Dustoff by Arnold Hughbrook Sampson, Jr.

Arnold Sampson, Jr., takes an exploratory journey into the past in Dustoff: More than Met the Eye, Reflections of a Vietnam Medevac Pilot (BookBaby, 200 pp. $19.69, paper). This war memoir is exceptional because, in examining his role as a UH1-H medevac (Dustoff) helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, Sampson admits to not remembering significant portions of what he did.

As he puts it: “Time has sopped up and blotted out some of the observations I thought I would never forget.” The events Sampson does remember add up to an in-depth appraisal of the ups and downs (pun intended) of a Vietnam War Dustoff pilot.  

Sampson, a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America, joined the 68th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) in 1969, six months after the unit deployed to Chu Lai. As a newbie lieutenant and one of only a few commissioned officers in the unit, all of the non-combat administrative duties were dumped on him. He still flew missions, but it took seven months for him to reach an aircraft commander’s seat.

Flying in the Vietnam War proved to be both exceptionally rewarding and extremely dangerous, Sampson says. He tells stories about situations for which he had no training or inadequate information. He learned from mistakes that often began as creative ideas but failed in practicality, and continually calls himself to task for them.

His conflicted feelings about extreme situations such as rescuing a fellow pilot who accidentally shot himself did not finally resolve themselves until decades later. His acts of kindness such as doctoring a badly injured Vietnamese child who died practically in his arms took a heavy emotional toll. That child’s death still haunts his dreams.   

Sampson creates a nightmare of terror with his accounts of days of flying through rain, clouds, and zero visibility during the monsoon season. For a time, all aircraft were grounded except for Dustoff choppers. In the midst of that chaos, an extraordinary close call caused his crewmen to face him down with a mini-mutiny; Sampson merely walked away from them and the war continued. During that period, his crew saved lives on every mission.

A loner who did not drink or hang out at the club, Sampson was not particularly sociable. His overall view of the 68th is a group of skillful but self-centered warrant officers who did nothing but fly. Sampson’s piloting skill and willingness to help others improve their abilities earned him respect.

He challenges the necessity for the war and criticizes its execution. In closing, he honors the dead and recognizes the post-war suffering of survivors.

Arnold Sampson writes in an enjoyable, conversational style. Although many of his stories emphasize his shortcomings, the fact is that he flew 878 combat missions that evacuated 2,200 people, saving the lives of hundreds of them. 

—Henry Zeybel

SOG Kontum by Joe Parnar and Robert Dumont

Joe Parnar and Robert Dumont’s SOG Kontum: Top Secret Missions in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, 1968–1969  (Casemate, 304 pp. $37.95, hardcover; $15.99, Kindle), as its subtitle indicates, tells the story of MACV Studies and Observation Group covert missions operating out of a Special Forces Forward Operating Fire Support Base near the Ho Chi Minh Trail. 

Those SOG teams made their way into Laos and Cambodia to conduct reconnaissance, rescue downed pilots, carry out psychological operations, and reduce the flow of arms and personnel down the winding trail. 

The MACV/SOG program was the largest covert operation undertaken by the American military since World War II. It was disbanded in 1972 and most of its records destroyed. 

One of the first books about the program was John Plaster’s SOG: The Secret Wars of American Commandos in Vietnam, which came out in 1997. Parner and Dumont’s book is something of a sequel to Plaster’s book. The two books do a good job of replacing the lost records and serving as tributes to the SOG operatives, their allies, and their helicopter crews.

SOG units usually consisted of three grunts and a group of indigenous warriors, mostly Montagnards. The authors interviewed many veterans and the book is filled with their eyewitness accounts.

The book concentrates on missions launched from FOB Kontum, which was near the tri-border area. Former Vietnam War Green Beret Parnar and researcher/writer Dumont cover weapons, uniforms (with no insignia), and gear in the irintroduction.

Then they go on to describe the missions. A typical one started with insertion by helicopter. Most of the missions involved scouting the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Many resulted in problems that required emergency evacuations. These problems often were unplanned encounters with larger enemy units.

The format of the book works well. The move from one eyewitness account to the next is seamless. There are many pictures of the SOG members and maps. What stands out is that many of the missions went wrong and triggered enormous efforts to rescue the Americans and their Montagnards.

