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.
It was the tumultuous year 1968, and Robert Tonsetic was Rifle Company commander of the 4th Battalion, 12th Infantry in Vietnam. He took over a group of grunts demoralized by defeat but determined to get even. Through the legendary Tet and May Offensives, he led, trained, and risked his life with these brave men, and this is the thrilling, brutal, and honest story of his tour of duty. Tonsetic tells of leading a seriously undermanned ready-reaction force into a fierce, three-day battle with a ruthless enemy battalion; conducting surreal night airmobile assaults and treks through fetid, pitch-black jungles; and relieving combat stress by fishing with hand grenades and taking secret joyrides in Hueys.
During that fateful year, as unrest erupted at home and politicians groped for a way out of the war, Tonsetic and his men did their job as soldiers and earned the title “Warriors.”
From the Paperback edition.
After My Lai documents the war’s horrific effects on both sides of the struggle. Bray presents the Vietnam conflict as the touchstone of a generation, telling how his feelings about being a soldier—a family tradition—were dramatically altered by the events he participated in and witnessed. He explains how young men, angered by the deaths of comrades and with no release for their frustration, can sometimes cross the line of legal and ethical behavior.
Bray’s account differs from many Vietnam memoirs in his vivid descriptions of platoon-level tactical operations. As he builds suspense in moment-by-moment depictions of men plunging into jungle gloom and tragedy, he demonstrates that what led to My Lai is easier to comprehend once you’ve walked the booby-trapped ground yourself. An intensely personal story, gracefully rendered yet brutally honest, After My Lai reveals how warfare changes you forever.