For 17 months during 1966-67, a handful of combat-seasoned Marine volunteers lived and fought in the Vietnam village of Binh Nghia (""Been Knee-ah""), a Viet Cong dominated peasant community south of the American Chulai airfield and, incidentally, nine miles north of My Lai. In the end, the Marines, chosen for their empathic feelings toward the villagers, secured the area with the help of the local provisional forces. Marine Captain West, Working for the RAND Corporation, spent four years preparing this socio-military study of what is admittedly an atypical mission, visiting Binh Nghia numerous times, interviewing the principals, etc. His analysis of the operation appears to be objective; he spares none of the bilious details of guerrilla war: the local village police chief, Thanh, the words ""Sat Cong"" -- ""Kill Communists"" tattooed on his chest, stuffs a lye-soaked rag into the mouth of a female VC suspect; the stoned Marine who tried to kill a villager; the bloody firefights in the night. Nonetheless the book as a whole is an obvious attempt to spruce up the American military's sordid image in Vietnam; West emphasizes the Marines' commitment to save the village, their sexual good conduct, their GI Joe rapport with the rural Vietnamese (there is even that waif whom one soldier wants to adopt). Though West seems loathe to raise let alone discuss it, the lurking question here is why so few Binh Nghias and so many My Lais. Perhaps RAND will commission him to look into that one next.