Vietnam 1967-1971 by John Lund

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John Lund’s Vietnam, 1967-1971: Danger, Affliction, Toil, Heartbreak, and Stolen Years (Fuzion Press, 308 pp. $19.95, paper; $4.99, Kindle) is quite an engaging book. Lund takes us on a journey aboard the aircraft carrier Hancock on all three of his deployments on Yankee Station, the Navy’s designation for flight operation battle positions in the South China Sea off the coasts of North and South Vietnam.

Rich with photographs and some nicely descriptive narrative, this offering is—most likely unintentionally—structured like a screenplay. Lund has combed through the correspondence he shared with his new bride throughout his time in the Navy and has produced a unique book.

After you get into it, you can almost hear the intonations of Jack Webb or Peter Coyote narrating and reading the letters as the story toggles back and forth between Lund’s missives to his wife and his telling of the bulk of his aboard-ship story. At times, the writing is mildly salty, but not distractingly so.

Lund begins with background on himself and his family; focusing on things and people that shaped his approach to his Navy job as a machinists mate in the engine room of the Hancock, a World War II-era era aircraft carrier pressed into service for the Vietnam War.  That includes meeting his future wife in high school, one of those fabled love-at-first-sight encounters.

The back cover of the book quotes Capt. Greer, the ship’s commander, saying that the Hancock was “plagued with personnel shortages, inadequately trained personnel, lacked critical talent, equipment reliability that had not been assured, a long list of discrepancies, a criminally short time to marry the ship with the air wing, and with knowledge of predictable casualties.”  That statement forms the base for Lund’s story and his subtitle, “Danger, Affliction, Toil, Heartbreak, and Stolen Years.”

Striving to do the best he could during his tours of duty, Lund earned letters of commendation during all three of his deployments, and rose to the post of Top Watch. His descriptions of engine room conditions (heat, humidity, mechanical failures, and other difficulties) make for an interesting and engaging read, even for someone who never served in the Navy. The book did need a bit more explanation of Navy lingo, though.

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USS Hancock refueling on Yankee Station, 1968

Returning from his third deployment, his last voyage  Lund mustered out as he left the Hancock without a backward glance. As a new civilian, he began experiencing medical and mental challenges that brought him face-to-face with the VA and its bureaucracy. His physical afflictions very likely were caused by frequent exposure (as many other Blue Water Navy sailors were) to Agent Orange, asbestos, and other toxic chemicals.

In the book, Lund comes across not as bitter, but surely disappointed, about it all. This was a nice read—a story well told and an enlistment well fulfilled.

The book’s website is mmsnipe.com

–Tom Werzyn