Search and Destroy: The Story of an Armored Cavalry Squadron in Vietnam: 1-1 Cav, 1967-1968 by Keith W. Nolan. The late Keith Nolan did an excellent job of telling the story of the 1-1 Cav, from January 1967 through the unit’s deployment to Vietnam in August 1967 and follows it to December 1968. He takes the unit from their training at Fort Hood, Texas to South Vietnam.
The book is excellent. He does a very good job of telling their story without any sugar coating. I was both shocked and pleased that Mr. Nolan told it like it was. His describing the atrocities committed by the men of the 1/1 Cav as well as the random acts of violence committed by the young troopers upon civilians and enemy prisoners is eye-opening. I found it interesting when decorations and medals were discussed. The fact that some of the medal citations did not match the events of the time is revealing. It was also interesting to see that the higher the rank, the higher the medal was common.
His telling of the two years following those deploying, getting wounded or killed in action as well as the replacements helps one get a feel of being there. Boyd’s Bastards and the adventures of Alpha Troop could be a book all by themselves. The extended coverage of the Tet Offensive is riveting. You get a feel for the entire area of operations of the Americal Division (23rd Infantry Division) which had operational control of the 1/1 Cav. The battles in Tam Ky, the Que Son Valley, Pineapple Forest, Hill 34, Tien Phouc, and Cigar Island will keep you turning page after page. I found the fighting on Cigar Island insightful. The island was honey-combed with tunnels and spider-traps that ambushed the 1/1 Cav at every turn. It was amazing to read of the tunnels and the horrors of the hidden enemy.
The inclusion of the appendixes in the book add both value, insight, and a memorial for those who served on the 1/1 Cav. Appendix A “Those Who Died” listed the casualties from their arrival to the unit’s final departure in 1972. It shows the real human cost of war.
His inclusion of My Lai in the chronology as events and the calendar dictated is appreciated. Because of 1/1 Cav being under the operation control of the Americal Division it is very appropriate to mention My Lai. I appreciate his the straight-forward manner of including those events. This is more than just a simple battle narrative or unit history. I believe Mr. Nolan made a major contribution to the history of the Vietnam War. It is a must addition to the library of any one with an interest in Vietnam, the Armored Calvary, the Tet Offensive, and would be a great resource because of the honesty of the atrocities inclusion to use as a reference work for case studies in leadership and ethics in combat. Well done.