It was the year of the reality check, when Americans and their own government began to realize just what they faced in Vietnam — a resourceful and tenacious enemy, quarrelsome allies and an Asian society whose complexity they could barely understand. Back home in 1966, the U.S. administration struggled to sell the war as a noble and necessary sacrifice to stop global communism and save a weak, backward people from an evil aggressor seeking to enslave them. At first the effort was successful.

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