Vietnam war correspondent Neil Sheehan took 16 years to write this biography of Lt. Colonel John Paul Vann, the citizen-soldier who went to Vietnam, proved himself a hero, became hopelessly entangled in the American government's "bright shining lie," and died, tragically, just as he was about to make a real difference in American policy there.

A Bright Shining Lie is the real thing—a true story that reads like an action/adventure film.

John Paul Vann was a complicated man who transcended a hardscrabble childhood to become a valued advisor in the early days of America's involvement in Vietnam.

Vann was fearlessly outspoken and doggedly professional, and the things he saw in Vietnam in March of 1962 scared him to death. The South Vietnamese Army was corrupt and incompetent. The U.S. military was stagnant and blind to the realities of a guerilla war of such magnitude.

Vann was that most troublesome of characters in the military—a whistleblower. His superiors refused to listen, and after years of fruitlessly banging his head against the virtual Pentagon/Congress wall, Vann left the army he loved, frustrated, and haunted as well by a dark secret of his own.

So bleak were America's hopes in Vietnam, and so accurate was Vann in his assessment of the war, that—incredibly—he was asked by a schizophrenic U.S. government to return to Vietnam in 1971.

Like a vengeful but morally superior phoenix, John Paul Vann rose to the task, and as a civilian commanded an entire corps in Vietnam. This is normally a general's assignment, and it is illustrative of America's tragic collective confusion that John Paul Vann, like 58,000 other Americans and countless Vietnamese, died for no good reason at all.

For those of us looking for some sort of moral-historical compass regarding America's involvement in Southeast Asia, Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie (along with Frances Fitzgerald's Fire in the Lake) flies as true as a bullet to the heart. It is essential reading for anyone who ever wondered why?

On Vietnam:


  1. I was a prisoner in a Mexican Whorehouse
  2. A long time gone
  3. How to brush your teeth in a combat zone
  4. Libber and I go to war
  5. Fate takes a piss
  6. Thanks For the Memory
  7. Back in the Shit
  8. LZ Waterloo
  9. Saturday Night, Numbah Ten


a long commute
Andy X Kirby True
a tale of two Woodstocks
Buy a Gun
Dawn at The Wall
Feat of Clay
Funeral Detail
I was a free man once, in Saigon
The Joint Chiefs of Staff
the shit we ate

Breaking Starch
Combat Infantryman Badge
David Dellinger
Dickey Chapelle
Firebase Mary Ann
Garry Owen
Gloria Emerson
Graves Registration
I Corps
Project 100,000
the 1st Cav
The Highest Traditions
Those Who Forget
Under the Southern Cross
Whither the Phoenix?

A Bright Shining Lie
Apocalypse Now Redux
Hearts and Minds
We Were Soldiers

On Hollywood and filmmaking:

Below the Line

sex drugs and divorce

a little life, interrupted
  1. Hecho en Mejico
  2. Entrances
  3. Sam's Song
  4. Hemingway and Fortuna
  5. Hummingbird on the Left
  6. The Long and Drunken Afternoon
  7. Safe in the Lap of the Gods
  8. Quetzal Birds in Love
  9. Angela in Paradise
  10. And the machine ran backwards

a secondhand coffin
how to act
Right. Me and Herman Melville
Scylla and Charybdis Approximately
snowflakes and nylon

I could've kissed Orson Welles
the broken dreams of Orson Welles
the last time I saw Orson Welles
The Other Side of the Wind

Below the Line
completion bond
Film Editing
Film Editor
Final Cut Pro
forced development
HD Video
king of the queens
Kubrick polishes a turd
movies from space
Persistence of Vision
Sven Nykvist
Wilford Brimley

21 Grams
Andrei Rublyov
Apocalypse Now Redux
Ivan's Childhood
The Jazz Singer
The Sacrifice
We Were Soldiers
Wild Strawberries

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