Memories Unleashed

Memories Unleashed

Carl Rudolph Small
ARRSE Rating
3.5 Mushroom Heads
As the title says this is a book of unleashed memories of a US Marine in Vietnam. The book is a series of chapters dealing with events that happened to him during his year in Vietnam, initially as a rifleman in a USMC Battalion, then when that unit is withdrawn, he goes on to doing different tasks supporting various front line and SOG units. He spends the majority of his time in action and recalls how, on the occasions he was in the rear areas the men and women wearing starched uniforms looked at him in awe, almost as though he was from another planet. Tasked once to speak to a group of officers and NCOs on booby traps, we was told to relax by the major running the talks and to leave his rifle and helmet with his staff – the Marine carried his rifle and helmet with him! Told more to show the difference to those in constant contact with the Viet Cong and those in rear areas.

The book is strange and has been written to help the author get his mind in the right place, sort out the devils floating about in his memories. He goes from rifleman to team leader (corporal) to section leader (Sargent) to Platoon Sergeant (SSgt) in one year, all battlefield promotions. During the course of the book he does not use names and even refers to himself as Marine, Corporal, Sergeant or Platoon Sergeant i.e. the Marine, the Pl Sgt etc. Makes the book feel; strange and very impersonal until you get in to the stories which are very personal. How he went from a new raw grunt to an experienced Marine in the course of 12 months.

His first story tells of landing at Da Nang and being sent straight to an operational unit, no acclimatisation at all. Three new guys who swap names and arrange to meet up after their tour is over. The author goes off to one section the two other new guys to another section. That night they are all sent out on patrol. Our author has a good, experienced section commander who looks after his men very well and anticipates VC actions. The other two are not so lucky and their section is hit and wiped out. Just a couple of days in country and the three are down to one.

Then, after a year and several stories it is time to go home on the “Freedom Bird” which held a different meaning to today’s “Freedom” calls in the US, it was just the plane taking him back to the USA.

The author finishes off the book with his homecoming, a little bit about settling back in to a US that no longer supported the war. Part of this involves a visit to a Veterans’ Hospital for treatment for the skin troubles that life in the jungle had left him with, and a group of doctors who did not really know what they were dealing with. Sent off with some lotion for his skin and a leaflet on what to do if he has nightmares and flash-backs etc. He marries and starts his civilian job and gets on with his life. Part f this is to join a writer’s group which helps with his memories of Vietnam and leads to this book. The chapters are written at different times during the year in Vietnam and at other times after leaving. His final story tells of an advance on a village where they come under fire, the team put down suppressing fire and the VC start to withdraw. The author, or ‘the Marine’ knew what would happen when the VC reached the tree line, the leader would turn and look back. He lined up his shot and when this happened, he fired and downed the VC leader. Moving forward he suddenly felt a blow to his head – this was caused by his hitting his head as he fell out of bed after the nightmare…….

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