by: Russ Amott [ ]
Author Andrew Wiest has previously written a book about the experience of the Vietnam War, in "The Boys of '67, Charlie Company's war in Vietnam", a first hand account from members of Charlie Company, 4th battalion, 47th infantry. He now expands on that theme, taking first hand accounts from a wider array of individuals connected to the war in Vietnam, including not only the men who served overseas, but family members, particularly widows of those who never returned, and allowing them to tell their story in their own words.
The story begins with an introduction that includes this paragraph:
"It is not the purpose of this study to evaluate the causes, tactics, or societal impact of the Vietnam War. Instead of contributing to the enduring historical debates that surround the conflict , this study will center on the lives of the American combat soldiers during the Vietnam War. Each soldier was a young man with his own story, torn away from the most formative time of his life to spend a year in a violent and surreal world. Truly, to understand the Vietnam War we must understand the soldiers' lives..."
This book is not about grand tactical schemes or political goals. It is about people who were deeply and directly affected by the events that took place both in Vietnam and here in the United States. Life and death, friendship and loss, and memories. The reader is given the unique perspective of the men on the front lines, sometimes telling the same account of battle from their own different perspectives.
The book's chapters are laid out in linear fashion, flowing with the lives of those involved. First is an introduction to the characters. They get their draft notices, or volunteer for service, go to basic training and then to Vietnam. They experience combat, some are wounded, some are killed. For those at home, the experience of receiving notification of the death of their loved ones is shared. The wounded are sent to hospitals and recovery, the rest remain behind, waiting for their tours to end. They come home and confront a nation in chaos and must then adapt to a new life, many quietly concealing their identities as Vietnam Veterans.
I have seen many of the movies about Vietnam, and the series "Tour of Duty" on TV. This book is unlike any of the stories they told, because it is personal, rather than a "grand perspective". Each man talks about lessons learned in Basic and again in the field, about going from wintertime in the states to the heat and humidity, about mud and ants and looking forward to good food at the end of a patrol, and takes it in a very day to day approach. This is first hand storytelling, like what I have heard from those I know who served in Vietnam, Iraq, Korea and Afghanistan. It is each individual's story presented as a patchwork or a puzzle piece that, when put together shows the real picture of the experience.
I have read that history is usually told from the victor's point of view, with the victor being the one with the loudest voice. I believe history is the story of the individual lives, and to get true history you have to sit and talk with someone and learn about what they went through. "Vietnam, a View from the Front Lines", flows with the style of personal contact, sitting with the speaker and hearing from them what they went through. Larry Lukes, Carl Cortright, Darryl Nelson, Anthony Goodrich, Ron Vidovic, Elijah Taylor, Barbara Kenney and Pauline Querry-they aren't just names in a book. They become much closer, more personally intimate because of what they share. This is the real story of Vietnam, for those who want to know it.
This book was provided courtesy of Osprey publishing. It is available both online and in good local bookstores, as well as in "e-book" format. I feel it is very much worth reading.