Writing War Comes to Long An

When Jeffrey Race boarded a ship to Vietnam in 1965, he was not planning to write the ultimate resource on the Vietnamese conflict. As he notes in a recent article in Small Wars Journal, he had envisioned a quiet life teaching political science in New England, but history took a different course.

In the article Race recalls how a combination of intellectual curiosity and circumstances led him to write War Comes to Long An, the book that changed his life and possibly altered the course of history. “A lot of people are alive today”, he remembers a friend in the White House telling him, “who would be dead if you had not written that book.”

He explores how, by pursuing his own interests, he became an unintentional scholar of revolution and counterrevolution in Vietnam, and how War Comes to Long An, praised for its unbiased approach and unprecedented analysis of social and political movements in the province of Long An, became part of the official military doctrine. Race remarks on the larger message present in his work: the irrational thinking that can creep into political and economic decisions, and how avoiding the disastrous results of these errors is an individual responsibility.

Excerpt from the article:

“Now being reprinted in an updated and expanded edition, War Comes to Long An was first published in 1972 and was the book I longed to buy in 1965 as the most junior lieutenant in Vietnam—but could nowhere find. Thereby hangs this tale of my adventures then in Vietnam and since elsewhere—a tale with implications for the creative process in academic writing, for the study of institutional change and of the learning disabilities of military institutions, and of priorities in public policy-making in America and elsewhere.”

Read the rest of Jeffrey Race’s article War Comes to Long An, Back Story to the Writing of a Military Classic, in Small Wars Journal.