The tunnels of Cu Chi were a tunnel system located almost directly between the free capital city of The Republic of Vietnam, Saigon, and the Ho Chi Mi...moreThe tunnels of Cu Chi were a tunnel system located almost directly between the free capital city of The Republic of Vietnam, Saigon, and the Ho Chi Minh trail which the communists used to bring men and supplies from Communist North Vietnam into the "battlegrounds" of South Vietnam. The Vietnam war was rarely fought in large set piece battles, but was mainly a guerilla war. The main mode of ambush by these communist guerilla fighters was via these elaborate tunnel systems. As of page 88, this book has done a great job of explaining the history of the tunnels, which apparently began during the war against French occupation in the 1940's and 50's, as underground hideouts beneath each hut (almost like basements.) Over time tunnels were created to link these units together, and eventually these communication tunnels also joined villages to one another. When the war began with America, these tunnels were enhanced and became multi-level complexes with sleeping quarters, kitchen area, "bathrooms" and eventually hospital spaces, ammunition storage rooms, and conference rooms for officers and political leaders. As the war went on, the tunnels continued to grow and large spaces for ordnance manufacturing, troop assembly, printing presses for propaganda, and even temporary morgues and burial areas were added. By the time this book was published in 1985, the authors were able to interview former Viet Cong officers, enlisted men, writers, performers, and civilians who lived and/or worked in the tunnels. Many of the officers gave glowing reports of the ingenious construction of the tunnels and the manner in which they allowed for the massing of troops for ambushing Americans, the way they were designed with a zig zag pattern to allow the earth to work in their favor when a tunnel entrance was located by U.S troops and explosives or chemical weapons were placed into the tunnels, the way the trap door system allowed the Vietnamese to escape and prevented U.S. troops from discovering the full extent of the tunnels, and the way the Viet Cong designed punji stake booby traps to frustrate American attempts to explore the tunnels. Other Vietnamese inhabitants described the horrors of the tunnels. These included claustrophobia, poor air quality, the horrid combined stench of cooking fires, body odor, human waste, and rotting flesh, as well as watching comrades crushed beneath weak tunnels when heavy tanks rolled over top or large bombs were dropped, and finding the bodies of comrades in the tunnels after chemical attacks by the Americans. One Vietnamese performer described giving birth to her first born daughter in the tunnels.
Although not specific to the Cu Chi tunnels, one interesting observation this book makes, is that apparently, the structure of agrarian life in Vietnam for many hundreds and possibly thousands of years has been a type of communal existence very compatible with communism. These people are content to live and farm on the same land as their ancestors, do the same work, intermarry with the same families, and die in that same place never having learned anything new, met anyone different, or traveled anyplace unique. The only difference under communism is the dictator making the rules, sending out death squads to enforce them, and the iron fist denying the people the chance to ever be or have more. However, it is also interesting to note that the authors also fail to mention that some Vietnamese in the free Republic of Vietnam's capital city, Saigon, had converted to catholicism, gone to school, learned more about the world outside, and developed a desire for freedom. Communism was not necessarily appealing to all of the Vietnamese people.
