Killing for Peace by Garry Farrington

Garry Farrington was a college dropout draftee who went through OCS. Even though he graduated first in his class in Armor School, when Farrington arrived in Vietnam in September 1968, he was assigned an infantry unit, the First Cavalry Division. He had an eventful Vietnam War tour, receiving eleven medals, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star with V, Purple Heart, and the Cross of Gallantry.

In  his memoir, Killing for Peace: Living, Fighting and Dying in Vietnam (Amazon Digital Services, 171 pp., $4.99, Kindle), Farrington says of those medals: “I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

This Army officer memoir is anything but run-of-the-mill. Farrington’s opinions about the Vietnam War count for a lot for me, as he was involved in much combat. He describes that combat with a rare flare for language, and he does not pull any punches. War to him is where “old men send young men off to die in a foreign country because the country needs to be reshaped to match the old men’s dreams of what the world should be.”

Farrington also says that “the war was a crock and that some of them would die for nothing while old men argued about ‘Peace with Honor.’”

I’ve never read a better concise description of infantry life: “Hump the bush all day, dig in at night.” In one month in Vietnam, Farrington began to feel like an infantry officer. First, he and his men built LZ Mustang, occupied it, and then destroyed it, and moved away and built another, LZ Tracy.

“My original premise that we were in Vietnam to help a valiant population fight off the advances of sinister communism had been shelved long ago,” Farrington says. “The Vietnamese people wouldn’t recognize ‘democracy’ if it bit them in the ass.”  He concludes that “the whole reason for us to be out there in the shit was to keep each other alive to go home.” Garry Farrington is the officer I would have wanted if I had been unlucky enough to be in the infantry.

Farrington points out that about one in twelve of us who served in Vietnam were actually “in the shit,” so that REMFs surmised that anyone who had not “weaseled out of it” must be stupid. I admit that I (a former REMF) had that thought at the time. I no longer think that way.

The author mentions Audie Murphy, Gary Cooper, and John Wayne. Ham and lima beans make an appearance. “That shit made me gag,” Farrington says, but he ate it because he had no option. ARVN troops are worthless and not to be trusted. Peace symbols are common and so is marijuana smoking.

Blacks felt they were disproportionately represented in the fighting, and the author agrees. He and his fellow infantrymen got sprayed by Agent Orange and they tried to wash it off, knowing it couldn’t be good for them. They had transistor radios and listened to reports of the Paris Peace Talks.  And they kept on fighting.

I loved reading this book, and was disappointed when it ended. I give it high marks for language and story-telling skills, and for honesty on every page.

If you are hungry for a book about Army infantry action in Vietnam, this is the one for you.

The author’s website is http://garryfarrington.com

—David Willson

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