Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars is the story Sam’s incomplete memoir War of Numbers could not deliver. Sam Adams died suddenly in 1988 at the age of 54. Sam was a gifted analyst at the CIA. Author C. Michael Hiam delivers a well written narrative of Sam’s life.
Sam displayed the uncommon trait of speaking truth to power. As history often suggests Sam was in the right place at the right time.
His truth revealed outcomes that pitted him against the White House, MACV and even senior leadership within the CIA.
What also made Sam unique was his inability to backdown to the highest offices in the government. Sam created a point of great turmoil by discovering and confronting repeated MACV intelligence failures. His analysis was not supported by CIA Director Richard Helms. Nobody wants to make their boss look bad.
Haim traces Sam’s life from Harvard to a rising star within the CIA to a disillusioned analyst. War of Numbers did not shed light on Sam’s death. Realizing Haim was going to discuss his passing at the close of the book I dreaded the last chapter to the life of Sam Adams.
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Regarded as one of the CIA’s premiere Vietnam intelligence experts George W. Allen wrote a 2001 memoir None So Blind: A personal account of the intelligence failure in Vietnam that remains an alarming insight of intelligence failures that forecasted both France and America’s defeat in Vietnam. Allen’s contributions set the stage regrettably for the Pentagon and White House to also follow France’s misplaced goals for the next twenty-five years.
My interest in Allen’s memoir developed from reading a series of confidential reports by the US military and CIA from the 1950s.
Declassified in the late 1990s the documents address the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu.
Many of those documents point to Allen’s intelligence reports and analysis. Naturally this peaked my wish to better understand the American intelligence analysis of the French defeat.
Allen holds a unique, deep understanding of the Indochina Wars (France 1945-1950) and the coming failure of America’s intervention on behalf of South Vietnam 1960-1974. The lessons in his book leave deep, haunting impressions today on the White House and Pentagon leaders who ignored our intelligence community.
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Tim Weiner wrote an extraordinary book Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. He traced the origin back to World War II and movements by former Office of Strategic Services Officers to run the new agency in a post war world.
Weiner’s research (over 50,000 documents and interviews with agents and over a dozen CIA Directors) is priceless. Legacy of Ashes won the 2007 National Book Award for non-fiction.
I cannot help but look back at sections of his book regarding the CIA’s role in Vietnam from 1954-1975. Weiner book helps indicate where the CIA is today as an organization, regarding their war on terror….also known as the ‘transnational anti-terrorism activities’ including implications of human rights abuses.
Weiner’s rich history of CIA’s vast amount of intelligence gathering required by Presidnets Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon is no surprise, however I was surprised by Weiner’s documentation regarding Kennedy’s distain for the agency and its Director former Air Force General Charles Cabell.
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