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A Marine’s Journey through South Vietnam, 1968-1969
In early February of 1968, at the beginning of the Tet Offensive, Private First Class Gregory V. Short arrived in Vietnam as an eighteen-year-old U.S. Marine. Amid all of the confusion and destruction, he began his tour of duty as an 81mm mortarman with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, which was stationed at Con Thien near the DMZ. While living in horrendous conditions reminiscent of the trenches in World War I, his unit was cut off and constantly being bombarded by the North Vietnamese heavy artillery, rockets, and mortars. Soon thereafter Short left his mortar crew and became an 81mm’s Forward Observer for Hotel Company. Working with the U.S. Army’s 1st Air Cavalry Division and other units, he helped relieve the siege at Khe Sanh by reopening Route 9. Short participated in several different operations close to the Laotian border, where contact with the enemy was often heavy and always chaotic. On May 19, Ho Chi Minh’s birthday, the NVA attempted to overrun the combat base in the early morning hours. Tragically, during a two-month period, one of the companies (Foxtrot Company) within his battalion would sustain more than 70 percent casualties. By September Short was transferred to the 1st Battalion 9th Marines (the Walking Dead). Assigned as an infantryman (grunt) with Bravo Company and operating along the DMZ and near the A Shau Valley, he would spend the next five months patrolling the mountainous terrain and enduring the harsh elements. At the end of his first tour, he re-upped for a second and was assigned to the 1st Marine Air Wing in Da Nang, where he had an opportunity to become familiar with the Vietnamese culture. Direct, honest, and brutal in his observations, Short holds nothing back in describing the hardships of modern warfare and our leaders’ illusions of success.
In Guadalcanal Marine, Kerry L. Lane recounts the dark reality of combat experienced by the men of the 1st Marine Division fighting on Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester. With eighty gripping photographs and his text, he brings to life the struggles of his companions as they achieve these two astonishing victories.
Lane, a sixteen-year-old farm boy from North Carolina, battled the Japanese and rose to heroism powering a bulldozer to bridge "Suicide Creek" in the swamps on Cape Gloucester. There he led his Marine comrades to victory.
Lane describes the trials of the common Marine serving in the first grueling island campaign. In vivid prose he tells of joining the service before the war and of training. Soon after the shocking news of Pearl Harbor, he and his trusted comrades fight the Japanese in one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific.
In the tropics, Lane and his companions suffer malaria and dysentery, endure jungle rot and oppressive heat, and grapple with an enemy who fights to the death. Throughout the book, Lane bares the experience of the average Marine and his historic World War II journey, revealing how one teenager became a Corps hero and ultimately finished his military career as a lieutenant colonel.
Kerry L. Lane retired from the Marines and is now the owner and operator of Post Oak Farm in Spotsylvania, Virginia.
The experiences of an American family in the Philippines during World War II
Just nine days before her seventh birthday, Virginia Hansen Holmes heard about the attack on American forces at Pearl Harbor and wondered if this was going to change her life. She lived on the Philippine Island of Mindanao with her two teenage brothers, eleven-year-old sister, mother, and father, an official with the East Mindanao Mining Company.
Guerrilla Daughter is a memoir of this family’s extraordinary struggle to survive the Japanese occupation of Mindanao from the spring of 1942 until the end of the war in September 1945. The men in the family fought as guerrilla soldiers in the island’s resistance movement, while Holmes, her mother, and her older sister were left to their own resources to evade the Japanese, who had been given orders to execute Americans. The Hansen women, faced with immediate death if found and suffering from hunger, disease, and barely tolerable living conditions, hid out in the Philippine jungle and remote villages to remain just ahead of the growing Japanese presence and avoid capture.
Using original documents and papers belonging to her father, as well as her own vivid recollections and the reminiscences of her siblings, Virginia Hansen Holmes presents this gripping and compelling account of extraordinary survival.
American Soldier of Fortune
As a five-feet-three-inch hunchback who weighed about 100 pounds, Homer Lea (1876–1912), was an unlikely candidate for life on the battlefield, yet he became a world-renowned military hero. In the Dragon’s Lair: The Exploits of Homer Lea paints a revealing portrait of a diminutive yet determined man who never earned his valor on the field of battle, but left an indelible mark on his times. Lawrence M. Kaplan draws from extensive research to illuminate the life of a “man of mystery,” while also yielding a clearer understanding of the early twentieth-century Chinese underground reform and revolutionary movements. Lea’s career began in the inner circles of a powerful Chinese movement in San Francisco that led him to a generalship during the Boxer Rebellion. Fixated with commanding his own Chinese army, Lea’s inflated aspirations were almost always dashed by reality. Although he never achieved the leadership role for which he strived, he became a trusted advisor to revolutionary leader Dr. Sun Yat-sen during the 1911 revolution that overthrew the Manchu Dynasty. As an author, Lea garnered fame for two books on geopolitics: The Valor of Ignorance, which examined weaknesses in the American defenses and included dire warnings of an impending Japanese-American war, and The Day of the Saxon, which predicted the decline of the British Empire. More than a character study, In the Dragon’s Lair provides insight into the establishment and execution of underground reform and revolutionary movements within U.S. immigrant communities and in southern China, as well as early twentieth-century geopolitical thought.
