The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point's Class of 1966
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The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point's Class of 1966

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  1,023 ratings  ·  51 reviews
The first trade paperback edition of the New York Times best-seller about West Point's Class of 1966, by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Atkinson.

This is the story of the twenty-five-year adventure of the generation of officers who fought in Vietnam. With novelistic detail, Atkinson tells the story of West Point's Class of 1966 primarily through the experiences of t...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published October 15th 1999 by Holt Paperbacks (first published September 1989)
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Larry Bassett
This is a story of the United States Military Academy at West Point class of 1966, a class that graduated into the war in Vietnam. It is non-fiction, about real people and real events. We are introduced to several cadets and follow them and their cohort through twenty-five years. Women were first admitted to West Point in the fall of 1976 and that is a part of the story. The same year that 109 young women entered the academy, an honor code cheating scandal engulfed the school touching over 150 c...more
Checkman
Three and a Half Stars

I was born in 1968. My father was born in 1944 and had already been to Vietnam before I was even conceived. Growing up I didn't give too much thought to my parent's generation. The so-called "Baby Boomers".

However I was in awe of the WW II generation. My grandfathers and great-uncles fought in that war. That was the "Good War". My parent's generation fought and lost in South Vietnam and gave us the seventies and Jimmy Carter. I was young and simplistic in many ways. But I...more
Eric_W
One of the hazards of being Santa Claus in a library is that one sees all sorts of interesting items in between promises for Barbie dolls and AK-47s. I happened to run across Rick Atkinson's Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point's Class of 1966 in the Forreston Public Library. This is just a wonderful book. Based on scores of interviews, Atkinson spent 10 years gathering material. The reader gets to know the pains and pleasures (very few indeed) of 4 years at West Point. The class...more
William Ramsay
My brother is a great reader of books on military history. When he finds one he really likes, he tries to get me to read it. I usually defer, but sometimes, if I'm searching for something to red, I'll relent. The Long Gray Line is a case in point. It is about the West Point class of 1966, which had the misfortune of graduating into the Vietnam war. At first glance it would seem a book about the war, but it is far more than that. Atkinson, who is a fine writer, follows the class from 1962, when t...more
Eric
Mar 07, 2012 Eric marked it as to-read
The Vietnam chapters look amazing...but West Point itself is a slough of boredom. I haven't read a single American military bio or memoir in which it's interesting, not even in a sadistic Young Törless kinda way (it's strict! there's no booze! Or women! Except MacArthur's mom, who lived nearby to keep him out of "trouble"!). All I recall Grant saying is that he hated it. Not even James Salter, whose blurb for The Long Gray Line partly convinced me to add the book, writes well about West Point; i...more
Andrew Hillegass
Possibly one of the best books I've read. The book details several members of West Point's graduating class of 1966. One that suffered one of the highest casualty rates of all classes to serve in Vietnam. Mr. Atkinson does a wonderful job setting the mood that we've all experienced in our lives "freshly graduated...world at our doorstep" atmosphere. He then takes that wide eyed worldview and bathes it in fire of real life. The harsh reality of the world slowly beats away the wide-eyed feeling we...more
Chuck Elwell
A very well-researched epic highlighting the USMA’s Class of 1966. The narrative spans twenty-five years and follows a group of classmates from their early cadet days to the jungles of Vietnam and beyond.

The class of 1966 enters the gates of West Point during a period of golden idealism, drawn to the spirited calls to service by JFK and others. What is left at the end for many is anything but ideal – disillusionment tempered with many unanswered questions.

While many of its themes are as old as...more
Paul Harris
Pulitzer prize winning author Rick Atkinson has achieved something remarkable with this book. It is an epic portrayal of a generation's experiences via the prism of the US Military Academy at West Point and their lives beyond the wide-eyed days at 'Beast Barracks' in 1962.



