Ground Pounder by Gregory V. Short

Gregory Short joined the Marines in 1967 after quitting high school. He fully realized that by doing so he was headed for the war in Vietnam. “I did not volunteer to go to Vietnam as a gung-ho patriot or as someone who wanted to emulate John Wayne,” Short writes in his memoir, Ground Pounder: A Marine’s Journey Through South Vietnam, 1968-1969 (University of North Texas Press, 368 pp., $29.95). Rather, Short says, he went to war for “personal reasons,” which “probably had more to do with establishing my manhood and personal identity.”

Short arrived in Vietnam in early February of 1968 at age eighteen, right after the start of the Tet Offensive. He put in thirteen months, primarily as a mortarman with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division stationed at Con Thien near the DMZ.

It was an eventful tour, during which Short saw plenty of action, including at Khe Sanh during the seige—as well as some time in the rear. “I am not writing this memoir as a historical document,” Short says. “Instead, I am writing a personal history of the events and times as I had witnessed them.”

Short, who recently retired after more than thirty years of teaching history, also adds his perspective as a historian, including his views about how the war was fought. “If I have learned anything from my experiences in Vietnam,” he says, “it’s that stark military force isn’t enough to overcome the brutal acts of international terrorism or the revenge-filled atrocities committed in every civil and religious conflict.”

–Marc Leepson