One of the few Vietnamese Army officers who also saw substantial service in Ho Chi MinhÆs National Liberation Army against the French, Tran Ngoc Chau made a momentous and difficult decision after five years with the Viet Minh: he changed sides.
Although his brother Tran Ngoc Hien remained loyal to the North, ChauÆs Buddhist training and his disillusionment with aspects of the communistsÆ philosophies led him to throw his support to the nationalists and assist the Americans. It was a decision that would cost him dearly when former military school colleague Nguyen Van Thieu, fearing a political rivalry, imprisoned Chauùby then a lieutenant colonel and the Secretary General of the National AssemblyÆs Lower Houseùdespite popular sentiment and the support of Americans like John Paul Vann and Daniel Ellsberg.
At every turn Chau stood on principle, however, opposing government corruption, refusing favoritism, and remaining steadfast in his dedication to democracy. His principles would cost him again when, after the fall of Saigon, he was imprisoned in a North Vietnamese re-education camp and even after release kept under continuous surveillance.
His detailed memoir reveals an astute understanding of the Vietnamese political situation and national culture that failed to register with U.S. leadersùand offers valuable insights into how to cope with similar conflicts in the future.
As Ellsberg has put it, ôVietnam Labyrinth is unmatched, both for its narrative and for lessons to be learned for our current interventions.ö
Chau's Vietnam Labyrinth is a remarkable story, well told, dramatic, and filled with insights on a complex war in its military, political, and human dimensions. Highly recommended. ùLewis Sorley, author of Vietnam Chronicles and The Vietnam War