Shadow on the White House

Presidents and the Vietnam War

David L. Anderson, ed.

Harry Truman's administration began searching for an American response to the clash in Indochina between Frech colonialism and Vietminh communism in 1945. Thirty years and five administrations later, Gerald Ford and his aides tried unsuccessfully to solicit additional aid for South Vietnam from a reluctant Congress. For Truman, Ford, and every American leader in between, the dilemma in Vietnam hung ominously over the presidency.

In Shadow on the White House, seven prominent historians examine how the leadership of six presidents and an issue that grew into a difficult and often unpopular war shaped each other. Focusing on the personalities, politics, priorities, and actions of the presidents as they confronted Vietnam, the authors consider the expansion of presidential power in foreign-policy formulation since World War II. In their analyses, they chronicle the history of executive leadership as it related to Vietnam, assess presidential prerogatives and motives on war and peace issues, and clarify the interconnection between the modern presidency and the nation's frustrating, tragic, and humiliating failure in Southeast Asia.

“These essays provide a solid and effective introduction to the presidency and the Vietnam War. Given the substantial literature on the subject, the book provides a service to readers seeking to understand the tortuous path that took us into Southeast Asia.

—Journal of Military History

“Anderson and his collaborators have provided an important addition to the vase literature on the Vietnam war.

—Pacific Historical Review
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Although other histories have been written about the Vietnam experience, this book is the first systematic and comparative survey on presidential leadership as it relates to the war issue. It is organized by presidential administrations, giving a detailed examination of each president's decisions and policies. Based on the most recently opened archival sources, the essays provide a framework on which to hang the kaleidoscopic events of the war.

About the Author

David L. Anderson is professor and chairman of the Department of History and Political Science and the University of Indianapolis. He is the author of Imperialism and Idealism: American Diplomats in China, 1861-1898 and Trapped by Success: The Eisenhower Administration and Vietnam, 1953-1961, co-winner of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations 1992 Robert H. Ferrell Book Prize.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series