In my year in Vietnam, I walked the booby-trapped rice paddies of the Delta, searching for the elusive Viet Cong, and later macheted my way through the triple-canopy jungle, fighting the North Vietnamese Regulars…I sweated, thirsted, hunted, killed. Somewhere in all my experiences, I overlapped the situations of nearly every infantryman and many others who served.
Michael Lee Lanning's journal of his first tour of duty in Vietnam provides an unvarnished daily account of life in the field. The blood, fear, camaraderie, and tedium of combat and maneuver. Fleshed out with narrative and detail years later, the pages of this memorable book, first published in 1987, show an eager young recruit growing before the reader's eyes into a proud but bloodied combat veteran.
Subsequent volumes in his Vietnam Trilogy will detail Lanning's tour as a company commander and his post-war investigation into the mind of the enemy. Through his eyes, readers see the reality of a war that did not always receive glory but was, in his words, "the only war we had."
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It's simply amazing to hear Lanning's books. They strike me as being completely honest, since he never pulls his punches, even when it would have been easy to leave some things out in order to make himself look better. One wonders why he didn't make full Colonel--no doubt it has something to do with his habit of answering even superior officers in his very direct manner. Seems that, unfortunately, the REMF's had the last laugh. It certainly isn't a judgment on his combat record, which is simply brilliant! I like this guy much better than, say, Larry Heinemann. Lanning doesn't indulge in cynicism and sarcasm at the expense of the men with which he served. His work makes me respect the Vietnam vets all the more.
Very well written.