Joe Parnar in-country

The book is a tribute to the SOG personnel and to the helicopter crews who risked their lives picking up endangered units. Medics also come off as heroes. The indigenous soldiers are given their due. The enemy is depicted as a worthy adversary.

My main takeaway is how U.S. military leaders were willing to lose more lives to rescue small numbers of Americans or even a dead American.

Also, I could not help but wonder whether the missions were worth the deaths. I cannot believe they had much of an impact on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Twelve SOG teams disappeared when radio contact ceased; 407 team members were killed in action and 49 are missing in action. Eight SOG men received Medals of Honor and, in 2001, SOG received a Presidential Unit Citation.    

–Kevin Hardy

An Ebony Life Defined by William “Smoke” Howard

Memoirs are, by definition, self-serving, strongly personal stories that tell the rest of us the author’s life story. So it is with William “Smoke” Howard’s An Ebony Life Defined (120 pp. $14.99, paper; $7.50, Kindle), the story of Howard’s journey through the music scene starting in Nashville and ending in Philadelphia.

Howard, in his short book, takes the reader on a succinct and well-written ride from early family singing experiences in Bristol, Tennessee, to owning, co-managing and becoming the lead vocalist of the long-time, regionally successful group, The Ebonys.

Centered around Nashville, far from the music industry frenzy of Detroit and of both coasts, Howard was able to hold to the values of his Christian upbringing. Full of anecdotes and asides, his book is akin to Who’s-Who of the Nashville non-country music scene.

I confess that I wasn’t aware of the success and popularity of the Ebonys or many of the other singing groups Howard mentions, and learned a good deal about them from his book.

Howard briefly mentions his service with the Americal Division in the Vietnam War, but includes one of the best war stories I’ve ever read. Don’t miss it.

An Ebony Life is a nicely written and a well-presented labor of love by a man who is rightly proud of his achievements in the music business.

It’s an inspirational read.

–Tom Werzyn

The Fifth Special Forces in the Valleys of Vietnam, 1967 by Douglas Coulter

In his compelling memoir, The Fifth Special Forces in the Valleys of Vietnam, 1967: An Insider’s Account (McFarland, 240 pp. $29.95, paper; $13.49, hardcover), Douglas Coulter describes how he was kicked out of Harvard and wound up in the jungles of Vietnam to perform one of the war’s most dangerous assignments, a long range reconnaissance patrol leader.

Coulter, a privileged Mayflower descendant who died last year, volunteered for Vietnam and to be a platoon leader with Project Delta (the forerunner of today’s Delta Force), a small reconnaisance unit jmade up of American and Vietnamese Special Forces. He went on to lead three-to-five-day patrols off five-man LRRP teams up to 25 miles behind enemy lines in the highly dangerous A Shau Valley, well out of range of friendly artillery. 

He describes in gripping detail the terror, uncertainty, and fear he felt while leading these patrols. Coulter’s depiction of moving through the dense jungle, which he says “in all its aspects conspired to kill,” is graphic and the reader can almost feel the roots, thorns, and vines that his patrol had to defeat, as well as traverse, in the dark. The patrols, while terrifying, were only occasionally successful in gaining intel and made contact with the enemy only once—on his final patrol.

Because he clearly walked the walk, Douglas Coulter is entitled to talk the talk, including criticizing American involvement in the Vietnam War. He says that narcissism was the underlying issue that led to the war and attacks the notion of American exceptionalism. He believes that much of the war was window dressing and a show, and severely criticized how individual Americans treated their Vietnamese allies. On the other hand, he hated the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese soldiers, although he admired their commitment and their abilities.

Coulter criticizes by name and in detail many decisions by, and the character of, many American soldiers of all ranks. He contends that said decisions were born of impure reasons – professional jealousy, stupidity, the desire to look good, power and career over duty and honor, incompetence, bad judgment, cowardice, ass kissing, and lack of character. He describes an incident in which an officer unnecessarily got into a chopper and had it fly over a skirmish so that he could receive the Combat Infantryman Badge, not an uncommon occurrence in the Vietnam War.

A Project Delta LRRP Team

Not sparing himself, Coulter cites incidents of his own errors of judgment, incompetence, and stupidity. He goes on to say that experiencing the character of other men is one of the great things about serving in the military, but concludes that he hadn’t “gained a thing” from serving in the war, and hadn’t learned to act like a man. This reviewer disagrees with that assessment.

Coulter returned from the war and finished his Harvard degree, then added an MBA from its business school. He became a political organizer working for the 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern.

