Serving as both pointman and sniper, he experienced six weeks of frontline duty, averaging a firefight each week with heavy casualties. With his advanced degree and a $2.50 case of beer for a bribe, he then transferred to the 19th Military History Detachment and spent the remainder of his tour of duty traveling the Mekong Delta, Plain of Reeds, and areas near Saigon. His memoir is the result of a tour of intense fighting, careful documentation, and an illicit diary.
These are the stories Vietnam vets tell each other at reunions and over beers.
• Episodes of valor, hardship, humor, and everything in between from more than forty veterans of the Vietnam War
• Covers all branches of service and all areas of operation in Southeast Asia
They are the words of soldier Mark W. Harms in 1968, summing up his combat experience during the Vietnam War. His stunning letter home is just one of hundreds featured in this unforgettable collection, Letters from Vietnam. In these affecting pages are the unadorned voices of men and women who fought–and, in some cases, fell–in America’s most controversial war. They bring new insights and imagery to a conflict that still haunts our hearts, consciences, and the conduct of our foreign policy.
Here are the early days of the fight, when adopting a kitten, finding gold in a stream, or helping a local woman give birth were moments of beauty amid the brutality . . . shattering first-person accounts of firefights, ambushes, and bombings (“I know I will never be the same Joe.”–Marine Joe Pais) . . . and thoughtful, pained reflections on the purpose and progress of the entire Southeastern Asian cause (“All these lies about how we’re winning and what a great job we’re doing . . . It’s just not the same as WWII or the Korean War.” –Lt. John S. Taylor.)
Here, too, are letters as vivid as scenes from a film–Brenda Rodgers’s description of her wedding to a soldier on the steps of Saigon City Hall . . . Airman First Class Frank Pilson’s recollection of President Johnson’s ceremonial dinner with the troops (“He looks tired and worn out–his is not an easy job”) . . . and, perhaps most poignant, Emil Spadafora’s beseeching of his mother to help him adopt an orphan who is a village’s only survivor (“This boy has nothing, and his future holds nothing for him over here.”)
From fervent patriotism to awakening opposition, Letters from Vietnam captures the unmistakable echoes of this earlier era, as well as timeless expressions of hope, horror, fear, and faith.
From the Hardcover edition.
The story begins with Jensen as a young man in New York in the 1960s, who, following in his brother's footsteps, decides to join the Marines in hopes of finding himself. Early chapters discuss his experiences in boot camp and his combat training at Camp Lejeune. Subsequent chapters move directly to vivid descriptions of action on the battlefield, Jensen's time aboard the USS Valley Forge, days spent walking through rice paddies and the resulting foot infections he suffered. On the day he arrived home in New York, a cab driver at the airport charged Jensen double the fare to drive him home. He paid it and returned to a delighted family on March 6, 1970.
From the Trade Paperback edition.