Bob Whitworth was a draftee who served in Vietnam with the Americal Division’s 21st Infantry, 4th Battalion, 11th Light Infantry Brigade, Delta Company from April 1968 to April 1969. He was awarded a Bronze Star with the V device and a Purple Heart.
Whitworth’s base of operations for his entire time in-country was LZ Bronco, about fifty miles south of Chu Lai. His unit was loaned out to various outfits to patrol “from the coast of the southeast corner of the northern quarter of South Vietnam (designated I Corps) near Duc Pho. North about 100 miles to Da Nang, and west about 70 miles to the mountainous border of Laos.”
On the beach at the South China Sea nearby was LZ Bronco, which was not a small firebase. “It had an airstrip for supply planes, a staffed hospital, numerous bunkers, groups of tents, helicopters, large storage containers, a mess hall, an outdoor movie screen made of plywood, and storage areas with basic supplies,” Whitworth says.
In Through My Eyes: A Story of Hope (Aperio Press, 312 pp., $24.99) Whitworth tells the story of his year in Vietnam as a grunt in short, plainly written chapters with titles such as “First Day in the Field,” “Booby Trap,” “Leeches,” “Red-Headed Snake,” and “Friendly Fire.” He has written an honest, heartfelt book, which is G rated. I noticed only one bad word in the entire book. When shit-burning detail is described, for example, he uses the word “poop.” That sort of sensitivity is shown throughout. There is also humor, Christian faith, and a lot of hope, as the subtitle promises.
Whitworth’s platoon got baths and clean clothes every 45 to 50 days, whether they needed them or not. That bath was usually in a creek or a pond with an armed guard. Whitworth describes the injuries and deaths of many of his friends. That includes Eddie, who survived the Watts Riots, but who did not survive losing his legs and one arm to a Bouncing Betty in the war. For those readers who wish to go straight to the combat scenes, the Tam Ky sections offer plenty of fireworks and bloodshed.
Whitworth’s book is well-edited and well-designed with one of the best covers I’ve seen on a Vietnam War memoir. It pictures the author at Tam Ky after the fighting. The black-and-white photos and maps at the center of the book are superb and informative.
I’m not sure we need one more grunt memoir, but Whitworth has done an honorable job. I enjoyed reading this book, primarily due to Whitworth’s matter-of-fact voice and his gift with details, such as his depictions of pickled pigs’ feet and ice cream. Thanks, Bob, for a job well done.
The author’s website is www.throughmyeyesethebook.com