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Powerful and Brutal Weapons

Powerful and Brutal Weapons

Nixon, Kissinger, and the Easter Offensive

Stephen P. Randolph

ISBN 9780674024915

Publication date: 03/30/2007

As America confronts an unpredictable war in Iraq, Stephen Randolph returns to an earlier conflict that severely tested our civilian and military leaders. In 1972, America sought to withdraw from Vietnam with its credibility intact. As diplomatic negotiations were pursued in Paris, President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger hoped that gains on the battlefield would strengthen their position at the negotiating table--working against the relentless deadline of a presidential election year.

In retaliation for a major North Vietnamese offensive breaking over the Easter holidays, the President launched the all-out air campaign known as Linebacker--overriding his Secretary of Defense and clashing with the theater commander in whom he had lost all confidence. He intended to destroy the enemy with the full force of America's "powerful and brutal weapons" and thus shape the endgame of the war. Randolph's narrative, based not only on the Nixon White House tapes and newly declassified materials from the National Security Council, the Pentagon, and the White House but also on never before used North Vietnamese sources, re-creates how North Vietnam planned and fought this battle from Hanoi and how the U.S. planned and fought it from Washington.

Randolph's intimate chronicle of Nixon's performance as commander-in-chief gains us unprecedented access to how strategic assessments were made, transmitted through the field of command, and played out in combat and at the negotiating table. It is a compelling story about America's military decision-making in conflicts with nontraditional belligerents that speaks provocatively to our own time.


  • The climactic Easter Offensive, the last major campaign of the American war in Vietnam, serves as Stephen Randolph's focus for this fine study of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger's foreign policy and use of military power. Using a wide range of sources, Vietnamese as well as American, Randolph convincingly details how Hanoi's armies were stopped. Powerful and Brutal Weapons is the most comprehensive history of this crucial campaign yet written. It should not be missed.

    —John Prados, author of Valley of Decision: The Siege of Khe Sanh


  • Stephen P. Randolph is the Historian at the U.S. Department of State.

Book Details

  • 416 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press