Coulter and I had a close mutual friend at Harvard who idolized him. So did almost all of the men he served with, including Gen. Henry Hugh Shelton, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was a Project Delta captain in the Vietnam War and who wrote the book’s foreword.

A Harvard rallying cry is, “Fight Fiercely, Harvard,” something Douglas Coulter did.

–Harvey Weiner

Warpath by A. J. Moore

A. J. Moore unravels his dynamic Vietnam War memoir centered on flying as an E-5 scout observer in the OH-6A Cayuse helicopter—the Loach—in Warpath: One Vietnam Veteran’s Journey through War, Disillusionment, Guilt and Recovery (Apache Press Books, 296 pp. $16.99, paper; $6.99, Kindle).

In the book’s opening line, Moore declares that he “was eager to go” into the military, and “was not waiting for the draft.” Because of his father’s history as a World War II rifleman and the influence of Hollywood heroic war movies, he says, “Sitting out the [Vietnam] war was simply not an option.” He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1967 at the age of 18.

Reading about Moore’s Loach missions is spellbinding. Operating from Vinh Long with the 1st Cav in 1969, Moore experienced events beyond imagination during low-level search-and-destroy missions.

On many flights whatever could go wrong went wrong. As often as not, problems evolved from unexpected enemy action or misdirected maneuvers by Moore and his pilots. They often escaped harm by performing seemingly impossible moves that surprised even themselves.

“Among all helicopter aircrew, the Loach crews had the highest casualty rates,” Moore writes. In Army and Marine jobs, he adds, helicopter crews ranked second-highest in casualty rates only to armored personnel carrier crews.

Most of his unit’s operations took place in free-fire zones. He describes in detail the gore resulting from blasting enemy troops on the ground with gunfire, rockets, and grenades.

He confesses to killing people in free-fire zones regardless of whether they fired at his helicopter. When operating with friendly ground troops, the Loach crews did not take prisoners. Body counts measured a mission’s success.      

Basically, Moore has written a story of discovery, namely that the positive beliefs he learned as a child shattered under exposure to war’s horrors. In-country, he soon met disillusionment with two sobering realizations: First, the Vietnamese actually wanted to kill him for no reason other than he was American soldier; and second, the ARVN’s hearts were not into the effort.

Moore trained as a helicopter maintenance man and won top honors through every phase of schooling. He reflects on the progression of his training with a keen appreciation for unfamiliar behavior by the men around him. In his description of Basic Training, for example, Moore writes about crises faced by other young men more than by himself. He does the same when looking back on his maintenance and flying experiences.

A.J. Moore in-country

For four months in Vietnam he performed the seven-days-a-week “monotonous drudgery” of a helicopter mechanic under a sergeant who specialized in make-work tasks. After volunteering three times, Moore was finally reassigned to fly alongside Loach pilots as another pair of eyes. For extra life insurance, the pilots taught him how to fly the Loach. 

Coming home was difficult. He decided not to pursue a military career he had been counting on. Guilt and shame overwhelmed him. His recitation of PTSD treatment he received describes excellent programs unfamiliar to me. He eventually shared his emotional rebirth with other war veterans.

As president of VVA’s Tidewater, Virginia Chapter 48 in Norfolk, he concentrated on elevating the social status of challenged Vietnam War veterans and providing college scholarships for veterans’ children.

Warpath more than fulfills its subtitle. Al Moore shows himself to be a man of integrity: By revealing the pros and cons of his Vietnam War story, he takes the glory out of war.

—Henry Zeybel

Winds of Discontent by Don Meyer

Don Meyer’s novel, Winds of Discontent (329 pp. $24.95, hardcover; 14.95, paper; $4.95, Kindle), is a throwback to the paperback men’s adventure novels that were popular from the 50s through the 70s, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The story takes place in Vietnam, mainly during the years of the French Indochina War, then up to the time of the big American involvement. Meyer is a Vietnam War and worked six years on writing this novel.

It’s late 1945 and nineteen-year-old Sinclair Langdon, the son of an American mother and British father, has decided to stay in Vietnam after his father is posted back to China. He befriends two men who will play important roles in his life. The first, Frenchy, is a soldier of fortune running guns to Vietnamese rebel groups fighting the French. Langdon goes to work for him.

