Spector, Ronald 1943–

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Spector, Ronald 1943–

(Ronald Harvey Spector)


Born January 17, 1943, in Pittsburgh, PA; son of David D. (a heating contractor) and Ethel Spector; married Dianne Barbara (a social worker), September 27, 1970; children: Daniel, Jonathan. Education: Johns Hopkins University, A.B., 1964; Yale University, M.A., 1966, Ph.D., 1967.


Home—Alexandria, VA. Office—Elliot School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Phillips 332, 801 22nd St. NW, Washington, DC 20052. E-mail—[email protected].


Yale University, Cambridge, MA, assistant in instruction in history, 1966-67; University of Maryland, Far East Division, Danang, Vietnam, lecturer in history, 1968-69; Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, assistant professor of history, 1969-71; U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, DC, historian, 1971-84; University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, professor of history, 1984-90; George Washington University, Washington, DC, Elliott School of International Affairs, professor of history and international relations, beginning 1990, director of security policy studies, 1990-96, Department of History, chairman, 1997-2000.

Served as Fulbright senior lecturer, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India, 1977-78; director of naval history and curator, Navy Department, Department of Defense, Washington, DC, 1986-89; guest scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center, Washington, DC, 1990; Fulbright senior lecturer, Haifa University, Haifa, Israel, 1993-94; senior fellow, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1994; visiting professor of strategy, National War College, Washington, DC, 1995-96; distinguished visiting professor, Keio University, Tokyo, Japan, 2000-01; Fulbright lecturer, University of Singapore, Singapore, 2007. Military service: U.S. Marine Corps, 1967-69, 1983-84; served in Vietnam; received Navy Achievement Medal with "V" device.


International Studies Association, American Historical Association, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, Inter-University Seminar on the Armed Forces and Society (fellow).


Admiral of the New Empire: The Life and Career of George Dewey, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1974.

Professors of War: The Naval War College and the Development of the Naval Profession, Naval War College Press (Newport, RI), 1977.

United States Army in Vietnam. Advice and Support: The Early Years, 1941-1960, Center of Military History (Washington, DC), 1983.

Researching the Vietnam Experience, Center of Military History (Washington, DC), 1984.

Eagle against the Sun: The American War with Japan, Free Press (New York, NY), 1985.

(Editor and author of introduction and notes) Listening to the Enemy: Key Documents on the Role of Communications Intelligence in the War with Japan, Scholarly Resources (Wilmington, DE), 1988.

After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in Vietnam, Free Press/Maxwell, (New York, NY), 1993.

At War, at Sea: Sailors and Naval Warfare in the Twentieth Century, Viking (New York, NY), 2001.

In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to Dictionary of American History and Encyclopedia of Sociology. Contributor to American Neptune, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Military Affairs, American History Illustrated, Mid-America, Vermont History, and Southeast Asia.


Ronald Spector is a writer and educator with a strong background in U.S. foreign policy, as well as modern naval and military history. He served in the Marine Corps and went to Vietnam, earning a Naval Achievement Medal. Educated at Johns Hopkins University, with a doctorate from Yale, he went on to teach at the university level at institutions including the University of Maryland Far East Division in Danang, Vietnam; Louisiana State University; the University of Alabama; and George Washington University at the Elliott School of International Relations. He has also served as a visiting professor and scholar around the world, including as a senior Fulbright lecturer in India and Israel. In addition to his work in academia, Spector has held several government positions, including Director of Naval History and the head of the Naval Historical Center, the first civilian to hold that post. He has also written a number of books on foreign policy and military efforts, with a particular focus on Vietnam with an insider's perspective.

In After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in Vietnam, Spector maintains that the period of the Tet offensive, and the two months immediately following it, were both bloody and revealing to the American troops and military leaders. It was a crucial time in that the U.S. had begun 1968 with a renewed effort, attempting to push through the stalemate that had stalled any progress in the war, both political and military. However, the enemy redoubled their efforts as well, and it was at this point that the U.S. military commanders began to take note of the pervasive problems troubling their forces, which included rampant drug use and severe racial issues. Race riots became prevalent, and any emotional or rational approaches toward making headway in Vietnam were rebuffed, further demoralizing U.S. military personnel. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented of Spector's effort: "By concentrating on its most representative year, Spector has produced a first-rate history of the war."

Spector's next book, At War, at Sea: Sailors and Naval Warfare in the Twentieth Century, provides readers with a more general history of the military efforts of the United States' various naval forces during the twentieth century. He analyzes the ways in which naval tactics have changed over the previous hundred years, addressing how improved technology has greatly aided the military branch in its evolution. However, he also gives an honest accounting of the life of a naval seaman, both in earlier parts of the century and in more modern times, focusing on the effects of war on the individuals in the navy, and often referencing sources such as letters and diaries to provide a clear picture of the hardships they faced. Mark Ellis, in a review for Library Journal, remarked of Spector's effort that "a very competent exploration of the human side of modern naval battles." a reviewer for Publishers Weekly declared that "this book is naval history at its best, combining classic ‘drums and trumpets’ narrative with groundbreaking analytical commentary, maps, and photos."

In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia takes a look at a little-discussed side of the aftermath following World War II. It was the hope of the Allied leaders that the dropping of the two nuclear weapons on Japan would result in a swift surrender and sudden peace, though there was much speculation as to whether the Japanese would be willing to back down even after such a show of strength. However, Japan did agree to the unconditional surrender that was demanded of them in August, 1945, allowing British and U.S. troops to withdraw from Asia. Spector discusses what went on in Asia after those troops were gone, at which point Japan still had heavy deployments of troops stationed both in China and the various islands of Southeast Asia. He looks at the prolonged violence and in-fighting that occurred in Asia in the wake of the Allied departures, as racial and political strife continued between the various Asian nations. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote: "Spector relates dismal accounts of civil war and mass slaughter, much of it provoked by the blundering victorious powers." Booklist reviewer Jay Freeman remarked of Spector's book: "This is a superbly researched, well-argued work."



Booklist, June 1, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia, p. 22.

Library Journal, April 15, 2001, Mark Ellis, review of At War, at Sea: Sailors and Naval Warfare in the Twentieth Century, p. 116.

Publishers Weekly, November 2, 1992, review of After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in Vietnam, p. 56; March 26, 2001, review of At War, at Sea, p. 72; April 9, 2007, review of In the Ruins of Empire, p. 39.