Covering their war are a handful of foreign reporters, including novelist Daniel Ford. Armed with a camera and a notebook, he wanders the country on foot and by military transport--helicopter, jeep, landing craft, junk, armored personnel carrier, and an Air Force flare ship--from the Mekong Delta to the Central Highlands. Once or twice a week, or whenever he is reunited with his Hermes portable, he types up an account of what he has seen and done. Here is that journal, 50-odd years after it was written. It is a freeze-frame picture of the Vietnam War before it became a quagmire. "How good-hearted we were!" Ford says of himself and the men he met in his travels. "And how badly it all turned out."
In the spring of 1964, Daniel Ford sold his first novel to Doubleday. With the advance against royalties, he bought a ticket to Saigon to have a look at the Viet Cong insurgency and how the South Vietnamese government and their American advisors were coping with it. Home again, as President Johnson was landing the US Marines at Danang, he abandoned the reporter's role and turned his experience into Incident at Muc Wa, a novel later filmed as Go Tell the Spartans, now remembered as the best of the Vietnam motion pictures.
Ford himself continued his dual career, writing fiction and non-fiction, including a prize-winning history of the "Flying Tigers" who defended Burma and China in the opening months of the Pacific War, 1941-1942. He lives and works in New Hampshire.
We are familiar with maps that outline all fifty states. And we are also familiar with the idea that the United States is an “empire,” exercising power around the world. But what about the actual territories—the islands, atolls, and archipelagos—this country has governed and inhabited?
In How to Hide an Empire, Daniel Immerwahr tells the fascinating story of the United States outside the United States. In crackling, fast-paced prose, he reveals forgotten episodes that cast American history in a new light. We travel to the Guano Islands, where prospectors collected one of the nineteenth century’s most valuable commodities, and the Philippines, site of the most destructive event on U.S. soil. In Puerto Rico, Immerwahr shows how U.S. doctors conducted grisly experiments they would never have conducted on the mainland and charts the emergence of independence fighters who would shoot up the U.S. Congress.
In the years after World War II, Immerwahr notes, the United States moved away from colonialism. Instead, it put innovations in electronics, transportation, and culture to use, devising a new sort of influence that did not require the control of colonies. Rich with absorbing vignettes, full of surprises, and driven by an original conception of what empire and globalization mean today, How to Hide an Empire is a major and compulsively readable work of history.