Although the stories and observations by Vietnamese citizens thus far shared are both fascinating and disconcerting, the subtitle of this book is "A harrowing account of America's tunnel rats in the underground battlefields of Vietnam" and so far there have been only brief vignettes of the experiences of U.S. soldiers. The U.S. Army consisted of a high percentage of conscripted soldiers who were sent to the other side of the world with no experience in this type of fighting, and many fought bravely and heroicly against a ghostly enemy who appeared and disappeared like a vapor. I hope this book is not going to be a lot of pro-communist propaganda, but actually explores the work of American soldiers under very tough circumstances. I am now on page 144, and although there have been a few insights into what it takes to be a "tunnel rat", the Americans are by and large mocked for their fears, their inadequacies, their egotistical command structure, their lack of fore thought, the plodding nature of their response, and their over reliance on technology. The commies are continuously held up as heroes even as the brutality of their attacks on our conscripted sons and brothers and classmates, is applauded. So far there is a disgusting Hanoi Jane-esque quality to this book that turns my stomach. Chapters 18-22 weren't too bad. Chapter 18 goes into detail about some of the specific American men who lead the tunnel rats from an officer, NCO, or simply "point" position. Many of these men volunteered for these terrifying duties because of they were small and wiry and able to maneuver in the tunnels, or because they were aggressive and had the "killer" instinct, some liked the quiet and slow pace of the tunnels, others because of the prestige the unit built up in the Big Red One Division. Over in the Tropical Lightening Division the unit was composed of draftees who rose to the occasion quite nicely but never attained the status and insignia of the other unit. The sacrifices of these men greatly hindered the Viet Cong and saved countless American soldier's lives. Ultimately the Viet Cong's own "Tet Offensive" brought on the death of about 80% of guerilla forces and when combined with the loss of civilian support (due to American transplanting of whole communities, and defoliation with agent orange and napalm) essentially ended the usefulness of the tunnels. I don't know if I would recommend this book to someone easily swayed by propaganda, but it was quite informational for someone looking for a deeper understanding of the nuances of the war. The authors, being British, cannot, I suppose, be expected to look at this war and the belligerents on both sides the way an American mother, sister, cousin, friend, or classmate should. The knowledge that American citizens threw hot coffee in the faces of returning conscripts is embarrassing and appalling. Reading a paperback in which two British dudes pull a Hanoi Jane is slightly more tolerable but still offensive. I give this book 2 stars.(less)
It's weird how someone can write a book like this. He experiences the full range of human emotion over the course of one year and is able, years later...moreIt's weird how someone can write a book like this. He experiences the full range of human emotion over the course of one year and is able, years later, to vividly recall each different phase and present it in language and with stories that make it all come alive for the reader. It's basically four sections. The first two chapters are about the guy getting drafted, going through basic, choosing airborne, going over to nam, being all wide eyed and fascinated by the helicopters and then choosing to join the Long Range Patrol (LRP) team. In the next section he is out on patrols, has some scary moments, makes some really good friends and then loses some of them to an ambush and a bunch of others go home. In the next section he goes to Recondo school has other adventures such as capturing an NVA officer and eventually goes back to his unit. In the final section he is sort of winding down, he gets struck by lightening while out on a patrol, has some odd assignments, gets over his fear of helicopters, feels like all his friends are gone and there's really no one he can relate to, eventually is sent home and feels like a complete alien. Very weird, sad, anti-climactic ending...
People always say that veterans...especially Vietnam Veterans... are all bottled up and don't want to talk about it, but usually they talk to me about it...at least a little. This guy says at the end of the book: "It didn't matter because nobody seemed to have any interest in where I'd been or what I'd been doing. I really wanted someone to ask. I wanted to tell someone about what it was like trying to survive in torrential rain and mud and thick steamy jungle, and the danger I'd faced. I wanted to recount details about the combat I was in, complete with the numbers of kills and a listing of awards."
I'm glad he was able to write this book and tell this story and I'm glad so many soldiers have benefitted from his wisdom over the years.(less)
This was a decent book. It's the third book I've read about the Anbar Awakening in Ramadi, Iraq. The first book "The Sheriff of Ramadi" by Dick Couch...moreThis was a decent book. It's the third book I've read about the Anbar Awakening in Ramadi, Iraq. The first book "The Sheriff of Ramadi" by Dick Couch was somewhat boring at times, but covered 3-5 years of US Military experience in Ramadi, Iraq and introduced us to all of the major players and the overall timeline leading toward the Anbar Awakening and its aftermath. The book focused on The Navy SEAL involvement and went into quite a bit of detail regarding the topography of the battlespace, establishment of the different American military bases, and the creation of the various combat outposts. There was a lot of good information which was not examined in the subsequent books, so I'm very glad I read it. I would read other books by Dick Couch as I enjoyed his thorough approach, however, I fear that he may go into the complete history of the Navy SEALS since Vietnam in every book. The second book "A Chance in Hell" by Jim Michaels was probably my favorite of the three although still not of the caliber of a "We Were Soldiers" or "Black Hawk Down." A Soldier's Dream was really great in that it provided some details lacking in the other books, and a lot of personal anecdotes pertaining to Travis Patriquin and his various mentors. I loved the background information at the beginning, and the last few chapters were really great. Unfortunately, somewhere in the middle it felt a lot like a children's book...maybe a sequel to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in which Ali Baba decides to work with the Thieves instead of against them. I think some of those chapters would translate well into an Epic tale that the Iraqi's could pass on to their children. Maybe it has been translated into Arabic and is being used in this way...although they probably tell it better. Several statements, giving Travis Patriquin credit for thinking up everything that occurred were kind of silly and annoying. I think the audience is capable of understanding that this book was written to memorialize Travis and his contribution to American success in Ramadi, made possible due to his unique and outgoing personality, without having to start every major section with the phrase "Travis thought...","Travis knew...", or "Travis hoped..." I feel that attributing some of these thoughts and beliefs to others, or the leadership as a whole would not diminish the significance of Travis' work. Really awesome book nonetheless. It's a good story and I'm glad it was told. It was easy and mostly enjoyable to read.
