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Platoon Leader: A Memoir of Command in Combat
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Platoon Leader: A Memoir of Command in Combat

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  1,040 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
A remarkable memoir of small-unit leadership and the coming of age of a young soldier in combat in Vietnam.'

"Using a lean style and a sense of pacing drawn from the tautest of novels, McDonough has produced a gripping account of his first command, a U.S. platoon taking part in the 'strategic hamlet' program. . . . Rather than present a potpourri of combat yarns. . . McDono
ebook, 256 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Presidio Press (first published 1985)
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Nov 10, 2011 Luke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Platoon Leader was a book my dad gave to me saying, "Here. This is a great book I had to read in college." I looked at the cover with mixed feelings at first, apprehensive about reading it. Then I started to read it and eventually I couldn't put it down! I definitely would rate this book a 10 out of 10. It starts out the story by talking about his leaving Vietnam and then him at home later in his life and flashing back to his experiences leading up to West Point, and then his deployment. It then ...more
Jun 04, 2008 Hans rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
One of the things that has always intrigued me about Vietnam War stories is the attempts to make sense of the pure senselessness. A world without rules, mercy and pure ruthless reality. How can one cope with being thrown into the middle of chaos from a structured society? I can't imagine the unbelievable psychological pain that American Veterans went through. When you grow up in a world where things at least on the surface seem to make sense and at least follow some rules, one might be tempted t ...more
Larry Bassett
Nov 02, 2010 Larry Bassett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, memoir
I am thinking about giving this 1985 book, Platoon Leader, five stars. I don’t give out five stars lightly. And this is for a book that kicks the anti-war person when he's down.

But this book has given me the best idea of what it was like to be the leader of a platoon in Vietnam. It is the most personal and graphic book about Vietnam among several that I have read. Those include: Fields of Fire: A Novel by James Webb, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, Dispatches, and The Things They Carrie
Travis Brand
Jun 01, 2011 Travis Brand rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the better books to read to understand what it's like to be a naive young officer thrown into combat. New small unit leaders will find it extraordinarily compelling and relevant. It should be required reading for leaders of all types.

Most combat books focus on enlisted men. Officers are responsible for the majority of mistakes (as well as the successes) and often don't have anyone to share the stress with. In small units (platoon or lower), the officers face the same dangers as the enlist
Wachlin007 Hotmail
Feb 22, 2008 Wachlin007 Hotmail rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book was written by an army 2nd Lieutenant on his experiences as a platoon commander in Vietnam. It was very entertaining. It closely resembled Fields of Fire by James Webb. Both were great reads.
I'm reading this book for my husband who is an officer in the Army getting ready to deploy to Iraq. Her told me he thought it would be a good read for me to get an understanding of what life is going to be like.
One of the better books of this Vietnam Infantry genre. He doesn't make himself out to sound like the ultimate warrior bent on death and destruction like a ton of these guys do.
Mar 02, 2012 Marty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Colonel McDonough was my commander many years ago... He was a fine leader, and so was his son who I also has the pleasure of working for for a short period of time.
Hannah D
May 23, 2017 Hannah D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Platoon Leader was a great book to give you a concise glimpse into the reality of one young Army leader in Vietnam. Colonel James R. McDonough (Retired) is an impecable example for future (and current) young lieutenants that are preparing to take command of their first platoons.
I bawled at the end. I loved this book. I don't know why. It seemingly has nothing to do with anything that concerns me. I will probably never use any of the lessons learned by James McDonough except: "Running away or hiding from your problems never solves anything." "Keeping the grass mowed will thwart your enemies." "Watch out for the undertow." and "Don't pick at your bug bites." Really easy to read and frequently funny, and yet also a raw, revealing unguarded and humble chronicle of life in ...more
Tony | Outwork Industries
I read this book after my senior year in college and freshly commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Army.

I received, first hand, the struggles that new leaders may have to overcome with little no actual experience.

McDonough describes in detail his thought process when evaluating options. His ability to understand the human dimension, the driving force behind each of his Soldiers was crucial in maintaining the integrity of his platoon.

