Why would an infantryman who fought in in Vietnam decades ago want to share his experiences fifty years later? The answer: because he will never forget what he went through in that war and can no longer put aside the need to pass on his memories. Mike Cunningham’s memoir, Walking Point: An Infantryman’s Untold Story (CreateSpace, 290 pp. $9.99, paper; $4.99, Kindle) was written in 2017 to let others know about the wartime experiences that changed his life forever.
Anyone who has been in a war knows that there are so many parts to that experience that only when they are presented as a composite can the full story be properly told. Mike Cunningham totally understands this as he leads the reader on his journey by knitting together the parts that took him from newbie to combat-experienced trooper.
In this well-written account Cunningham describes joining the Army at 18 and not long after, in June 1968, being plunked down in the jungle with Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 46th Regiment in the 198th Light Infantry Brigade in northern II Corps. He shows what it was like initially to know nothing of war and soon learning the hard way that it is no picnic.
This is a story of fear, courage, and sometimes dumb behavior. Cunningham, for instance, once pointed a pistol he was cleaning in the direction of his best friend and—thinking the chamber was empty—discharged it.
He contrasts even the most mundane experiences in the Vietnam War with those back home. When he describes between movements in enemy-infested jungles with a hike in the woods back home, for example, I knew exactly what he was saying.
Only after Cunningham first witnessed his company suffering casualties did the reality of being in combat totally sunk in. Later, when he learned of civilian atrocities committed by the Viet Cong did he see how difficult it was for the Vietnamese people to endure the war.
Cunningham takes the reader on frustrating and exhausting patrols during which leeches and the crushing heat were constant companions, and with deadly encounters with booby traps while walking point and ambushes always a possibility.
What’s more, rain, mosquitoes, and water-filled foxholes made sleep a nearly unattainable luxury.
This book captures what life as an American infantryman in the Vietnam War was all about. I truly enjoyed Mike Cunningham’s account of the high and low moments in his war and about the brotherhood he was a part of.