The second, Edward Bourke, works for a small British newspaper and Langdon will also winds up working for him. The plan is for Langdon to accompany Frenchy on his dangerous missions and report what he sees and learns to Bourke, who will write them up in his newspaper.

In true adventure-novel style Langdon falls in love. In this case its with Yvonne Renaud, a beautiful young Eurasian (Vietnamese and French). That’s quite a bit for a nineteen-year-old to handle, but the times and the environment cause him to grow up fast.

The two nineteen-year-olds quickly develop a physical relationship. She comes with a history she’s ashamed of, though, having been forced into sex slavery by Japanese forces when she was sixteen. She’s the daughter of a prominent French officer dying of cancer, a man determined to arrange a marriage for her with a military officer.

Like I said, there’s a lot going on here.

While delivering more and more American weapons to Vietnamese rebels, Langdon is also writing about the growing ill feelings building in the countryside about the French.

The years go by. There’s a lot of gunplay. Each main character gets at least one bullet wound.

I enjoyed reading Winds of Discontent, which is basically an old-style pulp men’s adventure tale. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  

–Bill McCloud

The End of Ambition: The United States and the Third World in the Vietnam War Era by Mark Atwood Lawrence

For most readers of this review, the Vietnam War was an intensely personal experience. The incidence of war altered a life’s projection, reshaping its path and having a rippling effect on relationships with family, friends, and colleagues — many far removed in time and space from the war itself.

This analogy is helpful in understanding Mark Atwood Lawrence’s brilliant new book, The End of Ambition: The United States and the Third World in the Vietnam War Era (Princeton University Press, 408 pp. $35). Lawrence makes a compelling argument that the Vietnam War, along with the social and cultural domestic changes of the 1960s, led to the downfall of liberal ambitions in the Third World so eloquently espoused by President John F. Kennedy, and were replaced with a foreign policy that favored stability—usually in the form of a dictatorship—over democracy.

Lawrence, a University of Texas history professor and one of the leading authorities of American Cold War foreign policy, is the author of Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam and Vietnam: A Concise International History. Though The End of Ambition is about American foreign policy and decision-making, Lawrence has undertaken extensive archival research about five countries.

The book’s first three chapters detail the liberal promise of President John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier, the transition and inheritance of Lyndon Johnson of this potential after Kennedy’s assassination, and how LBJ, who was focused on domestic policy, dealt with the world as the war in Vietnam escalated.

The next chapters are case studies of Brazil, India, Iran, Indonesia, and southern Africa, focusing on how the war effected America’s policies and relationships with them. The conclusion explores Richard Nixon and his role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.

After eight years of Dwight Eisenhower and a foreign policy built on nuclear deterrence, the transition from the then oldest president to the youngest could not have been starker. Kennedy’s New Frontiersmen expressed optimism about the United States’ ability to promote democracy and development in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. They argued that the U.S. had the resources and the power to implement plans that would give these former colonies the opportunity to flourish in a democratic, free market system.

Though this impulse to promote and spread democracy is part of America’s heritage, its need was amplified by the realities of the Cold War, in which competition with the Soviet Union for the world’s unaligned nations would determine the outcome of the struggle.

When he assumed the presidency in November 1963, Johnson was determined to show constancy to the American people and the international community. He retained Kennedy’s personnel and policies, but he was no acolyte of modernization and nation-building, and his instinctive reticence in foreign affairs was amplified with ongoing crises in Vietnam.

Lawrence uses a case-study approach through the five developing nations to convincingly show the transformation of American policy from promise to practicality. This is accomplished in such a concise and profound manner that each could stand alone as a brief book.

LBJ in Cam Ranh Bay, October 1966

In his conclusion, Lawrence makes the provocative argument that President Nixon should not be given credit for the innovative policies that ended the war in Vietnam, opened China, and thawed relations with the Soviet Union.

These policies, Lawrence argues, started under Johnson. In response to the turbulence of the Vietnam War, LBJ adopted a policy of cautious realpolitik to ensure stability and reliability.

But, as Lawrence so thoroughly demonstrates, Johnson was out of his element in foreign affairs, and his foreign policy was reactive. Nixon did benefit from Johnson’s policy turn, and articulated, planned, and implemented policies that had a coherent vision and measurable goals.

Lawrence laments that the U.S. did not cope constructively with the developing world in the 1960s to balance a national instinct to promote change with an understanding on the limits of its power. Though he does not explain how this could be achieved, Lawrence should not be criticized as that is a conundrum that perplexes American foreign policy to this day.

