Lewis Sorley

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Lewis Stone "Bob" Sorley III (born August 3, 1934) is an American intelligence analyst and military historian. His books about the U.S. war in Vietnam, in which he served as an officer, have been highly influential in government circles.


Lewis Sorley was born in 1934, in West Point, New York, the son and grandson of officers in the United States Army who were both also West Point graduates.[1] Sorley became an Eagle Scout in San Antonio, Texas in 1950 and was presented the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 2009.[2] He received his high school education at Texas Military Institute and was admitted to the United States Military Academy, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1956.[3] He stayed on at the academy as an instructor and assistant professor of English until 1962. In 1963, he received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania and was deployed to Vietnam,[3] where he served as an executive officer until 1966. From 1967 until 1968, he served as assistant secretary of general staff, Office of the Chief of Staff and then commanded a tank battalion in West Germany until 1972. He taught on the faculty of military planning and strategy at the U.S. Army War College from 1973-1975,[3] in which time he also completed a Master of Public Administration at Pennsylvania State University. He also attended Harvard University and the U.S. Naval War College.[3] He held various administrative positions until his retirement, as a lieutenant colonel, in 1976, upon which he worked as chief of Policy and Plans Division at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[2] In 1979, he was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University.[3] He was associated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies from 1984-1985 and is a member of the advisory council of National Defense Intelligence College as well as the International Institute for Strategic Studies.[3]

Sorley's 2004 book Vietnam Chronicles: the Abrams Tapes won the Army Historical Foundation's Trefy Award for providing "a unique perspective on the art of command".[2] His 2008 book Honor Bright: History and Origins of the West Point Honor Code and System points out the similarities between the West Point motto of "Duty, Honor, Country" and the Boy Scouts of America's Scout Oath, stating that each may have influenced the other, pointing out that last part of the Scout Oath was once part of the Cadet Prayer: "...physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."[2]

A Better War and Afghanistan debate in the White House[edit]

Sorley wrote A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam which was published in 1999 and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.[1] The book describes an escalating war with the Lyndon B. Johnson White House viewing the conflict too narrowly to see pitfalls of the war. The book was read by Deputy National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon, one of the major foreign policy advisors in the White House who gave the book to Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff. President Barack Obama has stated that he has read the book as has Vice President Joseph Biden. The book has been compared to a contrasting book, Lessons in Disaster, which is widely read by military leaders. The Wall Street Journal reported the reading of the book by officials at the highest level of government and that it influenced the Iraq War troop surge of 2007.[2][4]

Selected works[edit]

  • Westmoreland. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. ISBN 9780547518268 OCLC 694830152
  • Sorley, Lewis, editor. The Vietnam War: An Assessment by South Vietnam's Generals. Lubbock, Tex: Texas Tech University Press, 2010. ISBN 9780896726437 OCLC 262883089
  • Honor Bright: History and Origins of the West Point Honor Code and System. Columbus: McGraw Hill, 2008. ISBN 9780073537788
  • Vietnam Chronicles: the Abrams Tapes, 1968-1972. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2004. ISBN 0896725332 OCLC 54391939
  • A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam. Orlando: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. ISBN 0151002665 OCLC 40609184
  • Honorable Warrior: General Harold K. Johnson and the Ethics of Command. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999. ISBN 0700608869 OCLC 38043059
  • Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. ISBN 0671701150 OCLC 25549278
  • Arms Transfers Under Nixon: A Policy Analysis. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1981


  1. ^ a b "Celebrate Freedom 2002 Speaker Biographies". University of Tennessee. 2006. Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Ray, Mark (Spring 2010). "A Future In The Past: Lewis Sorley and America's Wars". Eagle Scout Magazine (Irving, TX: National Eagle Scout Association) 30 (1): 8–9. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "About The Author - Lewis Sorley". Tuvy. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  4. ^ Wall Street Journal, A Battle of Two Books Rages, October 7, 2009, p. A1.

External links[edit]