Alpha One Sixteen. A Combat Infantryman's Year in Vietnam. Author; Peter Clark

old_fat_and_hairy

LE
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#1
Peter Clark was an ordinary young man from a small town in Illinois when he decided to enlist in the United States Army. Perfectly normal, except this was 1966, the war in Vietnam was at it's hottest and he deliberately chose the infantry. Clark wanted to experience combat, wanted to follow in the shadows of his family. Clark was also in college and could have, had he been drafted, obtained a deferment, but he chose to enlist for 3 years.
Following his (very) basic medical and swearing in, he was sent to Basic Infantry School where a processing sergeant, noticing his education, asked if he could type. Clark considered this for a second or two then replied in the negative. He knew this could have guaranteed him a safer and more comfortable life during his service, but again, chose combat.
Following training, both basic and advanced infantry, he was sent to Vietnam, as indeed did most of the infantry of his generation, and once there was posted to Alpha company of a battalion of the 1st Division, this book follows his year of service in that arena and the trials and tribulations that accompanied his service.

Starting as a "FNG" and knowing nothing much - except that his size of jungle boots were never in stock and might be next week - he begins his education as a combat soldier. An education that introduces him to the horrors of war; the stench of the dead, the constant heat, humidity and rain. The war of attrition fought by the insects that bit or stung everyone, regardless of rank or status.
Clark learned to wade through mud, to cross paddy fields, to climb through dense jungle and up steep hills, all the while carrying a heavy load, being dehydrated and hungry and to try to keep alert when deeply sleep deprived.

The enemy, the Viet Cong, were a shadowy and rarely seen enemy, inventive in their use of booby traps and ambushes, and fierce in the fight. Clark learns how to fight them, and stay alive. A hard lesson that many failed in. He also learns how enemy casualty figures are arrived at; an inventive calculation by the brass.

Clark survives the campaign, obviously, but a great many of his friends and comrades do not and the author is meticulous in chronicling their fate

The account is told in a very matter of fact way with no false heroics and no self promotion, however there is a wonderfully underlying sense of humour. Gentle but fun.

The author left the army in 1968, he is a graduate of Illinois University and Yale Law school and currently serves in the U.S Department of Health and Human Services in the Office of the INspector General.


This is one of those books - from a personal perspective anyway - that I had to keep reading. Not just for the account of the fighting but for the gentle humour and humanity that the author displayed. It is an easy book to read, it certainly struck many chords with me as an ex soldier, for the small acts of military pettiness that we have all suffered. It's narrative rolls along nicely and is well written. A damn good book and I would heartily endorse it.

 
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DTBA

Old-Salt
#2
A relative of mine married an American who had served in Vietnam. Lovely bloke, and plenty of good stories. Very few of the knife-between-the-teeth variety (though as an Air Cavalryman I imagine he had more than a few), just funny/bizarre ones. Lots of antics and characters.

I’ve not read the book, though I’ll add it to the list. I’ve had an interest in Vietnam since we were taught it by an extremely passionate history teacher at GCSE (which was a world away from the usual). Sadly, I don’t have a great deal of reading material on the war but this seems like a decent addition
 

old_fat_and_hairy

LE
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#3
A relative of mine married an American who had served in Vietnam. Lovely bloke, and plenty of good stories. Very few of the knife-between-the-teeth variety (though as an Air Cavalryman I imagine he had more than a few), just funny/bizarre ones. Lots of antics and characters.

I’ve not read the book, though I’ll add it to the list. I’ve had an interest in Vietnam since we were taught it by an extremely passionate history teacher at GCSE (which was a world away from the usual). Sadly, I don’t have a great deal of reading material on the war but this seems like a decent addition
It is. I've read quite a lot of stuff on Vietnam ( Caputo and so on.) Some delve heavily into the politics of it, some cover the fighting. A fair few are quite Gung Ho; this one - and another that I reviewed on here about the Brown Water Navy were very good. Written by quite unassuming people. Another that is excellent is 'Once a Warrior King ' by David Donovan. It's about his time as a leader of local militia ; the Ruff-puffs or Regional and Provincial forces. Excellent read.
 
