RED THUNDER, TROPIC LIGHTNING by Eric M. Bergerud

RED THUNDER, TROPIC LIGHTNING

The World of a Combat Division in Vietnam
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Twenty years after the US withdrawal from Vietnam and a spate of books on the war, Bergerud (Military and American History/Lincoln Univ.) offers a fresh and original work that gives essential new insight into the US-Vietnam experience. Ignoring the diplomatic maneuvers of nations and the strategic histories of battles, Bergerud graphically reveals ``the world confronted by an American combat division...including...climate, living conditions, deadly combat, and morale,'' and catalyzes his text with the unvarnished stories of combat veterans. He focuses on the 25th Division; nicknamed ``Tropic Lightning,'' it lost 5000 men between 1966 and 1971. Bergerud notes, for example, the lack of experienced NCOs to lead troops in combat; the Army's answer, he explains, was to create ``shake and bake'' instant-sergeants drawn from likely looking stateside conscripts who were run through brief courses in leadership and then shipped to the fight. As Armored Cavalry Commander Carl Quickmeyer (one of the author's many interviewees) says of his first tour of duty, ``I took over a squad after three months in country...but now, you have four shake-and-bakes and a green platoon leader. And then you had guys who had been there for seven or eight months who didn't have any experience.'' Explanations of Army standard operations and of soldiers' reactions are definitive and riveting as Bergerud covers the emotions of men in firefights; the quagmire of patrolling the same area hundreds of times; soldier's stories of being wounded; Vietnamese civilians' views of US soldiers; drug use; racial tension; and the Army's withholding of troop-movement intelligence from grunts, even though for them it was vital, possibly life-saving, information. The war at ground level, in full force. (Photographs and maps--not seen.)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-8133-1128-4
Page count: 336pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993