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Edmon Low Library

David Prentice

Author of "Unwilling to Quit: The Long Unwinding of American Involvement in Vietnam"

January 24, 2024

David Prentice is a historian and editor at Oklahoma State University’s Fire Protection Publications. He has a Ph.D. in the history of U.S. foreign relations. His work has appeared in Diplomatic History, the Journal of Military History, Cold War History, and numerous edited volumes. His first book, Unwilling to Quit, examines America’s exit strategy from Vietnam. Pulitzer-prize winning historian and Harvard professor, Fredrik Logevall, praised it as “a splendid account of how the United States curtailed its long and bloody involvement in Vietnam,” written “with unprecedented power and insight.” Broadly, Prentice employs multi-archival, international research to explore the intersection of American politics and foreign relations. 


Although US involvement in the Vietnam conflict began long before 1965, Lyndon Johnson’s substantial commitment of combat troops that year marked the official beginning of America’s longest twentieth-century war. After years of intense fighting and thousands of casualties, an increasing number of Americans wanted the United States out of Vietnam. Richard Nixon looked for a way to pull out while preserving the dignity of the United States, and at the same time, support the anticommunist Republic of Vietnam. Ultimately, he settled on the strategy of Vietnamization—the gradual replacement of US soldiers with South Vietnamese.

Drawing on newly declassified documents and international archives, "Unwilling to Quit" dissects the domestic and foreign contexts of America’s withdrawal from the Vietnam War. David Prentice demonstrates how politics influenced Nixon’s decision to abandon his hawkish sensibilities in favor of de-escalation. Prentice reframes Nixon’s choices, emphasizes Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird’s outsized yet subtle role in the decision-making process, and considers how South Vietnam’s Nguyen Van Thieu and North Vietnam’s Le Duan decisively shaped the American exit. Prentice brings Vietnamese voices into the discussion and underscores the unprecedented influence of American civilians on US foreign policy during the Vietnamization era.


Last Updated: 25 March 2024