A Shau Valor: American Combat Operations in the Valley of Death, 1963-1971; by Thomas Yarborough

MWSA Review
A Shau Valor, by Thomas R Yarborough—a veteran of 600 combat missions during the Vietnam War—focuses on a relatively small but significant part of Vietnam War: the A Shau Valley.  The valley is located in the northern section of what used to be South Vietnam and lies along the border with Laos.   For most of the war, it was a major entry point for North Vietnamese military personnel, equipment and supplies into the south.  Because of its location and proximity to the Ho Chi Minh Trail, it was an area of consistent, large and bloody battles. Perhaps the best known was the battle for Hill 937 or “Hamburger Hill.”

The book concentrates on the nine years the US fought in this valley, providing a detailed and unflinching look at the US operations in an area often referred to as the "Valley of Death." In doing so, Yarborough provides us with a well-researched and valuable contribution to the historical record.

Yarborough's work is replete with repeated references to the valor of those who served in this hotly-contested section of Vietnam.  In many cases, the details of combat heroism seem to be taken almost directly from the medal citations themselves.  However, given the almost unbelievable bravery these citations document, it’s very appropriate to do so.  It's not Yarborough’s writing that is repetitious; it is the consistent and conspicuous valor of those who fought… and died there.

Highly recommended for those interested in this important part of the War in Vietnam.
Reviewed by John Cathcart, MWSA Awards Director & Reviewer

Military historian Tom Yarborough has written a thoroughly researched and documented study that chronicles the battles and the associated courage, sacrifice, and valor in and around the remote and lethal A Shau Valley, one of the most deadly battlegrounds of the Vietnam War.  Other works have focused on individual battles or units, but A Shau Valor is the first to study the nine year campaign chronologically and within the context of other historical, political, and cultural events.  In addition to covering the strictly military aspects of various campaigns in the A Shau, the author shows how events in both Vietnam and the United States became inexorably linked as domestic dissent and a lack of realistic, viable military strategy ultimately led to America’s first lost war.

      To flesh out the story the author combed numerous military archives for individual cases of conspicuous gallantry in action, to include Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, and Air Force Cross citations.  In effect, those heroic deeds, those incredible acts of valor, provided the framework for the story he wanted to tell.  That methodology ultimately suggested the title for the book: A Shau Valor. 
     For Yarborough, author of the critically acclaimed book, Da Nang Diary, the challenge was to communicate not only the essential elements of the battles but also to supply a sense of the sights, sounds, and even the smells of the battlefield so that the reader feels engaged and, at least figuratively, experiences the mosquitoes, the mud, the oppressive heat, the leeches, the agony, the frustration, the fear.   

      As a compulsory underpinning for understanding the individual unit operational summaries and after action reports, perhaps the most indispensable documentary sources in A Shau Valor are the inspiring gallantry citations themselves, riveting accounts of the heroes who defined the battles.  Consequently, the author included recollections and interviews with many of the warriors---the grunts, marines, and airmen who did the fighting and the dying in the A Shau.  They consecrated the ground known as the Valley of Death with their blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifices.  This book is their story.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-61200-354-2
Book Format(s): Hard cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History
Number of Pages: 336