The Price They Paid by Michael Putzel

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Michael Putzel is a journalist who covered the war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos for the Associated Press for two-and-a-half years. Putzel’s The Price They Paid: Enduring Wounds of War (Trysail Publishing, 364 pp., $25.99, hardcover; $14.99, paper; $7.99, Kindle) is the true story of Maj. James T. Newman, commanding officer of C Troop, 2/17 Air Cavalry.

Newman is the ostensible subject of this large and detailed book. But the true subjects are the helicopter pilots and crewmen who flew for Condor Six, Newman’s call sign.

Maj. Newman remains a mystery, even at the end of this long book. His men laud him as the finest leader they ever knew. His coolness under fire and bravery are supported again and again by descriptions of many, many helicopter actions he was party to. But it also is said of him that he was “an officer but never a gentleman.” He treated service people like scum, and is described as a scumbag in his treatment of women, including those to whom he was married.

After he left the Vietnam War, Newman was destined for great things in the Army, none of which transpired due to his own bad behavior. He was a barely educated ex-enlisted man from a backward town in Georgia, we are told.

The book is packed with helicopter action. All of the events are carefully documented and described. Those events alone are reason enough for me to understand why Maj. Newman did not do well with peacetime Army life.

The war is described by one participant as that “bag of shit.” Another veteran, bitter that he received an ungrateful reception when he returned home, said that “they could have won if the United States had devoted enough to this fight.”

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Michael Putzel

Maj. Newman was in terrible pain for the rest of his life from wounds received in Vietnam, but he refused to take any medication. He received $8,000 a month in various annuities, but he wrote most of his children out of his will. We are told that no one found a plausible explanation for the changes in Newman, but I see those explanations on virtually every page of this book.

Agent Orange, fragging, drugs, and PTSD are all dealt with in this book.  Also, this book has one of the most distressing covers I have ever seen. It was designed by Gwyn Kennedy Snider and is taken from an actual photo of a uniform of one of the Condors who came to a very bad end.

This is a hard book to read, not that it is badly written or told, but the subject matter is upsetting. I highly recommend it to anyone who believes that war is a good thing and that carpet bombing is an effective method of attaining world peace.

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

—David Willson

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