A perfect example of this is how he immediately recognize
Matt Howard
Even from the beginning it's easy to see why this book is suggested reading for young officers in the Armed Forces. In this book the author is able to describe combat without sounding like a Saturday afternoon black and white war movie. The book gives a real sense of the human element of warfare, and does a fantastic job of describing the hardships, and rewards of leading men in armed conflict. The Author doesn't try to paint a pretty picture, and gives botht the good and the bad, even going to ...more
Jul 14, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This may be the first Viet Nam memoir I've read. It draws you in and keeps you moving -- a combination of clear active writing and a really hard-hitting narrative. Makes the war sound even worse than it looked on TV. Highly recommended, even though on occasion I got the impression that the drama may have been heightened a bit . . . but I don't think he was keeping a diary (at least he didn't say so) and the way he wrote it probably was the way he remembered it.
Mar 12, 2009 Ty rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The adjective that popped up most often on the book jacket was "taut" and it fits. McDonough writes more as a soldier than an artist, crisply, vividly, and clearly describing his six months as a front-line infantry lieutenant in the Vietnam war. I've read several Vietnam books lately-- Tree of Smoke and The Things We Carried--but none captured the physical and emotional toll of such a constant state of war. A quick, engrossing read.
Jan 18, 2009 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an Officer's memoirs of his time in Vietnam. This book was pretty good, but for some reason I can't bring myself to give it a better rating. Maybe because the author is an officer, and seems arrogant compared with the author of "With the Old Breed at Pelilieu and Okinawa" E.B. Sledge, who was only a Private, and brings a different viewpoint to war. This book definately has its moments. Both books are must reads for someone in the military.
Oct 17, 2013 Todd rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting and fairly well-written personal account of Army infantry experience in what might be considered the front line of Vietnam. The author, a West Point graduate, is candid about himself and his actions. Although his leadership showed numerous inconsistencies, he does not try to sugar coat it. He certainly provides perspective on the day-to-day life of infantry engaged against the enemy in Vietnam. An enjoyable, easy, and quick read.
John Schneider
If you read one book on Vietnam, read this one. Instead of attempting to theorize about the war, McDonough relays his firsthand experiences fighting the Viet Cong. McDonough writes very well so that you apprehend not only his mind and emotions but also the nature of the conflict. A powerful and insightful book.
May 03, 2012 Colin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Platoon Leader provides valuable insight into one man's journey in Vietnam through the eyes of an Infantry PL. Although at times McDonough seems to think of himself as God's gift to the Infantry, the book is a quick and very entertaining read. I would recommend this to any fellow Infantry PL, or even history buffs who would like yet another perspective on the Vietnam war.
Chuck Russo
Jan 31, 2009 Chuck Russo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic and an excellent book. For anyone who'd like to learn what it was like to be an infantry platoon leader in Vietnam. Like all good war books, this not just about war, but also about leadership. For a young Army officer or officer-candidate, it's an absolute must read.
Joe Mcateer
Feb 19, 2015 Joe Mcateer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have seen a number of book lists with suggested readings for junior officers. I have not seen this on any of those lists although it belongs at the top of all of them.
Sep 10, 2014 Jimmacc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book
Apr 20, 2011 Rhett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is my 2nd read through. It is not at all comprehensive of the Vietnam war but it is very interesting and keeps you glued to the pages.
Mar 27, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A classic.
Jeffrey Oakes
Sep 17, 2012 Jeffrey Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good memoir on leading young men.
James Montgomery
Aug 01, 2015 James Montgomery rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam
An excellent personal account.
Jul 26, 2014 Art rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, military, vietnam
It wasn't what I was looking for. Had it confused at first w/the Book Company Commander; Charles B. McDonald, WWII.
So I was comparing this book to the one about WWII and no comparison.
Nov 10, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Army officers
Recommended to Sarah by: College instructor
Shelves: vietnam
Great book. Good enough that I've read it at least three times. A must read for any Army officer.
Feb 24, 2009 Renfairecryer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting an din depth. All that soldiers do reallyhits home. A bit dry and hard to read, but good. It is on teh Armys Lt. required reading list.
Mark Heeyeaah
Jun 04, 2008 Mark Heeyeaah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cherry 2LT's
Recommended to Mark by: A friend that was working for McDonough at the time.
Shelves: military
I would probably have liked this book more if I hadn't met this guy. What a pompous ass.
Anthony Daugherty
I read this just after receiving my commission as a 2LT in the Army. The book was well written and gives a great perspective.
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  • Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II
  • Colder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir
  • Once A Warrior King: Memories of an Officer in Vietnam
  • Five Years To Freedom
  • Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War
  • Acceptable Loss: An Infantry Soldier's Perspective
  • A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam
  • A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath
  • Chickenhawk
  • Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death
James R. McDonough is is the former director of the Florida Office of Drug Control and the secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections from 2006 to 2008.

A Brooklyn native, he graduated from both MIT and West Point and served as an Army officer in Vietnam. He rose to the rank of colonel before retiring and taking a series of national positions in drug law enforcement and security. He worked
More about James R. McDonough...

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“The roads that lead young men to war are not political roads, or national and international roads, but individual roads. What propels young men to combat is not the draft. Those who are not destined for armed combat usually will not be drafted for armed combat. The pool of human resources is vast, and the number of riflemen is small. The person who wants to avoid the draft will avoid it. And, in Vietnam, as the war went on, the numbers who successfully avoided the draft increased. So who fights? The fools, the uneducated, the knaves? I was none of these - or so I maintain. But I fought.” 2 likes
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