America's Cold War Airmen
Until now, no book has covered all of Cold War air combat in the words of the men who waged it. In I Always Wanted to Fly, retired United States Air Force Colonel Wolfgang W. E. Samuel has gathered first-person memories from heroes of the cockpits and airstrips. Battling in dogfights when jets were novelties, saving lives in grueling airlifts, or flying dangerous reconnaissance missions deep into Soviet and Chinese airspace, these flyers waged America's longest and most secretively conducted air war. Many of the pilots Samuel interviewed invoke the same sentiment when asked why they risked their lives in the air--"I always wanted to fly." While young, they were inspired by barnstormers, by World War I fighter legends, by the legendary Charles Lindbergh, and often just by seeing airplanes flying overhead. With the advent of World War II, many of these dreamers found themselves in cockpits soon after high school. Of those who survived World War II, many chose to continue following their dream, flying the Berlin Airlift, stopping the North Korean army during the "forgotten war" in Korea, and fighting in the Vietnam War. Told in personal narratives and reminiscences, I Always Wanted to Fly renders views from pilots' seats and flight decks during every air combat flashpoint from 1945--1968. Drawn from long exposure to the immense stress of warfare, the stories these warriors share are both heroic and historic. The author, a veteran of many secret reconnaissance missions, evokes individuals and scenes with authority and grace. He provides clear, concise historical context for each airman's memories. In I Always Wanted to Fly he has produced both a thrilling and inspirational acknowledgment of personal heroism and a valuable addition to our documentation of the Cold War. Wolfgang W. E. Samuel, the author of German Boy: A Refugee's Story (University Press of Mississippi) and a distinguished graduate of the Air Force ROTC in 1960, served in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement as a colonel in 1985. Ken Hechler is the author of The Bridge at Remagen.
Imprisoned in Korea, Accused at Home
Eighteen-year-old Johnny Moore was an energetic, self-confident private first class when he entered combat with a heavy-weapons platoon in Korea. Four and a half months later, after surviving heavy attacks on the Pusan Perimeter and in one of the forward units of the western column advancing on the Yalu River, he was captured by the Chinese infantry.
Moore and other American POWs suffered from starvation rations, bitter cold, and mental torment. Although the intense Chinese efforts to change the prisoners’ ideologies were largely unsuccessful, they were very effective in engendering distrust among the prisoners and abandonment of duty by the officers. Encouraged by an American sergeant, Moore worked with his captors to obtain better sanitation, a fairer distribution of food, and, on two occasions, medicine for the sick. Twice he tried to escape from imprisonment. Just four days after his twenty-first birthday, in 1953, the Chinese released him.
Moore cooperated fully with US military interrogators, giving as much information as he could on the prison camp and the methods his captors had used. But two years later, army officers arrested him at his home and charged him with treason. Although the charge was dropped and a Field Board of Inquiry returned him to regular duty, the army’s treatment of him left Moore further traumatized. He eventually went AWOL and turned to drinking, gambling, and other self-destructive behaviors.
Military historian Judith Fenner Gentry has worked with Moore’s memoirs of his experiences during and after the war to corroborate, clarify, elaborate, and situate his story within the larger events in Korea and in the Cold War. She has consulted records from courts-martial, newspaper interviews with returning POWs, and Freedom of Information Act documents on the Army Criminal Investigation Division and the Army Counter-Intelligence Corps.
The Battle of the DMZ In Vietnam, 1967-1968
A Vietnam War combat memoir from the perspective of an artilleryman.
Impact Zone documents Marine First Lieutenant James S. Brown's intense battle experiences, including those at Khe Sanh and Con Thien, throughout his thirteen months of service on the DMZ during 1967-68. This high-action account also reflects Brown's growing belief that the Vietnam War was mis-fought due to the unproductive political leadership of President Johnson and his administration. Brown's naiveté developed into hardening skepticism and cynicism as he faced the harsh realities of war, though he still managed to retain a sense of honor, pride, and patriotism for his country.
Impact Zone is a distinctive book on the Vietnam War because it is told from the perspective of an artilleryman, and the increasingly dangerous events gain momentum as they progress from one adventure to the next. Impact Zone is not only an important historical document of the Vietnam conflict, but also a moving record of the personal and emotional costs of war.
