They Marched Into Sunlight
War and Peace Vietnam and America, October 1967
By David Maraniss
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9780743217804, 572pp.)
Publication Date: September 1, 2003
List Price: $29.95*
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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 andlamenting 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.