Vietnam - A View from the Front Lines, Andrew Wiest

Vietnam - A View from the Front Lines, Andrew Wiest

The author's previous work on this topic, The Boys of '67, followed one small unit, Charlie Company, through its first year in Vietnam. This book includes some of the same people, but it covers a wider range of experiences. Each chapter looks at one stage in each soldier's career - from their pre-army lives, through the draft and on to their combat experiences in Vietnam. We then follow them as they cope with the loss of friends and colleagues and on their way out of the war zone, either as a casualty or at the end of the their tour. Finally we hear about their lives after Vietnam, with examples of the many who struggled to cope and the larger number who lived (or are living) successful lives after the war. 

For me this book helps answer the often answered question - why did American lose in Vietnam. The accounts of endless patrols through hostile country, so many of them ending with the loss of another American soldier to a booby trap or random ambush and so few of them actually achieving anything makes it clear that the American strategy on the ground was flawed. The way in which individual reinforcements were rushed into battle and dropped into any unit with a gap, regardless of their actual area of expertise and often with little or no attempt to get them used to conditions in the country also speaks of an Army command that had lost control of the situation.

This can be quite a melancholy read - right from chapter one we are aware of the human cost of the war, as some of the soldiers are introduced via their widows. Many of the accounts look unflinchingly at the worst aspects of the war - the death of comrades, the suffering of serious wounds or the post-war traumatic stress that blighted so many lives. For me this makes the book more valuable, with its refusal to shy away from these difficult topics, and as a result we get a more complete picture of the impact Vietnam had on the young men who were sent to fight there.

1 - Who We Were
2 - Drop and Give Me 20
3 - Welcome to Vietnam
4 - Life and Death in the Nam
5 - Combat
6 - Loss
7 - A World of Hurt
8 - Changing Attitudes
9 - Freedom Bird
10 - Life after Nam

Author: Andrew Wiest
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 316
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 213

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