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Lewis Sorley (1934- )
Lewis Sorley is a third-generation West Point graduate, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in 1956. He remained at the U.S. Military Academy as an instructor and assistant professor of English and then attained a Master of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He was served as an executive officer in Vietnam until 1966 and later ran a tank battalion in West Germany. Sorley also earned a Masters of Public Administration from Pennsylvania State University, and in 1979 was awarded a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Since his retirement from the military as a lieutenant colonel, he has served with the CIA, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the National Defense Intelligence College, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Sorley is the author of several books, including Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times and Vietnam Chronicles: The Abrams Tapes (2004) which won the Army Historical Foundation's Trefy Award for providing "a unique perspective on the art of command."
Honorable Warrior: General Harold K. Johnson
A man of extraordinary inner strength and patriotic devotion, General Harold K. Johnson (1912-1983) was a soldier's officer, loved by his men and admired by his peers for his leadership, courage, and moral convictions. Lewis Sorley's
biography provides a fitting testament to this remarkable man, who rose from
obscurity to become LBJ's Army Chief of Staff during the Vietnam War.
A native of Grafton, North Dakota, Johnson survived more than three grueling years as a POW under the Japanese during World War II before serving brilliantly as a field commander in the Korean War, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for "extraordinary heroism." These experiences led to a series of high-level positions culminating in his appointment as army chief in 1964 and were the subject of a cover story in Time magazine.
What followed should have been the most rewarding period of Johnson's military career. Instead, it proved to be a nightmare, as he quickly became mired in the politics and ordeal of a very misguided war. Johnson fundamentally disagreed with the three men running our war in Vietnam: President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and General William Westmoreland. He was sharply critical of LBJ's piecemeal policy of gradual escalation and failure to mobilize the national will or call up the reserves. He was equally despondent over Westmoreland's now infamous search-and-destroy tactics and reliance on body counts to measure success in Vietnam.
By contrast, Johnson advocated greater emphasis on cutting the North's supply lines, helping the South Vietnamese provide for their own internal defenses, and sustaining a legitimate government in the South. Unheeded, he nevertheless continued to work behind the scenes to correct the flawed approach of the United States to the war.
Sorley's study adds immeasurably to our understanding of the Vietnam War. It also provides an inspiring account of principled leadership at a time when the American military is seeking to recover the kind of moral values exemplified by Harold K. Johnson. As such, it presents a profound morality tale for our own era.