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

4.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,779 Ratings  ·  75 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
Paperback, 608 pages
Published October 15th 1999 by Holt Paperbacks (first published September 1989)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nov 19, 2008 Eric_W rated it it was amazing
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
Larry Bassett
Jan 05, 2013 Larry Bassett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, history
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
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
William Ramsay
Aug 01, 2012 William Ramsay rated it it was amazing
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
Andrew Hillegass
Sep 16, 2012 Andrew Hillegass rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modern-history
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 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
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
Melvin Nez
Jul 26, 2016 Melvin Nez rated it it was amazing

I was intrigued when I heard about this book and was encouraged by my brother to read it. So, I had put it in my "to read" category for the time being. What had started me in REALLY reading this was when I took a history class and the instructor mentioned that he had graduated West Point, class of 1966, and had served in Vietnam as an officer. To me, getting myself immersed in this time period had become more vivid, as I had genuinely felt one step removed from the cadets and soldiers that Atkin
Apr 17, 2015 Mike rated it liked it
The book is about a group of men who share an era with me and I was drawn to the book to see what paths they followed. Otherwise, the story is not for everyone. I observed a long time ago that professional soldiers, just like everyone else, had to confront the same life issues as everyone else, e.g. divorce, marriage, child-raising, career, and losing friends to war. The folks in this story are no different. The graduates of this “school for soldiers” are varied in personality, capability, and o ...more
Jan 22, 2011 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
John Edwards
Mar 07, 2011 John Edwards rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-memoirs
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
Doug Gordon
Jan 24, 2014 Doug Gordon rated it really liked it
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
Aug 01, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
"If you can't learn to obey orders, explicitly, you will never be able to give orders properly."

What a journey this lengthy book takes the reader on - through four years at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, off to the Vietnam War, back to West Point for a huge cheating scandal and women being accepted into the hallowed ranks, the DMZ in North/South Korea, the loss of morale at West Point and in the Army overall after the Vietnam War, the Vietnam War Memorial.

Whew - any of these subjects w
Bob Mayer
Mar 05, 2011 Bob Mayer rated it really liked it
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.
Growing up, I recall a classmate telling me about the appalling casualty rate of his father's West Point class in Vietnam. This riveting group biography (verging on hagiography) of the USMA Class of 1966 narrates the travails of these 2nd lieutenants, and by extension of their army, as they straddled a fault line in an American society lurching from Kennedyesque idealism to Nixonian cynicism. In his first book, Atkinson displays the storytelling talents that earned him three Pulitzer Prizes. Han ...more
Aug 20, 2014 Andrew rated it it was amazing
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
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
Aug 30, 2009 Bap rated it really liked it
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
May 05, 2013 Drew Kulak rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 02, 2013 Roger rated it it was amazing
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
Ian Divertie
Mar 22, 2015 Ian Divertie rated it it was amazing
What happened to our military post Viet Nam and during Viet Nam actually. Discusses the negative impact "Dugout Doug" MacArthur (spelling?) had on our military post Korea. If you are not sure about how much of a bad influence Doug ultimately was on our Army you need to read more... The Long Gray Line makes it very clear.
Jan 28, 2016 Judy rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book about West Point and the class of 1966. It takes place during the time of the war in Vietnam. This class was particularly affected as over 30 lost their lives. One of them was Lt. Pete Donnell, an Army Brat, who was president of our student council in Orleans, France.This one's for you Pete.
Mar 03, 2013 S. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hookah
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
Jun 10, 2013 Tom rated it it was amazing
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
Jim McEntee
Oct 21, 2015 Jim McEntee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and well-written

Mr. Atkinson is a talented author and his talent is really showcased in this book. It kept me riveted and thankful for those who need to run towards danger in the course of keeping this country safe and free.
Aug 18, 2016 Art rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Vietnam War and West Point Academy
Recommended to Art by: Maplewood 1 Lending Library
Interesting look at the class of 1966 from West Point Military Academy and life in the 60's.
What does it mean to be an American and Patriotic?
Are all wars Just and should we fight regardless of our views?
George Reedy
Apr 17, 2016 George Reedy rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books of all time. This touched me so much that I visited West Point to pay respect at some of the graves. Very hard to put down, even harder to forget.
May 28, 2016 Mitchell rated it really liked it
Really powerful book following the West Point Military class of 1966. Well researched and very well written. A book that will stay with you for a very long time.
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.
Mar 06, 2016 Kernmd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
West Point

A long view of the class of 66. Well written and humane,and you can see insights into military life. Thanks Rick.
Steve Labarge
Jan 26, 2015 Steve Labarge rated it really liked it
Great insight into life at the USMA. Although some things likely have changed, I sense that much of the tradition lives on today.
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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
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“Duty, honor, country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.” 0 likes
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