Robert R. Amon Jr.’s Rice Roots: The Vietnam War: True Stories from the Diary of a U.S. Combat Advisor (Legacies and Memories, 328 pp., $27.95, hardcover; $18.95, paper) is a historically accurate page-turner about the Vietnam War.
Amon skillfully used his personal diary from his time in-county as a starting point as he put together this readable memoir of his ’69-’70 tour of duty with a series of South Vietnamese Army units in the Mekong Delta.
As a newly minted, well-trained infantry lieutenant, Bob Amon—a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America—was assigned to a Mobile Advisory Team, which consisted of five men charged with advising and working with small ARVN units. He spent his entire tour in the field, separated from American military activities and base camps. Part of his war story deals with the experiences of the men he served and fought with; those sections enliven the running story line.
Amon toggles between his journal entries—which are printed in italics—with expansions of the narrative and bits of recreated dialogue. The writing draws the reader into the story, and affords a larger view of the war. He also includes the occasional letter home to underscore and complement the story. With this format, we experience one man’s intimate view of the war in remote villages in the Mekong Delta.
Amon’s telling of his story is not minute-by-minute battlefield reporting, nor is it a chronology of his life from cradle to jungle. Instead, he relates, in well-constructed prose, the daily routine of one group of soldiers helping another working side by side and fighting a war as best they can.
Amon, to close his story, describes his return to Vietnam more than twenty years after his tour of duty, accompanied by his wife, visiting towns and villages where he served.
He took photos during his tour, and brought albums of them with him. He was able, through those pictures, to meet with former comrades and enemies, as well as relatives of those he served with and advised.
This is a well-written, well-edited, and well-produced book, and one that I was doubly intrigued with.
That’s because I served in the same Delta areas as Amon did a year before he arrived in Vietnam. My efforts were not in a combat role, but in gathering local intelligence that he relied upon to execute his mission.
The book’s website is riceroots.com