accounts lack as they debate the merits of US foreign policy and grand strategy or Cold War ideologies. Isaacs excels in telling a harrowing tale of Americans’ withdrawal from Vietnam and a war that persisted long after they departed. A stellar work of enduring importance.”—Gregory A. Daddis, USS Midway Chair in Modern U.S. Military History, San Diego State University, author of Pulp Vietnam: War and Gender in Cold War Men’s Adventure Magazines

• “Without Honor is by far the best English-language book which provides unsurpassed coverage of the two years following the Paris Peace Agreement, ending U.S. participation in the Vietnam War. As a Baltimore Sun reporter on the ground, Arnold Isaacs writes eloquently and with deep insight into the unfolding events of that latter period. His description of events in South Vietnam and Cambodia is riveting, while joined to a keen analytical perspective. For those who missed reading Without Honor the first time, the re-issue of this book will provide a surprising and enriching experience.”—Carolyn Eisenberg, author of Fire and Rain: Nixon, Kissinger and the Wars in Southeast Asia

From the previous edition:

• 1983 Notable Book of the Year—New York Times

• 1983 Notable Book of the Year—American Library Association

• Outstanding Academic Title—Choice

• “Firsthand account of the fall of South Vietnam told with great emotional impact by a journalist using previously classified materials.”—Booklist

• “…a stunning, authoritative, and ultimately disturbing account of the collapse of Indochina from 1972 to 1975…a definitive, beautifully written work”—Choice

• “The chapter called ‘The Fall of Saigon’ is reportage at its very best, conveying even now a breathtaking kind of immediacy…vivid recollections of key moments in the war, set down with honesty by a man who saw and felt deeply….A deeply personal and troubled account of the fall of South Vietnam and Cambodia in the 70’s by a reporter for the Baltimore Sun who was there to report on the action.”— New York Times

• “Isaacs’ fine, vivid detail complements the broad strokes of his interpretation”— Kirkus Reviews

• “This vivid account of events from the negotiating of the Paris agreement of January 1973 (‘peace with honor’) to the Communist victory in Vietnam in 1975 is indispensable for an understanding of the last phase of the Vietnam war. The author was a war correspondent in Indochina during those years and his firsthand descriptions of the impact of war on the Vietnamese people have seldom been equaled. He has supplemented personal observation with extensive research to produce a superb book, a well-documented indictment of the Washington, Saigon, and Hanoi regimes in this bloody debacle.”—Foreign Affairs

• “Isaacs, who covered the war in Indochina for the Baltimore Sun, may well have produced in this book the definitive study of the tragic final years of that conflict. Carefully documented and cogently reasoned, his writing also conveys a vivid sense of what it was like to live through those times.”—Philadelphia Inquirer

• “Isaacs’ portrayal of the long denouement in Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam is one of the finest written on any aspect of the Indochina experience…. a book which is detailed, soundly argued, beautifully written, and gripping.”—National Defense

• “An angry, sorrowful and impassioned book about the American defeat in Indochina…. engrossing…keep[s] the reader’s complete attention…Isaacs presents a unique perspective of events large and small. This is one of those books that anyone will find interesting. It should be required reading for those involved in the conduct of military and foreign policy.”—Military Review

• “A fascinating chronicle…rich in personal experience, compelling in detail, well documented, and judicious in its conclusions…gripping”—Sacred Heart University Review

• “Isaacs can be harshly critical of American policy, but he is scrupulously fair. Ideologues will take little comfort from this book; the flaws and failings of both sides are laid bare for all to see. He has told his story with rare skill; his book is a masterpiece of political reporting.”—University Publishing

•“The most complete account of the fall of Indochina… Isaacs has written a biting indictment of American policy…compelling.”—Reviews in American History

• “[Isaacs] succeeds so brilliantly that one almost wishes—before our near-universal national forgetfulness and instinct for self-justification take over for good—that all candidates for public office could be required to pass a public examination on its contents.”—Newsweek

• “A wonderful weave of Isaacs’ eyeball reporting and subsequent, intense research….. Isaacs has produced a raw but necessary history. In looking back, he is able to develop a painful emptiness inside all who knew or watched this war.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

• “[Issacs’] book is animated by vivid descriptive writing, by searing epiphanies he recorded in his reporter’s notebook and most of all by his anger. It is [his] accomplishment that he finds anger enough to cover all the players in the terrible endgame.”—BookWorld

• “A fascinating and impressively informative read, Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in the history of America’s military and political involvement in the Vietnam War. While highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that this is a significantly updated edition has a special relevance today given the American military and political involvement with Afghanistan and now Ukraine.”—Midwest Book Review