Daniel R. Hart

Standing Tall by Robert F. Foley

Coincidentally, I was reading Standing Tall: Leadership Lessons in the Life of a Soldier (Casemate, 240 pp. $34.95, hardcover; $20.99, Kindle) while waiting for my wife in the Newton, Massachusetts, hospital where the author, Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, was born

In this autobiography, we learned that Foley’s mother believed that reading books was a sign of laziness and she forced him, as a child, to turn in his library card. He went to West Point as a 6’7” basketball recruit and his limited reading background may have contributed to him ranking of 497th out of the 504 in the USMA Class of 1963. 

His academic history also may partially inform the crisp style and content of this short autobiography, but it did not deter him from having a distinguished military career. As Foley indicates, his mother instilled in him a strong work ethic and it shows.

Bob Foley was a platoon leader and company commander with the 2nd/27th in the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1966-67. He received the Medal of Honor the following year for his extraordinary courage under fire during a vicious jungle fight in November 1966 near Tay Ninh. After Vietnam, Foley went on to serve in 25 assignments during his 37-year military career (1963-2000), which led to three stars.

He chronicles all of them in great detail, and sprinkles his thoughts about leadership throughout the book. There are photos, a list of 109 wreath-laying assignments, a summary of others, images of his citations and decorations, along with bibliography and an index. He has a short section on his thoughts about the Vietnam War and how the many opportunities over the decades to avoid it were squandered.

Foley’s West Point Yearbook Photo

The book is loud and clear on the sacrifices a military family must undergo to enhance a servicemember’s career. His three children went to nine different schools from first grade through high school, for example, and yet, even as teenagers, they were seemingly always supportive of him.

His wife could not have had a sustained independent career, although she did have take teaching and other jobs. She had to spend the bulk of her life raising the children, creating a home, and being a supportive military wife in all its aspects. Foley’s career would not have been as successful, or probably not successful at all, without his wife and children’s unqualified buy-in. He recognizes this and is deeply appreciative.

What is intriguing is that Foley’s success came despite his academic deficiencies and background. Some West Point dropouts, such as Edgar Allan Poe, James McNeal Whistler and Adam Vinitieri, have been successful in other endeavors. However, those who finished last in their West Point classes, including George Armstrong Custer, George Pickett, and Simeon Magruder Levy, did not fare well thereafter, at least in their final battles. 

Neither Dwight Eisenhower nor Ulysses Grant performed particularly well at West Point.  Yet they ended up as among the greatest of U.S. military leaders, also became U.S. presidents. 

Maybe Bob Foley’s mother had the right idea.

-Harvey Weiner

Training and Deployment in America’s Nuclear Cold Warriors in Asia by Steve Rabson

Steve Rabson’s Training and Deployment in America’s Nuclear Cold Warriors in Asia: Keepers of Armageddon (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 150 pp. $72) is a concise memoir by a Brown University professor emeritus and Japanologist chronicling his training and deployment as an Army nuclear weapons electronics specialist in Okinawa in 1967-68.

The book emanated from an email group of several alumni of the 137th Ordnance Company, many of whose writings appear in the book, and many of whom, including the author, had their later civilian careers greatly influenced by their time in Okinawa.

How did a nice University of Michigan Jewish graduate, who majored in English and minored in music (piano), end up electronically testing nuclear warheads in a Pacific island smaller than Oahu during the Vietnam War?  He was drafted into the U.S. Army.

Rabson, who had zero electronics training, speculates that a clerk at Ft. Jackson may have accidentally typed “engg” (engineering) instead of “eng” (English) as Rabson’s college major. This seems like a plausible military explanation. He never mentions that he was unable to do his military job, but does say that to boots-on-the-ground Vietnam War veteran, his year in Okinawa during the height of the war must seem like being in a safe summer camp.

There is a condensed history of Okinawa’s wars, of nuclear weapons in general, and of the usually negative American presence on the island. Okinawa was an R&R destination for American troops, mainly due to the well-known availability of Okinawan women, which was fictionalized in Fields of Fire, James Webb’s acclaimed 1978 Vietnam War novel.

A major support base for U.S. troops in both the Vietnam and Korean wars, Okinawa had “secret” nuclear weapons that everyone in the world new about. Even though it is now governed by Japan, Okinawa, 25,000 American troops are serving there on U.S. military bases. About 100 marriages between American men and Okinawan women take place each year and there is a large expatriate American retirement community on the island.

