In his book, Duck Your Head and Keep on Going, author John Booth provides a thoughtful and fascinating recounting of his service in Vietnam in 1965 – 1966. Booth’s description of his combat experience as a newly-minted Marine Corps second lieutenant artilleryman is fact-filled, gut-wrenchingly personal, and informative. The reader will gain an appreciation for the challenges associated with bringing massive artillery firepower to bear against an elusive enemy in difficult terrain, and under extremely difficult circumstances.
You’ll learn about “artillery sniping,” map reading, fire support coordination, uniform modifications, and many other interesting details. Booth pulls this off without getting too bogged down in technology or terminology. He also ties in many thoroughly-researched details of the operations carried out by the units in which he served—all carefully documented in footnotes at the end of each chapter.
More than a simple unit history, the reader will take a trip through a young man’s mind as he struggles to cope with the challenges of combat for the first time. Booth’s honesty and openness are appealing; and his natural, laid-back writing style makes it easy to assimilate all the information he’s sharing with us. This is true whether Booth is discussing the different politico-military strategies of Marine and Army leadership during the war—“hearts and minds” versus a war of attrition—or the differences he feels when looking at the corpses of his enemy versus those of his brothers in arms: his fellow Marines.
In the book’s introduction, the author warns that he is “not a professional writer,” and that his primary audience is his children, grandchildren, and fellow Marines. Although the reader will find the occasional technical or formatting glitch, the story the author has to tell tends to outweigh the book’s shortcomings, and as such is a worthwhile read for a wider audience.
Review by John Cathcart (August 2019)
The author fought as a lieutenant in two wars in Vietnam. The first was a counterinsurgency against Viet Cong guerrillas that people today still do not understand. The second was a conventional war against the North Vietnamese Army. The book is both a personal memoir written over twenty years and a historical document backed up by extensive research of previously classified information. You will feel like you are living alongside the author as you and he together undergo the privations of war and the rigors of combat. You will learn the stories of his comrades as they lived and died and whose names appear on the Vietnam Wall today. Lieutenant Booth served as a forward observer with two rifle companies, a gunnery officer with an artillery battery, and a fire support coordinator with and infantry battalion where he lived a primitive existence. Ammunition, water and food were held-lifted in and dead and wounded were held-lifted out.
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 211