Fought over three decades and entangling both France and the United States, the Vietnam War left a gaping wound in the body politic that remains open to this day.
Historian Fredrik Logevall looks at the origins of America's least popular war in Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam on Thursday, September 6, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
How was America drawn into the conflict? Tapping into newly accessible diplomatic archives in several nations, Logevall traces the path that led two Western nations to lose their way in Indochina.
It's a story that begins at the end of World War I with the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference, where a young Ho Chi Minh tries to deliver a petition for Vietnamese independence to President Woodrow Wilson. It concludes in 1959, with a Viet Cong ambush on an outpost outside Saigon and the deaths of two American officers whose names would be the first to be carved into the black granite of 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.
An epic story of wasted opportunities and tragic miscalculations and featuring an extraordinary cast of larger-than-life characters, Embers of War provided answers to the unanswered questions surrounding the demise of one Western power in Vietnam and the arrival of another.
Historian Fredrik Logevall is John S. Knight Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, where he serves as director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. Among his books are America's Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity, Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived, and six volumes of the A People and a Nation: A History of the United States.
Admission is free. The event will be preceded by a 6 p.m. reception. RSVP online  or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage on 10th & Baltimore.