On a 2014 visit, Rabson revisited and interviewed the Okinawan owner of Koko’s, his favorite restaurant during his tour of duty, which is now a Tex-Mex diner, as well the Okinawan general manager of the 1967 PX.

Rabson is extremely critical of the injustices and inequities imposed on local residents by the American military. Land was expropriated, arbitrarily and without adequate compensation (he calls is a “second invasion”), and native Okinawans have been treated as inferiors by Americans. Rape by American troops is not uncommon, and there are frequent local protests against the U.S. presence on the island. 

Gen. Turgidson

Although radiation may have caused serious illnesses to both Americans and Okinawans, the VA has refused to recognize any connection and has denied all such veterans’ claims. The Japanese, who now govern the island, refuse to test the soil for radiation because there can never be nuclear weapons on Japanese land.

The author’s recent visit to the Nagasaki Museum ironically highlights the fact that his military job was to help make sure that the nuclear weapons under his control were ready to be used.

Although the themes of the 1964 movie, Dr. Strangelove, permeate the book—both in the words of the author and in the mind of this reader—Training and Development contains a real-life happy ending.

No nuclear weapon stored in Okinawa was ever fired in anger and all nuclear weapons are now gone from the island and from all American overseas bases. 

Take that, Gen. “Buck” Turgidson!*

–Harvey Weiner

*The fictional, ultra-aggressive Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff played by George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove.

Sign Here for Sacrifice by Ian Gardner

Writing in a reportorial style, Ian Gardner pays tribute to the guts and glory of 800 U.S. Army infantrymen in Sign Here for Sacrifice: The Untold Story of the Third Battalion, 506th Airborne, Vietnam 1968 (Osprey, 304 pp. $30, hardcover; $14.95, Kindle). The 3/506, which was part of the 101st Airborne Division, was activated in January 1967. In his book Gardner presents a nearly day-by-day account of encounters between the men of 3/506 and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops.

Gardner, a British military historian, is the author of a trilogy published by Osprey between 2010 and 2014 on the exploits of the Curahee, the 3rd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry in Europe during World War II. Similarly in Sign Here for Sacrifice, he recreates the actions and attitudes of thirty of the 3/506 Vietnam War veterans he interviewed. Many told him their war stories for the first time.

The 3/506 partially fulfilled Gen. William Westmoreland’s desire for American forces to search out VC and NVA in South Vietnam. Assigned as Third Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. John Geraci (call sign “Mal Hombre”) chose Maj. Robert Mairs (call sign “Fat Cat”) as his S-3, and the two men had carte blanche manning their organization of 800 hand-picked soldiers. Many of them had volunteered for the duty.

When the unit arrived in Vietnam’s Central Highlands late in 1967, they humped valleys between 1,000-meter tall mountains and disrupted an entrenched enemy. Initially, Westermoreland’s search-and-destroy tactic was a learning experience that cost more casualties than expected. Soon, though, each platoon began to stage its own ambush operations. Gardner plays no favorites in spelling out the bad and good outcomes.

Men he interviewed recollect the feats of themselves and other unforgettable warriors. Gardner recreates the personalities of men of all ranks in the battalion, some at great length and others with a single sentence. Men with nicknames such as Paladin, Snake, Hardcore, Pineapple, Bull, and Turtle. He perfectly interlaces their actions and words, often imbued with humor at crucial moments.

The most fascinating part of the book deals with 3/506’s defense of the coastal city of Phan Thiet against VC/NVA ground assaults that began with the 1968 Tet Offensive. Little has been written about those battles.

Fighting in the arena continued far into 1968, including a second Tet mini-offensive in May. American losses resulting from skirmishes, ambushes, snipers, booby-traps, accidents, and simple mistakes occurred repeatedly throughout the time.

Garner’s accounts show the punishment of war as pronouncedly as anything I have read. Time and again, 3/506 soldiers continued to fight despite suffering serious wounds, stopping only when blown into unconsciousness or killed.

Gardner has earned my gratitude for digging out eye-opening stories of service and duty, which he says was the “first and foremost” purpose of his writing Sign Here for Sacrifice.

While preparing this review, I read much of the book a second time and enjoyed it even more than the first reading.

—Henry Zeybel