An unsentimental personal account of the Vietnam War.
With the assistance of magazine writer Riebling, retired SEAL master chief Keith chronicles a tale that’s oddly refreshing in its clear-eyed bluntness. The author and his tough-as-nails team had jobs to do, he writes, carrying out missions protecting friendly villages from Viet Cong attacks; they simply did not have time to let the brutal surroundings affect them. The narrative opens with the SEALs surrounded by explosions and tracer fire as they wait to be extracted by helicopter. Keith was not consumed by fear, as most people would be. Instead, he reflected on how the red tracer fire was “as beautiful as any Fourth of July fireworks display” and how lucky he felt to be doing a job he loved. The son of a Navy chief and the grandson of two Army veterans, from an early age Keith dreamed of entering the military, and his determination and skill led him to the elite Navy SEALs. There’s little doubt that he was born to be a soldier, as his hard-nosed, complete-the-mission training comes through on every page of this memoir. When one of his soldiers died, he took lessons from the circumstances of the death rather than spend precious time mourning or dwelling on the life-or-death scenarios he faced on a daily basis. Keith’s prose leans toward Mickey Spillane–like hypermasculinity—he describes a beautiful woman as having “hit the jackpot” on the “genetic wheel of fortune”—and the author dwells on technical aspects of weaponry to the point of distraction. Nonetheless, he provides a tough, unphilosophical account of the job of war.
A direct, dispassionate memoir by one of the Navy’s most highly decorated soldiers.