The Education of Lieutenant Kerrey

Gregory L. Vistica

Thomas Dunne Books

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.


Praise for The Education of Lieutenant Kerrey

"A gripping, revealing story of Vietnam and the press, told with sensitivity and class."
--Dan Rather

"The education of Lieutenant Kerrey is a compelling book by a first-rate - and fearless - journalist. When Greg Vistica first got tipped off to what really happened in the tiny hamlet of Thanh Phong during the darkest days of the Vietnam War, the allegations seemed too outlandish to be true. Most of his colleagues in the Washington reporting community probably would have dismissed it. But Vistica followed his instincts - and the evidence. The result is both a gripping account of an agonizing journalistic inquiry, as well as one of the more disturbing stories yet about America's tragic experience in Vietnam."
-MICHAEL ISIKOFF, Newsweek reporter and author of Uncovering Clinton

"One night in Vietnam, one awful mission that leaves behind dead civilians and a young, guilt-ridden lieutenant who goes on to become a war-hero senator and a presidential contender. Gregory Vistica digs into a long-secret murky episode that ends up being a reflection on the entire Vietnam tragedy. He tells a fascinating story of war-gone-wrong and explores poignant questions about individual accountability, the search for truth, and the burden of memory. Riveting journalism at its best."
-DAVID CORN, Washington editor of the Nation and author of Blond Ghost

"The Times's article told only half the story. Greg Vistica's gut-wrenching book breaks incredible new ground in baring the souls of me at war."
-JOHN WEISMAN, author of the New York Times bestselling Rouge Warrior novels

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Gregory L. Vistica

  • Gregory L. Vistica spent nearly three years researching and finally breaking the story about Bob Kerrey and that awful night in Thanh Phong. He is also the author of Fall From Glory: The Men Who Sank the U. S. Navy, a book based on his award-winning reporting about the Tailhook scandal., which led to historic reforms in the military. He is a producer with 60 Minutes II and a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. Formerly the national security correspondent for Newsweek, Vistica is the recipient of the Peabody Award, a George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.





    Available Formats and Book Details

    The Education of Lieutenant Kerrey

    Gregory L. Vistica

    • e-Book



    Thomas Dunne Books