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Ray Smith"This is a must read for anyone interested in knowing (or remembering) what it was really like at Khe Sanh in late 1967 and early 1968."
—Major General, USMC (Ret.), Company Commander at Khe Sanh
Posted March 13, 2006
Mike Archer has written an intelligent, courageous, sensitive book about an historic battle in a controversial war. He reflects on the joy, the sorrow, the fear, and the wonder that was Khe Sanh. And Archer remembers it as it was, rather than the way he might have wanted to remember it. In this he stays honest and true to the friend he lost on a hill overlooking Khe Sanh, a death that was as ambiguous as the war itself. Mike Archer accurately captures the time and experience of a Marine PFC stuck in a God-forsaken place. This book is well researched and rich in historical context. It is indicative of a mature, older man trying to understand the traumatic war experiences of his youth in a more complete way. For all these reasons, I have adopted it as required reading for my Honors Colloquium on 'The Lessons of Vietnam' at the University of Delaware. It truly is first-rate.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 21, 2005
Mr. Archer is a true writer and hero. There are many people in the history of our world who have lived through terrible times and some might even be able to tell a story to inspire others, but few have lived through such times as the battle for Khe Sahn, a battlefield for life, worthless land and the very soul of the men who survived it. Mr. Archer tells history as it should be told, firsthand, painful recall and no punches pulled. This story would be heartbreaking enough if you listened to it unfold from the lips of your college professor in a room full of young people born after the fact But told from the real life deal, someone who lived it, fought it, nearly died from it- well to be frank, he will walk all over your heart as if it were at his feet in the mud where he so often found himself. He will make you feel like you never have before about those who served our country during the Vietnam War, if not, then I can't imagine that anything would. When I closed the book, I closed my eyes, and I cried. If you read the book, you will know why, because you will do the same thing. It made me want to shake his hand, but think I wasn't really worthy to do so. It made me realize that the human body can be wounded, hungry and alone, the flag can be torn and tattered, weapons can be destroyed, but the human spirit can defy all odds, can win over all things, can persevere and can rise above anything, including the sins of our government. There is no greater story to be told about the heart of a Marine.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 27, 2005
In a powerfully written, highly descriptive and fast paced narrative, Michael Archer recounts his experiences as a radioman during the crucial three-month North Vietnamese siege of the remote US Marine outpost at Khe Sanh, South Vietnam in 1968. When he arrived at Khe Sanh in December 1967, Archer had no idea that he would soon be immersed in the bloodiest, most confusing and controversial battle of the Vietnam War. Thus, his story portrays the growing apprehension of the Marines as they realized that Communist forces had encircled the American base with the intention of scoring a decisive victory over the US. Archer effectively conveys the fear, trepidation and general bewilderment experienced by newly arrived Americans in the combat zone while graphically describing the fall of Khe Sanh village during the early days of the battle. In the process, Archer blends humor, irony and drama to craft and certainly the preeminent account of the battle of Khe Sanh. His depiction of his personal journey from an awkward, alienated youth to a cynical, hardened Khe Sanh combatant, invites the reader to consider the perplexing situation in the US during the 1960s as Americans argued with increasing fervor over the American commitment to South Vietnam, the often impulsive decisions of young people to join the military at a time when it was engaged in an unpopular struggle, and the loyalty and camaraderie that grew up among those who fought together in South Vietnam. At the same, time Archer confronts a number of controversial issues left over from the hostilities, including the sometimes uneven performance of South Vietnamese troops, the controversial decisions on the part of US Marine commanders to abandon several US Army positions under attack by superior Communist forces and the ferocious conflict that arose between the US Army and the US Marine Corps in the midst of the hostilities. As a radio operator working in the 26th Marines Regimental Command Post, Archer examines the complex relationship between enlisted men and officers during wartime and demonstrates the critical role of technology in preventing a North Vietnamese onslaught against the Khe Sanh perimeter. By far, the best sections of the book are his depictions of the daily existence of Marines at Khe Sanh with all of their idiosyncrasies, foibles, superstitions, dark humor and forced bravado under the most sustained barrage of enemy fire of the conflict. Archer brings these outrageous characters to life as he portrays the everyday valor of the young Marines endeavoring to survive their time at ¿The Worst Place on Earth.¿ (124-25) Indeed, despite the poignancy of the story, this reviewer often found himself laughing aloud at Archer¿s representations of his fellow Marines. He ends the book with a moving and personal tribute to his childhood friend who was subsequently listed as an MIA in South Vietnam. Yet, his work clearly indicates that Archer remained unprepared for the negative reactions of his fellow citizens towards veterans when he returned to the US. Nor does he attempt to hide the bitterness that all Khe Sanh participants felt after the US command abandoned the base in July1968. Thus, Archer points out that after ¿over 1,000 Americans died fighting for Khe Sanh in 1968¿ (175), Marine veterans of the battle witnessed the outrageous spectacle of the US command giving up the position without a fight where so many young Marines had recently struggled and died. Perhaps, this superb book¿s greatest value is that it stands as a metaphor for the frustration and futility felt by those who clashed over thousands of ¿patch[s] of ground¿ (188) throughout the Vietnam War.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.