In Through Smoke-Teared Eyes: The Vietnam War I Fought, Johnny F. Pugh offers a compelling and often riveting account of his experiences in Cu Chi, Vietnam through the eyes of a combat soldier and, later, as a veteran struggling with PTSD. Pugh’s memoir opens with an account of nightmare, one of the traumatic after-effects of his wartime experience that accompanied him through many decades, then shifts in time back to his introduction to military life, through descriptions of boot camp and his arrival in South Vietnam. In the middle section of the book, Pugh describes his "fog of war," with no certainty of who or where the enemy might be and with little faith in the officers who don’t understand the situation on the ground; more significantly here, he highlights the camaraderie of his fellow soldiers, so that we get to know them as individuals. Then he moves into a gripping account of what appears to be a completely botched mission, “Operation Attleboro,” which left hundreds of his fellow soldiers dead or seriously wounded. Pugh ends his account of his Vietnam days ends with his transfer to the safety of HQ (headquarters) and his return to the States.
Pugh writes with a raw honesty of his wartime experiences and the traumatic personal results of his experience. He writes of the soldiers and officers of the war, their loss of innocence, their heroism, their cowardice. He pays particular homage to those who fought beside him. Writing the book, Pugh admits, was a way for him to heal his soul, a way to figure out what had happened to him in Vietnam. It is a personal story--but he also writes for those of us who were not there, clearly explaining the military operations he was engaged in, his role and that of others, the equipment used, even the history of the famous name of his infantry division, the “Wolfhounds.” Careful to define each acronym he uses, he writes as well for those who are not necessarily versed in military jargon, The inclusion of several photographs--of Pugh, his squad members, the rice paddies of South Vietnam, the choppers that rescued the stranded, dead or wounded—add to the authenticity of his account. This is an often sad but ultimately triumphant tale of one soldier finally overcoming the traumas of war. We should thank Pugh—and also his widow--for the immense effort it must have taken to compose and publish such an account.
MWSA Review by Nancy Arbuthnot (June 2018)
To confront the demons of his past, author Johnny F. Pugh relives the year he spent as an army rifleman battling unseen guerilla fighters in one of the most dangerous places during the Vietnam War, the Iron Triangle. Through his stories and poetry, he shows how it felt to be trapped in a kill zone, enemy bullets just inches from his face, and the mind-numbing terror experienced after being thrown by a land mine explosion while fighting off bloodsucking leeches, vicious mosquitoes, and stifling heat and humidity.
Through Smoke-Teared Eyes offers an engaging, sometimes bilingual, account of the close friendship Pugh shared with his fellow squad members, learning from them critical survival skills and his own identity as a Chicano. After witnessing numerous atrocities against the Vietnamese peasants at the hands of the American military, he is forced to question his own role as a participant in this bloody war.
ISBN/ASIN: ISBN: 9781532026881/ASIN: 1532026870
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, Creative Nonfiction, History, Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 310