Vietnam's Year of the Rat explores the lunar New Year 1960 and the dynamic relationship between two competing groups vying for control in the Republic of Vietnam. One group, led by United States Ambassador Elbridge Durbrow, worked toward directing Vietnam towards an American-style democracy that focused on forcing reforms within the Saigon government. The other group, headed by Republic of Vietnam President Ngo Đinh Diệm, attempted to navigate the demands of Durbrow and the State Department and to confront internal opposition and an emerging external threat while trying to further the goals of the Republic.
The result was a series of failed opportunities by both sides to resolve the differences of the two complementary, if conflicting, strategies. Vietnam's Year of the Rat offers an alternative to the now standard historiography for this period of the study in the Vietnam War by providing a Vietnamese viewpoint into the story of that long and tragic war.