Reaching by Allen Dorfman


Allen Dorfman was drafted into the U.S. Army and served a 1967-68 tour of duty as an infantryman in Vietnam. He wrote Reaching (CreateSpace, 278 pp., $11.99, paper; $3.99, Kindle)  in the early 1970s. It is a decent in-country infantry novel that seems more like a thinly disguised memoir.

The cover blurb does an excellent job of encapsulating the novel. To wit: “In the spring of 1967, Hal Patsin receives his draft notice as the Vietnam War escalates. He plans to register as a conscientious objector—until his father says, ‘I’ve never asked for anything, Patty, but now I ask this: Serve your country.’”

So the oddly named Patty goes off to Vietnam a grunt determined never to fire his M-16. During the 1968 Tet Offensive, however, Patty is where the action is, and his resolution does not last long. He fires that M-16 because he doesn’t want to let down his friends Mac, Italy, Doc, and Timmy.


The author in Vietnam

A lot of the usual Vietnam War combat novel things happen to Patty and his friends. They complain that they don’t get to fight Hitler like their fathers did. They talk about going back to The World.  They sing “Green, Green Grass of Home.” They get into a mess of red ants and have conflicts with a green LT. Friendly fire takes its toll. They envy Bonnie and Clyde after they see the movie. Leeches get them; Humphrey Bogart and “The African Queen” come up.

This group of grunts—like so many of us in the Vietnam War generation—has been much affected by boyhoods spent watching movies and television and reading comic books. John Wayne, strong silent cowboys in white hats, and western saloons have filled their brains.

But their war does not measure up to that preparation. They want to get out of Dodge. Who can blame them?

Buy his book. I suspect it is the only one that Allen Dorfman—who today enjoys a nice life in Spokane, Washington, with his beautiful family, including two granddaughters—will ever write.  It’s a miracle he lived to write this one.

The author’s website is

—David Willson