Moving between the campus at Madison and the jungles of Vietnam, with side trips to Hanoi and Washington, the tale unfolds with a magisterial sweep that recaptures the war and its era, filled with moral ambiguity and moral conviction.
Here is the epic story of Vietnam and the sixties told through the events of a few tumultuous days in October 1967. David Maraniss takes the reader on an unforgettable journey to the battlefields of war and peace. With meticulous and captivating detail, They Marched Into Sunlight brings that catastrophic time back to life while examining questions about the meaning of dissent and the official manipulation of truth, issues that are as relevant today as they were decades ago.
In a seamless narrative, Maraniss weaves together three very different worlds of that time: the death and heroism of soldiers in Vietnam, the anger and anxiety of antiwar students back home, and the confusion and obfuscating behavior of officials in Washington. In the literature of the Vietnam era, there are powerful books about soldiering, excellent analyses of American foreign policy in Southeast Asia, and many dealing with the sixties' culture of protest, but this is the first book to connect the three worlds and present them in a dramatic unity. To understand what happens to the people of this story is to understand America's anguish.
In the Long Nguyen Secret Zone of Vietnam, a renowned battalion of the First Infantry Division is marching into a devastating ambush that will leave sixty-one soldiers dead and an equal number wounded. On the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, students are staging an obstructive protest at the Commerce Building against recruiters for Dow Chemical Company, makers of napalm and Agent Orange, that ends in a bloody confrontation with club-wielding Madison police. And in Washington, President Lyndon Johnson is dealing with pressures closing in on him from all sides and lamenting to his war council, "How are we ever going to win?"
Based on thousands of primary documents and 180 on-the-record interviews, the story unfolds day by day, hour by hour, and at times minute by minute, with a rich cast of characters -- military officers, American and Viet Cong soldiers, chancellors, professors, students, police officers, businessmen, mime troupers, a president and his men, a future mayor and future vice president -- moving toward battles that forever shaped their lives and evoked cultural and political conflicts that reverberate still.
A Brief Preface
This book is shaped around two events that occurred contemporaneously during two days in the sixties -- October 17 and 18, 1967. The first was an ambush in Vietnam that occurred when the Black Lions, a renowned battalion of the First Infantry Division, marched into the jungle on a search-and-destroy mission forty-four miles northwest of Saigon. The second was a demonstration at the University of Wisconsin where antiwar protestors staged a sit-in aimed at preventing the Dow Chemical Company, manufacturers of napalm, from recruiting on the Madison campus. The title is taken from the first line of "Elegy" by Bruce Weigl, a poem about U.S. infantrymen in Vietnam marching into sunlight on their way to a deadly ambush. But the image applies to all the people of this book who were caught up in the battles of war and peace during that turbulent era. Soldiers in Southeast Asia, student protesters in the United States, President Johnson and his advisers at the White House -- ...
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