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The 13th Valley

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  1,792 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
Praise for "The 13th Valley," a Finalist for the American Book Award: "There have been a number of excellent books about Vietnam...but none has managed to communicate in such detail the day-to-day pain, discomfort, frustration and exhilaration of the American military experience in Vietnam." --Joe Klein, "The New York Times Book Review"

" "The" novel about the Vietnam War..
Paperback, 606 pages
Published February 15th 1999 by Griffin (first published January 1st 1982)
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Darian G.
May 14, 2013 Darian G. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, history

The 13th Valley by John M. Del Vecchio

When I began reading “The 13th Valley”, I was immediately taken aback by the author’s assertion that Vietnam was “the most moral war this nation has ever engaged.” I had never heard anyone make that claim before nor had the option ever crossed my mind. I taught history, and it is almost universally believed that the distinction of “most moral war” lies with the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, or World War II. I was intrigued. It was a bold statement. He ha
Anthony Ryan
Oct 24, 2014 Anthony Ryan rated it it was amazing
Often hailed as the most important novel to emerge from the Vietnam conflict, former war reporter John M. Del Vecchio weaves fiction and fact to paint a vivid picture of the soldier's lot in the latter stages of US involvement. The narrative follows a fictional company of paratroopers taking part in the last major US operation of the war, a real life event that was every bit as futile as is depicted here. The dialogue flows with poetic obscenity as characters converse in authentic military patoi ...more
Nov 30, 2012 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a captivating and engrossing book. I first read it in the mid 80's when the paper back edition first came out. I could not put it down then and my experience was the same today when I read it again. But be warned that there are very graphic depictions in the book. And these depictions are not limited to combat and war. The author does a very credible job of getting into the heads of the soldiers. You learn what they are thinking, feeling, and dreaming. Many of the men retain some semblan ...more
Aug 06, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
the 13th valley is one of my husband's most favourite books, so i read it at his request several years ago. it is an amazing book and del vecchio did a fantastic job creating a work that feels so authentic and heartbreaking. given his personal experiences, it is not surprising he was able to achieve this in the 13th valley. he knows of what he writes.

if you are interested in books about the vietnam war, i highly recommend this one. it's a much better book than the more popular Matterhorn by Karl
Ray Grasshoff
Re-reading this book some 25 years later, I'm not nearly as impressed as I was the first time. "Overwritten" is the term that now comes to mind, based on what I found to be a curious overflow of words in many passsages, apparently aimed at intense description, but that somehow took something away rather than adding. In particular, the out-of-the blue, intense philosophical discussions seemed at least a bit out of character for many of the participants. And the lengthy attempts at shedding light ...more
S. Stoner
Apr 27, 2012 S. Stoner rated it it was amazing
I read the 13th Valley when it first came out and then reread it a couple of more times over the years (last read was 2011). You see something new each time you read it. It is, in my estimation, the quintessential book on ground-pounder combat in Vietnam. It is gritty, gut-wrenching, profane and philosophical all at the same time. It follows the trials and tribulations of a single unit (the "oh deuce")during its engagement in the A Shau valley, describing not only the action, but the setting in ...more
Mar 26, 2015 Gregory rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the most powerful book I've read on Vietnam. As I read the Siege of Khe Sanh I kept recalling the acts of unselfish bravery and heroism from the troops in The 13th Valley. The book is an amazing story that compares to Mailer in passion, pain and complexity. A closing seen of an LZ ambush is still in my mind. This is as real and powerful as any novel about any war.
Hall's Bookshop
Jun 20, 2015 Hall's Bookshop rated it it was amazing
Absolutely strongly recommended, as a war novel as opposed to a factual account. However, it was written by a former war correspondant who was actually in A Shau Valley, in Vietnam in the 1970s. Incredibly detailed characters, and an unexpected ending to boot make this a cracking read.
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
The book is slow at first but picks up later on. A very insightful book of the vietnam war and the politics behind it.
Tom Wilson
Sep 18, 2014 Tom Wilson rated it it was amazing
I led a Recon Platoon in the Central Highlands in 1970-71 and this book captures the tactical experience perfectly. The role of my platoon, at that time, can be characterized as "Bait". Our job was to go around poking at stuff until something poked back, I was there just after Cambodia and Charles didn't want to come out to fight, so I never had exactly the sort of experience that ended the book, but I once ran my platoon as fast as I could to what some helicopter pilots claimed was a battalion ...more
Go to the description above for a plot outline.

