A View From the Front Lines
By Andrew Weist
In his first book “The Boys of ‘67” the author followed Charlie Company, 4th Battalion of the 47th Infantry. (Reviewed on this site) In this companion volume he expands his horizons to encompass the entire war from the middle ‘60’s through 1970. His participants were from the Infantry, to Army Aviation, to the Marine Corps. He also included some of the wives who received that dreaded notice from the War department and the visit from the Military Personnel in Full-Dress Uniform.
The archival basis of this book is the Oral History Collection at Texas Tech University.
Some of the Charlie Company participants are included in this book and the expansion shows that what happened to the men of Charlie Company was not unique among the draftees and enlistees in Vietnam.
He begins by introducing some of his ‘characters”, in their own words, in Chapter One. He includes three of the women who lost loved ones during the war. Chapter Two continues with the trip to the induction center and the first introductions to basic training.
From the eight weeks of basic training the recruit went on to AIT (Advanced Infantry Training). Others went on to specialized training such as that of medic or Aviation School and learning to fly a helicopter.
The third chapter goes on to bring the newly minted soldier to land in Vietnam. After landing at one of the entry bases the soldier in shunted to a replacement center. After overcoming the initial shock of landing in country, the smells, the culture shock and the “vermin” in abundance. After becoming “acclimated” to the country the new replacement was shipped off to a unit to replace a soldier who was killed, wounded re rotated home. The “welcome” he received was a lot less than he would expect, as the veteran troops would ignore him and not speak with him. This was because his prospects of survival were very limited for the first few weeks in-country. After proving himself he would be accepted as one of the “guys”
The next chapter covers the overall conditions that a soldier had to deal with in Vietnam.
These conditions included “Booby Traps”, including Punji Stacks. Going on patrol was sometimes more dangerous then running into an ambush. The Viet Cong and NVA troops knew that patrols would have to follow the dikes in the rice paddies or the jungle paths through the dense foliage, so “Booby Traps” were set on these avenues or a sniper was located along the route. Being in one’s “hooch” in camp was no guarantee of safety, an attack by Sappers could come at any time.
Combat is covered in the following chapter with the ambush being the preferred way of attack on a patrol. This attack was usually from fortified bunkers with interleaved fields of fire. Combat resulted in many soldiers being killed or wounded. This leads into the next chapter, that of loss. The loss of a loved one, the loss of a friend, the loss of a “brother” Ass noted in the book after being in-country for a while the average soldier was not fighting for his own self-preservation or some ideal like keeping the world free from Communism, he was fighting for the guy next to him, his “brother” When that “brother” is either killed or wounded he is devastated.
The book continues with what happens to soldiers when they are wounded, from the “dust off” to the hospital and finally back home. The last three chapters cover the changing attitude of the individual soldier, his repatriation back “to the world” and what happens after you have returned “home” The attitude of the individual soldier changes after seeing friends die, not knowing who your enemy is really and the overall unconcern of the locals to whoever is in charge.
The flight out on the “freedom bird” is a cause for celebration, but the reception “at home” makes a soldier wonder, ”Was it all worth it?” People they knew before they went to Vietnam shun many returning infantrymen. They feel betrayed by them and their government. They drift into alcoholism and drugs, not knowing that they have PTSD.
I recommend this book and “Boys of ‘67” to those who spent time in Vietnam and those who grew-up during this time for a fuller understanding of what these troops went through. I also recommend them to the boys who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as they have gone through much of the same trials and tribulations.
This book is available from Osprey Publications.
This book is available in three different formats and they are;