Added 3/23/13: I read on Amazon reviews that 'Scott' made the following comment: Scott said: "While the author claims that the Awakening might not have happened without Patriquin, he goes on to claim several events as the tipping point in Anbar, some of which Patriquin wasn't involved in...The book could have been great if it was written from a slightly different angle. Like how Patriquin is a model of how counter insurgencies should be fought. Or how he was very important and gave momentum to the Awakening. Or that he was the catalyst for the Awakening, and then prove it by making the writing more clear and concise and not point to different events as tipping points or the last straw."
I like the way he put this, and would like to add that I really enjoyed reading about Travis, and do believe that his role was very important...possibly critical, but the author seems very heavy handed in his attempt to make this point...while simultaneously being confusing. At one point I was thinking of taking out a long roll of paper and charting out the timeline of events because he kept going forward and backward in time. The sequence of 'cause and effect' that the author tried to claim, made no sense in several places. It seemed at times, that something would happen in say, August, and the author would claim it was caused by something Travis did in September. I think the author may have needed more time. I don't think he really had his mind fully wrapped around these events. He didn't "own" this story. I think he's a good writer and if he had taken a slightly different angle and put in a little more time, he could've nailed it.(less)
Really good. I know how much research Mr. Shaara puts into understanding the minds and hearts of these great Generals such as Albert Sidney Johnston,...moreReally good. I know how much research Mr. Shaara puts into understanding the minds and hearts of these great Generals such as Albert Sidney Johnston, and William T Sherman. The story is believable and illuminating. I hope to visit this battlefield someday and get an even better sense of where and how this battle took place.(less)
Wow! Just wow. Michael Shaara was a fabulous writer. The raw emotion that he evokes from his characters is spellbinding. So many insights. So many tho...moreWow! Just wow. Michael Shaara was a fabulous writer. The raw emotion that he evokes from his characters is spellbinding. So many insights. So many thoughts and questions. Such intense sadness. Fascinating mixture of anger, sadness, regret combined with exhilaration, passion, and pride. Reading this book was an amazing experience.(less)
Really interesting to read different perspectives on this battle. These personal narratives answered some questions left by the book "Black Hawk Down....moreReally interesting to read different perspectives on this battle. These personal narratives answered some questions left by the book "Black Hawk Down." Not as cohesive as the Mark Bowden version but filled in a lot of holes. I liked Dan Schillings account the best mainly because it explained the convoy issues and experiences very well. I think for many people it seems to be the most confusing aspect of the entire event and probably generates the most questions. For me the convoy has always been my second biggest curiosity.(less)
Phenomenal book. I recommend it for every woman and any man who wants to better understand women. I could reread this book 10 times and get new insigh...morePhenomenal book. I recommend it for every woman and any man who wants to better understand women. I could reread this book 10 times and get new insights each time. This would be helpful if you struggle with your identity; if you don't feel very feminine; if you feel inadequate; if you struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction, lonliness, fear; If you've believed the labels that your own parents, childhood friends, church leaders, or society have pinned on you; If you feel God isn't there for you, has abandoned you, or never really loved you then this book is for you(less)