Theodore Wild’s Lions and Tigers and Cong (Lulu, 398 pp., $28.96, paper; $8.99, e book) describes a variety of places, people, and events in the life of a 19 year old in the Vietnam War as he grew from boy to man. Ted Wild served with Charlie Company in the 5th of the 46th infantry Battalion and later with Bravo Company of the 4th of the 221st Infantry, aka Big Bad Bravo. Wild’s title comes from his newbie’s briefing on what he would find in the jungles of Vietnam.
The author draws on personal experiences as well as on stories, tales, legends, and remembrances of those who fought in the Vietnam War. Although Wild calls his book a memoir he changes all the names, so it is difficult to tell what is real and what is not. Many of the stories are raw and disturbing, but the book gives an excellent look at what life was like for a Vietnam War infantryman.
What struck me most was the quality of the writing. Here are a few passages that demonstrate Ted Wild’s literary talent:
“The heavens hid what we had done to the land. The craters and denuded fields marked our progress, and the land could not be re-farmed, rebuilt, re-tilled nor carted away to be buried.”
“He was a dilapidated alky blues singer, shuffling, carrying a weapon, heading to his janitor job at some midnight bus station to clean toilets used by homeless winos.”
“This acre of sand, this scant fathom of water, was ours, and we played and swam and splashed in it, children forever for a fleeting moment.”
“You have the drive, the passion, the love for a hundred people, and it is distilled by this sour, vile nightmare of war.”
This book is the story of a group of men whose love for one another and need for one another were eclipsed only by the danger that shaped their lives.
The author’s website is tedwild.com/the-author
—Mark S. Miller