Grunt Slang in Vietnam by Gordon L. Rottman

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Gordon Rottman entered the U.S. Army in 1967 and served in the 5th Special Forces Group. He retired after 26 years of service, including at tour of duty as a Green Beret in the Vietnam War.  He was a special operations forces scenario writer at the Joint Readiness Training Center, and has been a prolific freelance writer specializing in military equipment and military history. Two of his books, FUBAR and SNAFU, deal with World War II military slang.    

Rottman returns to that subject in his latest book, Grunt Slang in Vietnam: Words of the War (Casemate, 240 pp., $34.95, hardcover; $17.99, Kindle).

It was only natural that I, as the author of the autobiographical novels, REMF Diary and The REMF Returns, chose to look up first the term “REMF” to see how complete the entry was. I figured a really good entry would mention REMF Diary. No such luck. My book wasn’t mentioned, nor was any book using the term. On the other hand, this was a good, complete entry. We are told how to pronounce the term and that 90 percent of the U.S. troops in the Vietnam War were by some definition REMFs. 

Next I looked up John Wayne. Rottman provides a good, short biographical note and also includes entries on a John Wayne bar, John Wayne crackers, and “to John Wayne it.” I found no entry for Audie Murphy, but Mickey Mouse, Mighty Mouse, and Sergeant Rock are included, as are Smoky Bear, Snoopy, and Snuffy. 

There is no index in the book, a minor annoyance to this ex-reference librarian, but that can be worked around. There is a good bibliography and several useful appendices. I especially enjoyed the pidgin Vietnamese-English appendix full of terms I didn’t encounter during my time in the Vietnam War. Appendix D contained many nicknames not familiar to me. Some of them are zany.

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Gordon Rottman

There are just under 1,500 entries in this book, which makes it useful and easy to use without causing pain in the wrists. The book has a likable tone and is accessible to anyone trying to better understand the special language of the Vietnam War as spoken by American servicemembers. 

If I were still teaching a class on the Vietnam War, I would consider using it as one of the texts.  I highly recommend Grunt Slang in Vietnam for reference collections at the community college and university level.

–David Willson 

Vietnam War U.S. & Allied Combat Equipments by Gordon L. Rottman

The latest book in Osprey Publishing’s long-running “Elite” series of richly illustrated, concise compendiums of military forces, artifacts, people, and warfare techniques is Vietnam War U.S. & Allied Combat Equipments (65 pp. $19, paper), written by the much-published Gordon L. Rottman, who served with Army Special Forces in the Vietnam War, and illustrated by the veteran artist, Adam Hook.

This volume does a fine job focusing on showing and telling the things we American soldiers and Marines carried in Vietnam, along with sections on the combat equipment used by the ARVN, and the Australians. We’re talking about equipment here, not weapons so much—so, we get detailed explanations (and photos and sketches) of all manner of things such as weapon accessory cases, rucksacks, canteens, entrenching tools, machetes, bayonets, flashlights, gas masks, and much, much more.

—Marc Leepson

 

Tunnel Rat in Vietnam by Gordon L. Rottman

“There is little mention of tunnel rats in unit histories. Since there were no tunnel rat units as such, they being ad hoc teams and volunteering individuals, there are few separate studies and reports other than those buried within unit records.” Those are the words of the prolific military historian (and Vietnam veteran) Gordon L. Rottman in his latest book, Tunnel Rat in Vietnam (Osprey, 64 pp., $18.95, paper).

Rottman has added to the body of tunnel rat knowledge with this concise, heavily illustrated volume, number 161 in the British publisher Osprey’s Warrior series of books. Rottman follows the series formula and offers a no-frills, detailed accounting of what life was like for those who went down into the VC tunnels to ferret out the enemy, mixed in with boilerplate facts about the war and those who fought in it. The formula also includes lots of technical details and the book contains plenty of information on the pistols, knives, flashlights, and other things the tunnel rats carried below (and above) ground.

 

Author Gordon L. Rottman

While the book has lots of photos of tunnel rats in Vietnam and while Rottman describes what the men went through, he never mentions the name of any individual who served as a tunnel rat. This is an odd omission in a book that showcases the unique, extremely dangerous, tension-filled job that tunnel rats did in the war.

—Marc Leepson

Vietnam Gun Trucks by Gordon L. Rottman

The newest entry–number 184–in Osprey Publishing’s New Vanguard series of concise, profusely illustrated books dealing with military machinery throughout the ages is Vietnam Gun Trucks (48 pp., $17.95, paper) with text by Gordon L. Rottman and illustrations by Peter Bull.

Rottman, a Vietnam veteran and prolific Osprey historian, sets out the details of the various U.S. military vehicles that protected convoys that shipped munitions and supplies overland in Vietnam. These are the “gun trucks” of the title, nearly all of which were improvised in country by the crews that manned them. As is the case with other Osprey titles, this book is filled with many technical details, photos, and illustrations.

“Gun trucks,” Rottman says, “proved to be extremely successful. Even though not officially authorized, their existence was known and their value recognized at all levels in the chain of command. They were considered essential for ensuring convoys made it to their destinations and for limiting losses.”

—Marc Leepson