In 1971, while US ground forces were prohibited from crossing the Laotian border, a South Vietnamese Army corps, with US air support, launched the largest airmobile operation in the history of warfare, Lam Son 719. The objective: to sever the North Vietnamese Army's main logistical artery, the Ho Chi Minh Trail, at its hub, Tchepone in Laos, an operation that, according to General Creighton Abrams, could have been the decisive battle of the war. Hastening the withdrawal of US forces and ensuring the survival of South Vietnam. The outcome: defeat of the South Vietnamese Army and heavy losses of US helicopters and aircrews, but a successful preemptive strike that met President Nixon's near-term political objectives.
Author Robert Sander, a helicopter pilot in Lam Son 719, explores why an operation of such importance failed. Sander's conclusion is at once powerful and persuasively clear. Lam Son 719 was doomed in both the planning and execution-a casualty of domestic and international politics, flawed assumptions, incompetent execution, and the resolve of the North Vietnamese Army. A powerful work of military and political history, this book offers eloquent testimony that "failure, like success, cannot be measured in absolute terms."
"Robert Sander has done a truly superb job of telling what really happened in Lam Son 719. Great book!" (Maj. Gen. Benjamin L. Harrison, author of Hell on a Hill Top: America's Last Major Battle in Vietnam)
"Sander's vivid accounts of the heroic actions of his fellow helicopter pilots and crewmen are especially noteworthy. Invasion of Laos deserves to be a part of any Vietnam War library or collection." (Andrew Wiest, author of Vietnam's Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN)
Any additional comments?
This is a reasonable study of Lam Son 719, but is badly let down by the narrator. Initially I genuinely thought the narration had been provided by one of those computer voices reading from typed content.
I did get used to the dry, monotone delivery after about 4 hours, but it really does detract from the book. There is no reason why an 'academic' or 'study' book should be read by a dry and monotone narrator (if that was the publishers intent).
The book itself is an interesting study of Lam Son 719 and provides a good overview especially for someone with little knowledge of the operation (like me). My only observation is that the author spends too much time on the air component (often down to individual flights and crews) and not enough time on the ground operations at a similar level of detail. This leaves the reader to view the operation from the air (often rotary wing) perspective rather than from the land or joint operations perspective (although this may have been the authors intent). The author does do a good job of blending the operational situation with the political situation and the conclusion is very good.
I would love to listen to this book again, but with a different narrator.
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