Following the Class of '66, and focusing on half a dozen cadets in particular (though the engrossing cast is actually of dozens), Atkinson takes the reader on an emotional journey from the first days of induction, through their...more
John Edwards
Atkinson does a wonderful job weaving a compelling narrative of West Point graduates from the class of 1966. He follows them through West Point, Ranger training, Vietnam, and their struggle to integrate into the world after their tours, or their continued military service and how their carreers move forward. At turns funny, tragic, and thought provoking, this was a wonderful back to back read with Craig Mullaney's "Unforgiving Minute" (he was a West Point graduate from 2000 I believe). Surprisin...more
Andrew Russell
When I was a young lad, I liked nothing more than to read tales of the military escapades of those on the front line of major conflicts, particularly WWII. First hand accounts were of particular interest to me, the reason being, it was the action and adrenalin of the battlefield that gave me the most enjoyment. There was nothing that gave more delight than to read of the thunderous explosions and hails of machine gun bullets that soldiers had to fight through, losing close companions in a daily...more
Doug Gordon
I've read Atkinson's WWII "Liberation Trilogy" and was looking for more of his work. This book particularly appealed to me since these guys were at West Point at the same time I was in college, but their experience couldn't have been more different. It was also a good learning experience about the Vietnam War, which most of us have never looked back at.

The book was a bit more detailed than necessary about the lives of those it profiles, but I really ended up wanting to keep going to find out how...more
CD
Rick Atkinson has evolved to being one of my favorite military history authors. Reading this book again for the first time in more than ten years reminds me partly why.

Atkinson is a complete historical writer. The research and reference is all there and the resulting work is readable yet still authoritative. Hard to do it seems for many writers of such detailed and unusual historical pursuit. After all, this is a military history of a College Class! Not just any class indeed. The West Point clas...more
Bap
This book follows the careers of the West Point class of 1966 for a 23 year period. Some stayed in the military, many did not but all carried with them, together with their wives, the experience at West Point and the compulsory 5 years of service in tumultuous times. These cadets were the product of the 1950's and the idealism of John Kennedy which was put to the test in Viet Nam and its aftermath where morale and conditions plummetted throughout the Army. The book describes the carnage of Viet...more
Drew Kulak
If you are looking for a book that is worth your time and that will keep you interested throughout the whole story then you should defiantly consider picking this one up. In this wonderful book by Rick Atkinson you are transported back to the West Point class of 1966 and the vigorous trials a few of the students endured throughout school and into life. It's almost as if you were in the class sitting next to these students taking the beating from the upperclassmen to memorize and act properly, an...more
Roger
As a graduate in 1965 from a military college, this thorough account of the time and atmosphere of newly minted officers was a trip down memory lane. To me, it was more than an account of a rigid, structured military education, or a reflection of the sad folly called Vietnam, but a composite of how these places and events formed the fabric of the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's in a country trying to forget its immediate past. Mr. Atkinson's attention to detail and his ability to provide the reader wi...more
Michael
wow this is great. better than [[Army At Dawn]], I even think. Atkinson cribs from "Full Metal Jacket" and follows a single intake unit from recruitment to training to Ranger school to 'Nam, and then to the 80s low-point of Army morale, and does so in stunning, erudite prose that reference Kabuki at one point and Greek philosophy at another. what you really get when a University of Chicago stylist with plenty of military exposure takes on the "pivot" class of '66, which saw Vietnam and then saw...more
Tom
The book follows the lives and careers of the Class of 1966 of the United States Military Academy, West Point. The book is exciting, adventuresome, sad, depressing, and oh so sadly, true.

Some graduates made it to the rank of Lieutenant Generals, some never rose in rank higher than the butterball 2nd Lieutenants, a rank the received when commissioned from West Point. These men, 30 from the class, were killed in Vietnam.