An American B-24 Pilot in World War II
James “Jim” Davis lived what he considered “an impossible dream” as he piloted a B-24, as part of the 8th Air Force, on nearly thirty missions in the European Theatre during World War II. In this memoir, Davis offers heart-wrenching detail concerning the difficulties of qualifying for the U.S. Army Air Forces pilot program, the strenuous nature of the pilot training program, the anxiety caused by a wartime marriage, and the dangers of flying combat missions over Nazi Germany. Few, if any, other memoirs provide the genuineness and honesty of his story. From his struggles to become a pilot, to seeing death up close on his first mission, to his expected deployment to the Pacific Theatre in the fall of 1945, Davis takes the reader through a fast-paced and exciting narrative adventure. Davis and his crew flew support missions for Operations Cobra and Market Garden and numerous bombing missions over occupied Europe in the summer and fall of 1944. He piloted his B-24 on missions over twenty German cities, including Cologne, Hamburg, Metz, and Munich, and attacked enemy airfields, airplane factories, railroad marshalling yards, ship yards, oil refineries, and chemical plants. While he and his crew survived without serious injuries, they witnessed the destruction of many of their friends’ planes and experienced serious damage to their own plane on several occasions. Readers of his memoir will come away with a much greater appreciation for the difficulties and dangers of the air war in World War II. David Snead happened upon the memoir and its author during his time at Texas Tech University. He was immediately hooked and began the process of preparing it for publication. Snead met with Davis on several occasions, examined his military records, researched in detail at the National Archives, and investigated numerous published sources in order to corroborate the account and add explanatory notes for context.
A Son's Memoir
I see this book as the story my father never got to tell,John Toffey writes. And what a remarkable story it is that Lt. Col. Jack Toffey never got to tell.In this moving account of a young man's journey to know a father who went to war in 1942 and never came back, John Toffey weaves memory, history, and his father's vivid letters home into a fascinating tale of a family, a war, and the threads that connect them.John Toffey was nine when his father's National Guard outfit was mobilized. For two years Toffey, his mother, and his sister moved from post to post before his dad shipped out-to North Africa, fighting the Vichy French in Morocco, then the Germans in Tunisia, where he was wounded. In July 1943 he went back to war, leading an infantry battalion in the invasions of Sicily and southern Italy. In January 1944 he landed his battalion at Anzio and was wounded again. After a long, bitter stalemate, Toffey's regiment led Mark Clark's push on Rome. On June 3, 1944, Jack Toffey was killed in the hill town of Palestrina, one day before the Allies marched intoRome. In a brutal campaign, Jack Toffey had commanded a combat battalion longer than any other officer in the Mediterranean theater.Only in 1996, when his father's letters were discovered, did John Toffey begin to piece together what happened to his father. And he tells this contested story of Allied success and failure with drama, steely reserve, and balance, adding an invaluable perspective to the portrait of Jack Toffey created by Rick Atkinson in his bestselling Day of Battle. This book is also a lovingly crafted portrait of home front Ohio, and how a young boy, his sister, and his mother waited out their war, scanning newspapers and magazines for news of Dad and devouring letters full of easy humor and expressions of love for and pride in his family and dreams of a good life after the war.
Benjamin H. Grierson's Civil War Memoir
General Benjamin H. Grierson is most widely known as the brilliant cavalryman whose actions in the Civil War's Mississippi Valley campaign facilitated Ulysses S. Grant's capture of Vicksburg. There is, however, much more to this key Union officer than a successful raid into Confederate-held Mississippi. In A Just and Righteous Cause: Benjamin H. Grierson's Civil War Memoir, edited by Bruce J. Dinges and Shirley A. Leckie, Grierson tells his story in forceful, direct, and highly engaging prose.
A Just and Righteous Cause paints a vivid picture of Grierson's prewar and Civil War career, touching on his antislavery views, Republican Party principles, and military strategy and tactics. His story begins with his parents' immigration to the United States and follows his childhood, youth, and career as a musician; the early years of his arriage; his business failures prior to becoming a cavalry officer in an Illinois regiment; his experiences in battle; and his Reconstruction appointment. Grierson also provides intimate accounts of his relationships with such prominent politicians and Union leaders as Abraham Lincoln, Richard Yates, Andrew Johnson, William T. Sherman, Ulysses S.
Grant, John C. Frémont, and Benjamin Prentiss.
Because Grierson wrote the memoir mainly with his family as the intended audience, he manages to avoid the self-promotion that plagues many of his contemporaries' chronicles. His reliance on military records and correspondence, along with family letters, lends an immediacy rarely found in military memoirs. His reminiscences also add fuel to a reemerging debate on soldiers' motivations for enlisting—in Grierson's case, patriotism and ideology—and shed new light on the Western theater of the Civil War, which has seen a recent surge in interest among Civil War enthusiasts.
A non-West Point officer, Grierson owed his developing career to his independent studies of the military and his connections to political figures in his home state of Illinois and later to important Union leaders. Dinges and Leckie provide a helpful introduction, which gives background on the memoir and places Grierson's career into historical context. Aided by fourteen photos and two maps, as well as the editors' superb annotations, A Just and Righteous Cause is a valuable addition to Civil War history.