Alan Quale served as a supply sergeant for an infantry company in the Vietnam War in 1967-68. His first book, My Dakota, is the story of his life on the Great Plains. Quale’s mother saved all her letters her son sent from Vietnam in a shoe box, which formed the backbone of Replacements: Endless War and the Men Sent it Fight It (CreateSpace, 252 pp., $12.95, paper; $3.99, Kindle). Quale had a degree in journalism from the University of North Dakota before he was drafted into the Army.
Quale says this book is fiction. But then he says: “Replacements is my personal story from Vietnam. When writing it, I realized how fortunate I am. There were many other soldiers who also had stories to tell, but they didn’t survive. They were suddenly gone, and then they were replaced, and the war continued without them.”
This is a plainspoken book, with no flowery literary embellishments. It’s easy to read and well worth reading.
Alan Quale tells us that writing this book was therapy for him. He had a lot of bad dreams and his wife encouraged him to talk to her about them. He did that. His wife rescued him. He’d had the same nightmares over and over. What was his subconscious trying to tell him? His dreams were all about replacements. He’d survived the Vietnam War, but many others had not.
“My nightmare shamed me and scolded me over and over again, and then it made me feel the last terrifying moments of life itself,” Quale writes, “a feeling likely experienced by several men in B Company when they were badly wounded.”
In Vietnam, he says, “you survive any way you can.”
Quale was stationed at LZ Bronco near Duc Pho in Quang Ngai Province south of Da Nang. It was a Viet Cong stronghold. He arrived on December 6, 1967, at Duc Pho and enjoyed a full year of the Tet Offensive and its aftermath.
The shooting started when the sun set and seemed to never stop. But Alan Quale survived to write this great book. We are grateful for his survival.