One of our most acclaimed historians explores the decorated military service of one of America’s most intriguing politicians—the leading Democratic presidential candidate for 2004—and its profound effects on his career and life
In Tour of Duty, Brinkley explores Senator John Kerry’s career and deftly deals with such explosive issues as U.S. atrocities in Vietnam and the bombing of Cambodia. Using new information acquired from the recently released Nixon tapes, Brinkley reveals how White House aides Charles Colson and H.R. Haldeman tried to discredit Kerry. Refusing to be intimidated, Kerry started running for public office, eventually becoming a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.
Covering more than four decades, this is the first full-scale definitive account of Kerry’s journey from war to peace. In writing this riveting, action-packed narrative, Brinkley has drawn on extensive interviews with virtually everyone who knew Kerry well in Vietnam. Kerry also relegated to Brinkley his letters home from Vietnam and his voluminous “war notes” journals, notebooks, and personal reminiscences written during and shortly after the war. This material was provided without restriction, to be used at Brinkley’s discretion, and has never before been published.
Popular historian Brinkley's account of John Kerry's Vietnam experience could easily serve as the first part of a multivolume biography, examining the senator and presidential candidate's early life in rigorous detail. Entering the U.S. Navy soon after graduating from Yale in 1966, Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry commanded two Swift boat crews on river patrols in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. He kept "voluminous" notes during his service, maintained extensive correspondence with friends and family, and tape-recorded interviews with combat-seasoned comrades. With unrestricted access to this archival material and interviews with Kerry and surviving crewmates, Brinkley (coauthor with Stephen Ambrose of The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation) depicts war in riveting detail, down to what music the crew of PCF-94 listened to on patrol. Though clearly centering his attention on Kerry, Brinkley also stresses the navy's under-recognized role in Vietnam while emphasizing the "true battlefield heroism" of American forces. Kerry's combat experiences make for gripping reading, and later sections on his high-profile role in the antiwar movement are equally engrossing, including the Nixon White House's efforts (involving a young Armistead Maupin) to discredit veteran-turned-antiwar-activist Kerry as a "phony." Final chapters fully address Kerry's political failures in the early 1970s while quickly summarizing later successes and how these successes were shaped by his Vietnam experience and ongoing relationships with fellow veterans. Though never intended as a political biography, this book offers perhaps the most insightful examination available of the character of this or any other Democratic candidate. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.