If you are after a deeply detailed and authentic account of a group of men facing the challenges of the Vietnam War (or the American War as the Vietnamese call it) during a particular battle / operation, then this should satisfy you. When I say deeply detailed, I mean it: the operational aspects of Company level activities, including non-combat activities, is relayed in sometimes atomic detail, however when the action heats up the detail is quite r
May 05, 2010 Ian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam, favourites, war
Quite the best example of its genre - I have read it several times and it continues to produce deep emotions each time.

Just read again in June 2016 and it remains excellent. Some of the philosophy and discussions about the root causes of conflict can run on a bit but the scenes of combat are breathtakingly visceral and the boredom/terror balance of the life of the combat soldier is really well done. A really interesting aside from this particular reading was comparing the racial tension amongst
Travis Weir
Jul 30, 2013 Travis Weir rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The only problem I had with this book were the philosophical quagmires that were sprinkled throughout the prose. But other than that, this was a truly brilliant account of the 101st Airborne Division's "Silver Star" campaign within the Khe Ta Laou river valley during August of 1970.

I am not a Vietnam veteran, but I imagine that this book gave me the closest "experience" as to what it was truly like to "hump a ruck" for weeks on end through the sweltering jungle bush. Gritty, painful, and frighte
Stephanie Coonce-Jordan
Jan 04, 2011 Stephanie Coonce-Jordan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Cole Coonce
Recommended to Stephanie by: Mark Juric
Among the plethora of novel's written on the soldier's experience in Vietnam, this was the only one I've ever run across that I just couldn't put down. It grants the reader access to a world only vaguely understood by civilians via the evening news. In that regard, I would almost have to label it a classic war novel. Just insert a different cause and change the timeline and you've got a fairly accurate portrayal of what it was really like "over there".
A great read for the uninitiated. Even be
Nick Maloney
Aug 26, 2013 Nick Maloney rated it liked it
Having just read Matterhorn, I was hoping this book would deliver much of the same intensity. It didn't. The 13th Valley is a solid read but parts of it felt forced, particularly the character dialogues about race, religion, ethics, etc. While these were relevant issues of the times the way they were constructed interrupted the flow of the novel (IMHO). If this book was boiled down to its essence and only included the "boonierat experience" while leaving out the philosophy 101 dialogue it would ...more
Phillip Holden
Feb 11, 2013 Phillip Holden rated it it was amazing
I've owned this book since the late 80's, and it is one I will own forever. To me, this is the definitive story of the men who fought the Viet Nam war. It is gripping, haunting and very revealing for those of us who were too young to experience it.

Every few years, I read this book again. As with many that one may choose to re-read, there is always something new to behold and contemplate. This is one of my most cherished books. While it is indeed a novel, you can tell the writer had been there an
May 31, 2009 Gmknutson rated it it was amazing
My favorite Vietnam book, mostly because it parallels my own experiences as a member of the 101st in 1968-69. Just looking at the map on the flyleaf is like seeing a map of my home state, all the places I was familiar with. I have to admit that some of the campfire dialogue is a little tedious and forced, and a few of the characters are little more than one-dimensional. Nevertheless, the overall truth rings out.
Keith Landsteiner
Oct 16, 2012 Keith Landsteiner rated it it was amazing
One of the best and most disturbing books I've ever read.. follows the story of a scared sh*tless young recruit as he arrives "in country" during the Vietnam war.. and his gradual descent into madness. Awesome book.
Glenn Zorpette
Apr 19, 2011 Glenn Zorpette rated it really liked it
Powerful, vivid, gripping. If you've got the time and the interest, this book will show you exactly what it was like to be an infantry soldier during the Vietnam war. It also powerfully encapsulates the ugly and noble truths of all wars. It's raw and almost overwhelming at times, but well worth it.
Oct 02, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it
great viet-nam love it long time
Jasmin Martin
Oct 10, 2016 Jasmin Martin rated it liked it
Read this when I was about 15. Very long and heavy content. It's a fantastic read, I was glued to it. If you want to know how the Vietnam war was from the American perspective, then this is the book to go to.
Dec 23, 2014 Iain rated it it was amazing
There are a few things that set this novel above other excellent fictionalised recollections of the Vietnam War.

