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Nam-sense – surviving Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division

Nam-sense – surviving Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division

Arthur Wiknik Jr
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
The author may be characterised as a proud American. In addition to publishing this book, he has appeared in the several television documentaries on the Vietnam War and Hamburger Hill.

This is his memoir of his time in the US Army in 1968 and Vietnam 1969-70. Unashamedly told from his standpoint as a “Shake and Bake” SNCO, it chronicles, chronologically and episodically, his time in uniform.
It begins with his draft, and decision to attend NCO School at Fort Benning on two grounds; extending his training might mean that the war would be over at the end of the further 5 months of the course, and if it was still going on then the further training might save someone’s life, his included.

With that principle established, the rest of the book describes his time. In Vietnam. He was at Hamburger Hill and the book blurb makes the point that he was the first of his unit to reach the top. The reality of how that came to be is amply described in the book. The action then moves to the A Shau Valley and patrolling there. Interspersed with this is the description of life in a Fire Support Base and the seemingly constant struggle with career soldiers in the chain of command.

This leads to him learning about “ghosting”, a practice to get time in the rear or extending that time. These period also lead him to reflect on the quality of friendship, especially in the field.

As the war draws on, it seems clear that the apparent futility of some of the practices carried out in Vietnam became wearing on him and made his exasperation more intense.

Wiknik acknowledges that writing this memoir some years after the events means that they may not be wholly accurate. However, the general behaviours and actions that he describes seem to fit in among the Vietnam Historiography.

The book is well written, is relatively jargon free (there is a glossary) and is very readable. It manages to be entertaining and keeps the reader (well, me anyway) wanting to follow the story, even though we know the ending. Overall, it is one for the Vietnam bookshelf.

239 pages including maps, illustrations, Epilogue, Glossary, Bibliography and Index

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