On the night of February 25, 1969, an inexperienced, 25-year-old lieutenant, Bob Kerrey, led a commando raid on an isolated hamlet called Thanh Phong in Vietnam's Mekong Delta. While witnesses and official records give varying accounts, one thing is certain: around midnight, Kerrey and his men killed nearly two dozen unarmed women and children.
What happened that night and why? It's a terrible secret that Kerrey has borne for more than thirty years. Kerrey went on to do heroic things in Vietnam and later as a politician. Since World War II, he is only Medal of Honor winner to sit as a member of Congress. In many ways, Kerrey's life following that tragic mission has been a struggle for redemption.
So is Bob Kerrey a war hero or war criminal? Gregory L. Vistica, who uncovered the Thanh Phong atrocities in a widely-praised cover story for The New York Times Magazine, searches the entire span of Kerrey's life to answer that question.. From his rural boyhood in Nebraska, to his gut wrenching Navy SEAL training, to his aborted run for President, Kerrey's life will become a vehicle for understanding the Vietnam generation shaped in the 50s and sharpened by the tumultuous 60s.
The Education of Lieutenant Kerrey is an incredible story and a modern morality tale about a man of compassion and promise trapped by a horrible secret.