After reading it, one wonders about the ideals held by these men, is war worth...more
Melinda
Well written, hard to read. The West Point Class of 1966 dove headlong into the Vietnam War and emerged scarred and scathed and shaken. Knowing the "end of the story", it is difficult to get through the background information on each of the men the author follows from West Point and thru the war. But worth reading anyway.
Jenny
An interesting chronicle of the lives of men who were in the West Point class of 1966 and how their military training informed their lives. Many went to Vietnam, many died, and those who came back were scarred for quite awhile. The tale doesn't end with Vietnam, however; it follows the grads through conflicts in Korea, Grenada, and more. Explores psychological and emotional ramifications of military service, in addition to the changing mores of military life and such an established institution s...more
Liz
This book, which follows the lives of a group of West Point cadets from enrollment (1961) to 20th reunion (1986), would have benefited from serious editing. It is massive and ambitious, with an abundance of detail which generally succeeds in conveying the personal stories of the men but makes for some tedious reading. Nevertheless, I am very happy to have had it recommended to me. It starkly depicts the personal cost of the war in Vietnam and the profound social shifts of the 1960s.
Mark
I enjoyed this history of the West Point class of 1966. Being one of the classes graduated "into a war" (Vietnam), their's was an experience that was both exciting and heartbreaking. Although I served in the military, I was never in combat and this book provided interesting insight into the lives of men who went off to war to do their duty. The book kept my attention to the end and I would recommend it to all men, not just those who have a tie to the military.
Helena
Utterly absorbing, even for someone born 20 years after the class of '66 entered Beast Barracks and who has absolutely no military knowledge. A Long Gray Line takes you through the transition of the 1960s - from the sons of WWII heros entering West Point hoping to follow in their father's glory to their return from Vietnam to an unsupporting and, at times, hostile nation.
Bob Mayer
A good book about a pivotal time in our history. The Long Gray Line has served our country since 1802. I was going to title my latest WIP the same, but surprisingly a lot of people don't know what it is. So my trilogy coming next month is Duty; Honor; Country. Which actually wasn't the motto at West Point until 1898, but it captures the essence.
Sam
Excellent. This is a testimonial to a generation that made a life-altering choice for the betterment of the country. It was fascinating to read the varied reasons the cadets had for entering West Point, their experiences in Vietnam, and how their lives panned out afterwards. The Long Gray Line is a great slice of American history.
Edwin Martin
these Reader's Digest books are really nice if you don't wanna take the time to read the full story I suppose. Atkinson gives individual stories from what should be a representative cross section of the cadets of the class of '66 and the 23 following years, if they survived the war in Vietnam. 1 of 20 in this class did not survive !
Sarah
May 12, 2013 Sarah is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I'm interested not in war or strategy but definitely in facts and politics and the socio-political factors at play in war, and the lead up and legacy. I think most Americans need to consider these factors more. I saw Atkinson speak just over a week ago and was thoroughly impressed by his balance, perspective, and knowledge.
Stuart
Dec 31, 2007 Stuart rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: folks that remember Vietman
I read this in my last Vietnam phase. I liked the writing and the style of the book. A documentary look at several officers as they go through West Point and their service stateside as well as Vietnam. Having grown up watching the war on TV I feel a kinship with those that went so found this book an interesting read.
Miki Friess
I really liked this book. I am not a big nonfiction reader; however, this read like a novel. The story was slow at times but that could be because some of the military and weapons information did not peak my interest. I would recommend this book to everyone. It was very enlightening.
Rebecca
I read this a while ago due to the large influence the vietnam war had been on my upbringing. A good insight into what happened to the class of 1966, with a breif look at the infroduction of women in west point and the building of the vietnam memorial in Washington.
Jeff
I got this one because of the Author. He's an outstanding writer who makes most any topic interesting. This book pretty much is as the title describes, following select members of the class of '66 through the academy up to about 1985 or so.

A fascinating read.

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Born in Munich, in the Federal Republic of Germany, Atkinson is the son of a U.S. Army officer and grew up on military posts. He holds a master of arts degree in English literature from the University of Chicago. He is the best-selling author of The Long Gray Line, a narrative account about West Point’s class of 1966; Crusade, a narrative history of the Persian Gulf War; and An Army at Dawn , the...more
More about Rick Atkinson...
An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #1) The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #2) The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #3) In The Company Of Soldiers: A Chronicle Of Combat In Iraq Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War

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