In his book Heroes to the End, author Jim Smith provides us an excellent perspective of the waning days of U.S involvement in the Vietnam War. As a young man employed as a Newsday reporter, the author received a very low draft number ensuring he'd be picked up in the next draft, he took the initiative and enlisted for three years. This kept him from going straight into the infantry and on to Vietnam. At least this was his plan and it did work, somewhat. He enlisted and became an admin clerk, but the army still sent him to Vietnam at the end of July 1971.
Smith provides some insight from his experiences as an admin clerk at Cam Ranh Bay, but the meat of the book comes after the author volunteers for and got accepted into the correspondent's pool with Stars and Stripes. In his position with the press, Smith was allowed to travel throughout Vietnam and conduct a variety of interviews. He captured the essence of these interviews, along with his own observations, in articles he wrote back then and republished in this book.
I found the first hand accounts refreshing as they provide a real time picture of events, individual's thoughts and emotions. The vast collection of articles give us a much better picture of what was happening in Vietnam from late 1971 to mid 1972, than someone's recollections recorded some forty plus years after the war.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in military history and especially to those with an interest in the Vietnam war. I found it an interesting read and am certain you will too.
MWSA Review by Bob Doerr (June 2018)
"Heroes to the End" is my memoir of my 1971-72 Vietnam tour as a clerk in Cam Ranh Bay and a as a reporter for Stars and Stripes. Its most compelling chapters deal with combat heroes during the final days of U.S. involvement in an unpopular war. The premise is that Americans were doing good things, heroic things, right up until the war's final days. That included civic action projects, serving as MPs, driving in convoys, working to improve relations between races, patrolling the bush, building fire bases, and calling in air strikes under fire.
I wore civilian clothes at times, grew my hair long, blended in with civilian journalists and learned from some of the best, such as Peter Arnett and Malcolm Browne. I walked with grunts in the bush, had more than 200 hours aloft in helicopters, flew on hunter-killer missions, interviewed Rangers, advisers on hilltops, door gunners, aircraft pilots, chaplains and Vietnamese soldiers, pilots and refugees. Six men I knew were killed during my tour, including Alec Shimkin of Newsweek and III Corps senior adviser John Paul Vann.
The book was a labor of love because I donated $12,000 to United Veterans Beacon House, which runs homeless shelters for veterans, from speaking fees and book sales proceeds over the past two years. I am working with an agent to transform the book into a Netflix screenplay and have been connecting with veterans, history professors, advocates and military buffs on Facebook and LinkedIn, in order to raise my visibility and lay the groundwork for submitting a screenplay.
ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-4917-6812-9, B014ZX51S8
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 354