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Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam

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Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam is the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner for History.

The struggle for Vietnam occupies a central place in the history of the twentieth century. Fought over a period of three decades, the conflict drew in all the world’s powers and saw two of them—first France, then the United States—attempt to subdue the revolutionary Vietnamese forces. For France, the defeat marked the effective end of her colonial empire, while for America the war left a gaping wound in the body politic that remains open to this day.

How did it happen? Tapping into newly accessible diplomatic archives in several nations, Fredrik Logevall, John S. Knight Professor of International Studies at Cornell University traces the path that led two Western nations to lose their way in Vietnam in his latest book entitled Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam. Embers of War opens in 1919 at the Versailles Peace Conference and concludes in 1959 with a Viet Cong ambush on a U.S. outpost outside Saigon and the deaths of two American officers, whose names would be the first to be carved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In between come years of political, military, and diplomatic maneuvering and miscalculation, as leaders on all sides embark on a series of stumbles that makes an eminently avoidable struggle a bloody and interminable reality.

Joining Logevall on the panel was William I. Hitchcock, professor of history at the University of Virginia and John Prados, senior fellow and project director with the National Security Archive at The George Washington University.

Christian F. Ostermann, director of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program chaired the event.


  • Fredrik Logevall

    John S. Knight Professor of International Studies, Cornell University
  • William Hitchcock

    Professor of History, University of Virginia
  • John Prados

    Senior Fellow and Project Director, National Security Archive, The George Washington University.