It begins with him telling how he found it difficult saying goodbye to his parents, before he started the long journey across America and Pacific outposts, to eventually land in Da Nang, and to be processed in country at the start of his combat tour.
The author was assigned as an advisor to the ARVN, something at the start he was not too happy with and he tells a tale of the poorly equipped allies of America being assigned combat missions without the level of support that American forces would receive. Also, he tells how a lot of American troops viewed the ARVN with suspicion, but the advisors like him found some of them to be more than competent and loyal as they were fighting in their own country for something they believed in.
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The telling of the Tet offensive, which the author only just survived after being in contact with a much larger NVA/Viet Cong force shows how the American forces were caught unawares, even with the warning signs of troop build ups and arms caches being discovered but not being acted on by higher commanders.
The author then describes that he was sent back to the States to undertake his career courses, becomes ranger qualified and spends 18 months in a training assignment, where he meets his future wife, who he then marries just before leaving to go back out on a second tour of Vietnam.
The book is interspersed with letters that the author writes home to his sister, and clips from newspapers that show the changing mood of the media back home and also to his wife who is finding things difficult at home as she is pregnant and the army pay centre have messed up her allocation of pay from the author. Something I have known personally, and it is the last thing you need when away on tour. All armies are the same it would appear.
The author’s second tour is when he takes command of a company, something that he is obviously very proud of. He tells how the troops that he leads are different to ones that he knew on his first tour. A lot more draftees who wish to be anywhere than the jungles of Vietnam, but also a large number of regular troops being sent back on combat tours to keep the level of troops up. The troop pull outs begin as the process of “Vietnamization” starts and the missions that his company are sent on have less support and the men under his command become more and more nervous, as they do not want to be wounded or killed in the last days of the war.
I found the writing of this book very honest, just a normal tale of one mans combat tours. He does not claim to be a hero, just a soldier who was doing the job he volunteered for, and the difference in his writing from the first tour shows the disillusionment that the troops and the public back home in America felt with a war that to all intents and purposes was over after the peace talks in Paris were under way is evident.
I liked this book and the fact that I wanted to find out more about a man who went on to have a very distinguished career in the American army is impressive.
I would recommend this book, just as an easy read. It is well written I found, not too heavy and anyone with an interest in the Vietnam War would be well advised to have a look at this book.
4 out of 5 for me
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