#4
Peter Clark was an ordinary young man from a small town in Illinois when he decided to enlist in the United States Army. Perfectly normal, except this was 1966, the war in Vietnam was at it's hottest and he deliberately chose the infantry. Clark wanted to experience combat, wanted to follow in the shadows of his family. Clark was also in college and could have, had he been drafted, obtained a deferment, but he chose to enlist for 3 years.
Following his (very) basic medical and swearing in, he was sent to Basic Infantry School where a processing sergeant, noticing his education, asked if he could type. Clark considered this for a second or two then replied in the negative. He knew this could have guaranteed him a safer and more comfortable life during his service, but again, chose combat.
Following training, both basic and advanced infantry, he was sent to Vietnam, as indeed did most of the infantry of his generation, and once there was posted to Alpha company of a battalion of the 1st Division, this book follows his year of service in that arena and the trials and tribulations that accompanied his service.

Starting as a "FNG" and knowing nothing much - except that his size of jungle boots were never in stock and might be next week - he begins his education as a combat soldier. An education that introduces him to the horrors of war; the stench of the dead, the constant heat, humidity and rain. The war of attrition fought by the insects that bit or stung everyone, regardless of rank or status.
Clark learned to wade through mud, to cross paddy fields, to climb through dense jungle and up steep hills, all the while carrying a heavy load, being dehydrated and hungry and to try to keep alert when deeply sleep deprived.

The enemy, the Viet Cong, were a shadowy and rarely seen enemy, inventive in their use of booby traps and ambushes, and fierce in the fight. Clark learns how to fight them, and stay alive. A hard lesson that many failed in. He also learns how enemy casualty figures are arrived at; an inventive calculation by the brass.

Clark survives the campaign, obviously, but a great many of his friends and comrades do not and the author is meticulous in chronicling their fate

The account is told in a very matter of fact way with no false heroics and no self promotion, however there is a wonderfully underlying sense of humour. Gentle but fun.

The author left the army in 1968, he is a graduate of Illinois University and Yale Law school and currently serves in the U.S Department of Health and Human Services in the Office of the INspector General.


This is one of those books - from a personal perspective anyway - that I had to keep reading. Not just for the account of the fighting but for the gentle humour and humanity that the author displayed. It is an easy book to read, it certainly struck many chords with me as an ex soldier, for the small acts of military pettiness that we have all suffered. It's narrative rolls along nicely and is well written. A damn good book and I would heartily endorse it.

View attachment 358572
I've had mixed results with reading 'personal' accounts of the war. However the comment that he was 'dues out' jungle boots does suggest some authenticity!
 

old_fat_and_hairy

LE
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#5
Likewise, but the simplicity and honesty in this one struck me as genuine.
 
#6
One of the most interesting Vietnam books I've read is Gerard Windsor's All Day Long The Noise Of Battle. It's about an Australian rifle coy from 7 RAR and their fight through an enemy bunker complex in February 1968. More than just a history of the action though , it's a very intriguing exercise in how differently people remember the same events - and how some leaders fail under pressure while others, sometimes unlikely ones, come to the fore. One of the most effective leaders was an Aboriginal L/Cpl in his early 40s, not a professional soldier but who seemed to always turn up when Australia was at war. Another was a young lieutenant named Mark Moloney, who was regarded as a bit of a dilettante, but who certainly proved himself when , after already being wounded , grabbed a couple of 66 rockets and took out an enemy bunker. Well worth reading .
 

old_fat_and_hairy

LE
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#7
One of the most interesting Vietnam books I've read is Gerard Windsor's All Day Long The Noise Of Battle. It's about an Australian rifle coy from 7 RAR and their fight through an enemy bunker complex in February 1968. More than just a history of the action though , it's a very intriguing exercise in how differently people remember the same events - and how some leaders fail under pressure while others, sometimes unlikely ones, come to the fore. One of the most effective leaders was an Aboriginal L/Cpl in his early 40s, not a professional soldier but who seemed to always turn up when Australia was at war. Another was a young lieutenant named Mark Moloney, who was regarded as a bit of a dilettante, but who certainly proved himself when , after already being wounded , grabbed a couple of 66 rockets and took out an enemy bunker. Well worth reading .
I'll have to get a copy of that. Sounds excellent
 

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