The Battle of An Loc by James Wilbanks

Here is a review I wrote on the book “The Battle of An Loc” by James Wilbanks for the Military History Book Club. A must have book for anyone with an interest in Viet-Nam. This is a very good read. The Battle of An Loc was a major battle of the Vietnam War that lasted from April 13 to July 20, 1972. It culminated in a decisive victory for South Vietnam’s Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The struggle for An Loc was one of the most important battles of the war. It saw the introduction of conventional warfare and tanks by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The ARVN forces halted the NVA advance towards Saigon. It delayed the war’s end by three years.

The author, James Wilbanks, was present and wounded at An Loc. This is not only his account, but gives insights from the North Vietnamese and US Advisor’s after action reports plus other communist documents. The role of the unending US air support, the bravery of the US air crews, and the orchestration by the Forward Air Controllers to the battle’s victory for the ARVN and US Advisor’s is covered in warranted great detail. The inability of the NVA to have armor and infantry work together in more conventional warfare is clearly brought to light and documented. Wilbanks gives insights into Richard Nixon’s Vietnamization’s perceived success by the politicians and its ultimate failures. This is a must have read and must have addition to the library for anyone with interest in the war in Viet-Nam.

Read and reviewed by Jimmie Aaron Kepler.

We Were Soldiers Once and Young by General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway

There is a movie based on this book. I read the book first and was surprised when I saw the movie. They had left out the second battle. It was a battle that was just as bloody as the first, but without LTC Moore commanding. General Moore and Joseph Galloway have written a fine book. It should be must reading for every military officer and politician. I found this book to be consuming my attention. It was very hard to put down. The narrative of the training, deployment, battle, wives back at Fort Benning, battle, deaths and death notifications by cab drivers, and the stupidity of the leadership that lead to the second battles terrible losses.

We Were Soldiers Once and Young is terrific book! I was in junior high school when the battle of Ia-Drang took place. I remember it vividly. My dad had returned months earlier from his first duty in Viet-Nam. I was living in a military family. I watched soldiers march to and from training daily from my school’s playground. I can still vividly recall the CBS evening news story with Walter Cronkite discussing the impact of all the deaths on Fort Benning and Columbus, Georgia. I wish I had read this before I served as a US Army Infantry platoon leader. Buy it, read it, and keep it in your library.

Read and reviewed by Jimmie Aaron Kepler.

A Life in a Year: The American Infantryman in Vietnam, 1965-1972 by James R. Ebert

Includes spoilers:

Wisconsin high school teacher James R. Ebert does a masterful job as he combines interviews and printed primary sources in this remarkable telling of the infantryman’s experience during the Vietnam War. Ebert tells the story of the US Army and a few US Marine infantrymen during the Vietnam War. He takes their story from induction into the service through basic and advanced individual training, arrival in Vietnam, their first combat experiences, the first killed in action they experience, in some cases the soldier’s death, and the freedom birds that take them back to the world. Ebert points out while infantryman accounted for less than 10% of the American troops in Vietnam, the infantry suffered more than 80% of the losses.

Ebert uses an interesting technique starting every chapter with a letter by Leonard Dutcher to his parents. Dutcher just wanted to do his part for God and country and go home at the end of his 12-month tour (13 for Marines). Spoiler alert! In the last chapter, we find out that Dutcher was killed. It caught me off guard and really added to the impact of the book. Ebert takes many of the soldiers and Marines experiences word for word from the individual himself through interviews or letters. It is a collective look at similarities of the many infantry soldiers and Marines in the war. It is a very personal account from many points of view.

This is an important book in Vietnam War literature. This is what the grunts really went through. I was left with somewhat of feeling of guilt from reading the book. Why? I graduated high school in 1971. Some of my high classmates went to Vietnam and fought. Everett Maxwell was killed in action. I went to college and was ultimately commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry, went through airborne school and served three years active duty. My becoming an officer deferred my entry on active duty from 1971 to 1975. This is the reason for my reflective thoughts.

Read and reviewed by Jimmie Aaron Kepler