A Shau

Crucible of the Vietnam War

Non-Fiction - Military
540 Pages
Reviewed on 02/01/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Michael Gardner for Readers' Favorite

A must-read for fans of military history, warfare, and tactics, A Shau: Crucible of the Vietnam War by Jay Phillips is a fascinating and highly detailed account of the events, engagements, and people involved in this part of the Vietnam War from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s. The word ‘crucible’ in the subtitle is most apt, given the hostile terrain and extreme danger A Shau presented to the allied forces. A Shau is a narrow valley bordered by mountains. It was important to the Communist supply chain and a key point of infiltration for the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) into South Vietnam. Hence, taking A Shau was considered to be a vital part of the American campaign, and the reason so many troops and resources were committed to military operations over the years, despite failing to do so.

What I found rewarding about Jay Phillips’s account, other than that he has clearly done the most thorough and extensive research about A Shau, is that he presents this dark period of American military history in a very accessible manner. Historical texts have a tendency to be a dry read, but this book has more of a narrative quality to each passage, helped by regular use of direct quotes from the people involved. It also focuses on individual experiences and the smaller stories within the big picture perspective of each operation and phase of events. A personal highlight for me was the account of events leading up to the battle and subsequent fall of the allied camp in 1966, a truly terrifying situation. Overall, an excellent book, highly recommended, and worthy of a full five stars for the extent and quality of the research alone.