'Diplomats at War'

two helicopters flying over yellow-orange sky

'Diplomats at War'

Charles Trueheart, Marc Selverstone (moderator)

Wednesday, March 13, 2024
11:00AM - 12:00PM (EDT)
Event Details

For two Americans in Saigon in 1963, the personal and the political combined to spark the drama of a lifetime. Frederick "Fritz" Nolting, the U.S. ambassador, and his second-in-command, William "Bill" Trueheart, were immortalized in David Halberstam's landmark 1972 work, The Best and the Brightest, as accidental players in a pivotal juncture in modern U.S. history.

A new book in the Miller Center Studies on the Presidency series with UVA Press, Diplomats at War: Friendship and Betrayal on the Brink of the Vietnam Conflict, is a personal memoir by former Washington Post reporter Charles Trueheart—Bill’s son and Nolting's godson—who grew up amid the events that traumatized two families and an entire nation.

The book embeds the reader at the U.S. embassy and dissects the fateful rift between Nolting and Trueheart over their divergent assessments of the South Vietnamese regime under Ngo Dinh Diem, who would ultimately be assassinated in a coup backed by the United States. Charles Trueheart retells the story of the United States' headlong plunge into war from an entirely new vantage point—that of a son piecing together how his father and godfather participated in, and were deeply damaged by, this historic flashpoint. Their critical rupture, which also destroyed their close friendship, served as a dramatic preface to the United States’ disastrous involvement in the Vietnam conflict.

This event is co-sponsored by UVA Press.


Wednesday, March 13, 2024
11:00AM - 12:00PM (EDT)
The Miller Center
2201 Old Ivy Rd
Charlottesville, VA
Charles Truehart headshot

Charles Trueheart

Charles Trueheart was director of the American Library in Paris from 2007 to 2017. Most of his earlier career was in journalism, including 15 years at the Washington Post, first covering book publishing and literary topics, then as a correspondent in Canada and France. Before joining the Post, Trueheart was associate director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University and director of the Kennedy School of Government's Public Affairs Forum. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly and The American Scholar, where he is a contributing editor. His book on Vietnam during the Kennedy years is Diplomats at War, part of the Miller Center Studies on the Presidency series with UVA Press. Trueheart was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and Amherst College.

Marc Selverstone headshot

Marc Selverstone (moderator)

Marc Selverstone is the Miller Center's director of presidential studies, co-chair of the Center’s Presidential Recordings Program, and a professor of presidential studies. He earned a BA in philosophy from Trinity College (CT), an MA in international affairs from Columbia University, and a PhD in history from Ohio University. A historian of the Cold War, he is the author of The Kennedy Withdrawal: Camelot and the American Commitment to Vietnam (Harvard) and Constructing the Monolith: The United States, Great Britain, and International Communism, 1945-1950 (Harvard), which won the Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. As chair of the Recordings Program, Selverstone edits the Secret White House Tapes of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon. He is the general editor of The Presidential Recordings Digital Edition, the primary online portal for transcripts of the tapes, published by the University of Virginia Press.