James Lockhart’s combat memoir The Luckiest Guy in Vietnam, is a two-for-one surprise. In one book we hear about both his tours as an infantry officer in Vietnam. He first details his initial deployment, where he served as a mortar platoon and recon platoon leader in the famous “Americal” Division. Second he delves into his second, significantly different deployment, this time as a Special Forces captain training Cambodian battalions in a little known and seldom publicized mission.
His central theme to both deployments, as can be guessed from the title, is luck. Lockhart is humble throughout; he doesn’t think he’s any better than any other officer; he does his homework, and works hard, just like everyone else. He tries his best to use common sense to keep him and his men alive, but others did that as well. Yet, time after time, death or serious injury just misses him. Lockhart seems to be the Vietnam embodiment of Napolean’s quote, “I know he's a good general, but is he lucky?”
The author finds humor and teaching points in his everyday infantry life. He recounts several anecdotes and incidents from his career, along with what he learned from them and how he used that lesson to improve the chances for success on the next go around. The writing is clear and easy to understand; but the book would benefit from some editing work to address some technical problems. Still, the book moves quickly, and the readers learn a lot about the author and a typical day in the life of an infantry officer. Fans of writings about Vietnam, infantry life, or Special Forces will all find something to enjoy in this book.
Review by Rob Ballister (June 2018)
This book describes two unique tours of duty in Vietnam by a U.S. Army officer. In the first, after two assignments in Infantry platoons, he is given command of a rifle company while still a lieutenant. The daily life of infantrymen, with all of its quirks and surprises, is recounted as he lived it. He returns for a second tour as a Special Forces-trained captain to participate in a secret mission. This program has received little attention and some previously unpublished events are revealed here. Most readers should find the actions recounted herein differ from the widely held concepts based on news coverage or even personal experience in the war.
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 363