An admiring history of men who fought in the Vietnam War.
Of the original 45 members in Recon Platoon, Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry, 2nd Brigade, of the 101st Airborne Division, three were killed in action. Add to that the many wounded, and the platoon suffered a 75 percent casualty rate. In a breathless, sometimes-overwrought narrative that nonetheless keeps the soldiers at the center, Stanton (Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan, 2009, etc.) tells the story of this group of men and how they endured the 1968 Tet Offensive, one of Vietnam’s vital turning points. The author, who has written two other military histories that fall in the same blood, guns, and trumpets category as this one (an adaptation of his previous book will be released as a Jerry Bruckheimer–produced film in 2018), effectively evokes the rush, chaos, misery, and tragedy of combat. Stanton burrows into the mechanics of how men work in teams that of necessity must be extremely close-knit, especially in a conflict as chaotic as Vietnam. The author has a keen eye for detail and uses the words—both in letters from the time and from recent interviews with the men—to generally fine effect. The decision to render history in the present tense is always curious. Some writers believe it lends immediacy where others will see a false authority, but it is generally effective in rendering the madness of war. Stanton does not concern himself with the debates over the war or its legacy; his emphasis is on this group of men and their experiences then and since.
A flawed but readable piece of Vietnam War history, and readers will sympathize with these young men captured in a time and place that few can imagine.