For two Americans in Saigon in 1963, the personal and the political combine to spark the drama of a lifetime

Before it spread into a tragic war that defined a generation, the conflict in Vietnam smoldered as a guerrilla insurgency and a diplomatic nightmare. Into this volatile country stepped Frederick “Fritz” Nolting, the US ambassador, and his second-in-command, William “Bill” Trueheart, immortalized in David Halberstam’s landmark work The Best and the Brightest and accidental players in a pivotal juncture in modern US history.

Diplomats at War is a personal memoir by former Washington Post reporter Charles Trueheart—Bill’s son and Nolting’s godson—who grew up amid the events that traumatized two families and an entire nation. The book embeds the reader at the US embassy and dissects the fateful rift between Nolting and Trueheart over their divergent assessments of the South Vietnamese regime under Ngo Dinh Diem, who would ultimately be assassinated in a coup backed by the United States. Charles Trueheart retells the story of the United States’ headlong plunge into war from an entirely new vantage point—that of a son piecing together how his father and godfather participated in, and were deeply damaged by, this historic flashpoint. Their critical rupture, which also destroyed their close friendship, served as a dramatic preface to the United States’ disastrous involvement in the Vietnam conflict.
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