Book Reviews

Reviews of books by MWSA members. Reviews appear in reverse chronological order, with the most recent review posted appearing first.
Note: Some older reviews are being reposted to this site and those will appear out of order.

Walk in Hell, A

Title: A Walk in Hell
Author: Gregory A. Helle
Genre: Poetry, Book of Poetry

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1401075185

A powerful, emotion packed trip through the mind of a Vietnam Vet disabled with PTSD. As with too many other young boys, he was sent to an unpopular war and experienced many traumas. Even though more than thirty years have passed, the realities of the war remain. Even with the best counseling and medications, the war is only kept at bay. There is no cure. At best there is only coping. The war will never be far away. It invades his days and nights. His poetic journal is sometimes dark. It is the reality of his war.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Helle, Gregory A.

Outlaws in Vietnam

Title: Outlaws in Vietnam
Author: David L. Eastman
Genre: Non-fiction, History
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0914339974

Ride a Huey with the Outlaws of the 175th Aviation Company (AML) in the Mekong Delta and experience a first-hand, first Lieutenant's account, of a tour in Vietnam from 1966-1967. Eastman's lively prose reveals an exciting untold story of camaraderie, competence and fellowship. The aviation units were the sole combat element of the U.S. Army that kept their discipline and spirit.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Eastman, David L.

I Served

Title: I Served
Author: Don C. Hall, Annette C. Hall
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1552124894

I SERVED was written differently from most other Vietnam memoirs. Instead of being a chronological recitation of my experiences growing up in the orphanage and then going to Vietnam and serving with Co. F, 51st Long Range Patrol (Airborne) Infantry, I made its focus be the characters in the story. That is its greatest strength and what makes it such a good read. Because I focused so closely on character, you really get to care about the person Don Hall because you know what makes him tick, what is important to him, and what drives him. You are also engaged by the other people you meet in the story because they are so clearly drawn. You don't have to be a military buff to enjoy the book.

I SERVED is a factual story backed up by official U.S. Army records. Col. William C. Maus, the man who formed F/51st LRP, told me where to find that documentation. I also have copies of handouts we received when we went to Recondo School. Before he died, he told me how much he enjoyed reading the book. He praised me for having written such a great story about a unit he was proud to have commanded. He was a visionary who knew our unit was the vanguard for future U.S. Army military strategy and tactics. I remember his telling me at the time that F/51st LRP was making history. Being just a naïve 19-year-old staff sergeant, I didn't understand the significance of that statement. I do now.

We hope readers are so intrigued that they will order a copy of I SERVED when its available. The paperback version is a reprint of the original 1994 hardbound edition, with a revised preface and afterword, a new War Stories section (with stories from other men with whom I served), and new photographs.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Hall, Don C.
Hall, Annette R.

Grief Denied: A Vietnam Widow's Story

Title: Grief Denied: A Vietnam Widow's Story
Author: Pauline Laurent
Genre: Non-ficiton, Memoir
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0967142407

Grief Denied is about healing: it is about coming to terms with the intimate pain and emotional violence that was unleashed by the Vietnam War. It is also a bittersweet love story in which a young girl meets a soldier-boy, a young bride loses her soldier-husband and how, on the 30th anniversary of their marriage, the mature woman is finally able to say good-bye to the man she will always love. Laurent tells her story with clarity and candor and a great deal of caring. There are vivid descriptions of her husband, Howard, who died in combat in Vietnam on May 10, 1968, when she was 22 years old and in the last phase of her first pregnancy. There are also sharp, tender portraits of her daughter Michelle, her parents, her friends and her lovers. The author doesn't seem to have held back anything or to have denied readers a full and complete view of her personality, including her dark side. So there are emotionally wrenching accounts of her depression, her suicidal feelings, her "insanity," as she calls it, as well as her therapy and recovery and rediscovery of prayer and faith. Grief Denied offers deeply moving passages from Howard's letters to Pauline shortly before his death. Laurent describes how Vietnam got to her, though she was thousands of miles away from the heat, the dirt and the mortars. If somehow or other you never did appreciate how Vietnam got to the heart of America, then this book ought to be at the top of your list of books to read. And if you are thinking of writing a memoir to express your seemingly inexpressible pain, then this book is also for you. "In writing I finally found a container which could hold my grief," Laruent writes. "the blank page wanted to hear it all--every last detail." -- The Press Democrat, August 29, 1999 by Jonah Raskin, Chairman of the Communication Studies Department at Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Laurent, Paulin

Red Bird Down!

Title: Red Bird Down!
Author: Bruce E. Carlson
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): ISBN / EAN

Almost ten years in the writing, "RED BIRD DOWN" is a deeply moving Psychological/Emotional study of a young man's coming of age in Vietnam as an Aero-Scout helicopter pilot. These young pilots took the highest casualities of all the the helicopter pilots in Vietnam. Further, Army Warrant Officer Pilots took the highest casuality rates of all ranks in Vietnam. Yet, to the bitter end, even in LS 719 in support of Vietnames only, they lived by their credo -- "Leave no one behind."

The "hero" of "Red Bird Down" is typical of so many of these teenages and men in the early twenties. He struggles with the tumult of an unpopular war, his mission, the deaths of friends, and his growing love and respect for the young men with whom he serves. Eventually, he discovers a bond, formed in the fire and cold steel of combat. It ia a bond which cannot be broken.

This is not simply an action adventure book! The world has enough "Rambo" type works. While Kev, the hero, has plenty of action, adventure and misadventures, the reader will also laugh, cry, and learn to love the kids of Vietnam for who they were and all they accomplished.

Using incidents from my own time in Vietnam, I have woven them into a Novelized form. Through a running dialogue with a "fictional" home-town minister and a fictional relationship to my own alter-ego, I have looked at many of the political, theological, and emotional issues of Vietnam and the tumult of the late 60's.

My "hero" is a very human boy/man who occasionally soars to great heights and then quickly balances this soaring with "bone-head" mistakes. Through it all he "grows up," takes responsibility for himself, and learns to deal with life and death well beyond his years.

For those who want a serious read about the young men of the "Great Helicopter War," this is the book. In 490 pages, the reader will feel the emotional depth of one young man, who was so typical of so many. Be prepared to occasionally put the book down to ponder the depth of these young men and the heights to which they soared. In the end, you will understand their dedication, commitment to each other, and why they said, "Leave no one behind."

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Carlson, Bruce E.

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