At the outset, the author is clear that this isn't a memoir of a futile campaign. Operation Texas Star follows A Company of the 101st Airborne regiment deep into the Valley, outfighting and outwitting their seasoned North Vietnamese opponents as well as the occasionally blundering hand of their own commander. The attrition inflicted by the jungle environment is as ruthless as enemy mor
Arturo Solorzano
May 06, 2010 Arturo Solorzano rated it it was amazing
Much more than War.
Think politics, Religion, Elemental Forms, Archetypes, sacrifice, re-birth.

The 1980's Myth.
The Author, if you pay close attention and analyze, covered more than war. He wrote this book following what we know as, thanks to Dr. Carl G. Jung, an archetype. There is a lot of religion and politics within the content of the book. Re-read it again and analyze it. For example, towards the end of the book before they cross the river, they all (13 boonierat) sit to have a "last supper
Sean Kelly
Jul 23, 2014 Sean Kelly rated it liked it
This book fascinated me. I am by no means a "war buff" or a military history nerd, but this account of time spent as an infantry soldier in 1970 in the jungles of Vietnam was intense. The attention to detail impressed me, from the inner monologues of numerous soldiers, to their acts of both heroism, cowardice, and just plain normalcy (in a place where normalcy can be mistaken for cowardice and is rarely found or defined), to the military strategies and propaganda of the American government and m ...more
Oct 29, 2013 Ryan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, war
Disappointing overall. I could not stay interested in the outcome of the battle in the valley as the action and its description became chaotic and disorganized. Perhaps this was how actual combat operations felt - bullets and bombs coming out of nowhere in the jungle, enemies unseen, soldiers firing blindly at nothingness, but as a book it somehow did not have the intended effect I guess. One gets lost in the daily sitreps, maneuvering and bodycounts. This long account has its moments of brillia ...more
Sep 25, 2014 Edward rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
To be fair to the author this is the second book on Viet Nam that I have read. I understand that the author is trying to give you the ultimate experience of the foot solider in Nam but the book never seems to transport you to field and make you feel you are partaking in combat. Also there are a lot of military terms that unless you are familiar with the military you won't know, but the author provides a glossary which in the Kindle version had a poor format: you had to cycle through the entire a ...more
J.L. Day
Apr 13, 2015 J.L. Day rated it it was amazing
This is a phenomenal read. A MUST read. The author writes with the nitty-gritty, up close and personal style that makes you feel sweaty and like you need to clean your boots. He provides an intense experience that you really don't want to miss, you can actually witness the process as a mild-mannered young man morphs into a government issued killing machine. It is a glimpse into the reality of war, like peeling back the curtain to peek behind something that you are curious about, but wishing you ...more
Tom Blumer
Jul 12, 2016 Tom Blumer rated it really liked it
A colleague who served in the infantry in Vietnam recommended this book to me. He was actually stationed in the area that the setting for this fictional novel takes place. He says that this book is the most realistic portrayal of what life was like as a "boonierat", i.e., an infantry soldier, in Vietnam that he has read. I found the story riveting. Some of the musings of the individual soldiers gets a little tedious at times, but most likely with hours of tedium this happens. I am really glad th ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Bryan rated it it was amazing
Great books stay with the reader long after you've closed the cover, and this novel did that for me. I read this book in high school, and it quickly became my favorite. By joining the mix of chaotic and terrifying jungle patrols with the personal interactions of the soldiers themselves, Del Vecchio created a book that feels authentic. The idea of foxhole philosophy isn't new, but the characters' interpretations of why they're there, and the events that put them there, add depth and complexity. I ...more
Dec 20, 2007 Dan rated it it was ok
Contains some absolutely riveting battle scenes, and meticulous technical detail on the subject of infantry combat in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. This was more than enough to keep my interest, but the book left me sour at the end because of the flat and somewhat lifeless characterization (in spite of the extensive backstory given for each major figure in the book). Still an important book, but I feel that the author could have done a lot more with a lot less.
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John M. Del Vecchio graduated from Lafeyette College in 1969. He was drafted and sent to Vietnam in 1970, where he served as combat correspondent in the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). In 1971 he was awarded a Bronze Star for Heroism in Ground Combat. He is author of The 13th Valley, Darkness Falls, Carry Me Home, For the Sake of All Living Things, and other works.
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