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KLIATTBy now, one more memoir of a soldier's year in Vietnam would seem to be superfluous. After all, just how many tales of small-unit combat in the stifling hell of a Vietnamese jungle can we really read? Hardwick's story, however, is different from many others in several ways. First of all he was a Marine, not an Army troop. He was an officer—a shavetail lieutenant—and in charge of a battery of artillery. He also found himself serving as a Forward Air Controller, one of those stalwarts who inches his way through dense woods with the combat patrols, calling artillery and air strikes down upon the enemy. All FACs had an exciting time of it, and none ever complained of boredom. In many ways, Hardwick's account is much like that of many another American who fought in a war with no strategy, no progress, and no end—the acute physical discomforts of forward combat: unrelenting heat, unceasing vigilance, and a deadly enemy always in the greenery nearby. Running a battery of big guns meant forsaking the comparative safety of bunker and fortifications and getting out into the boondocks with the infantry. All Marines are riflemen first and foremost, and so the narrator toted a rifle with his men, led ambushes, and sweated out the invisible snipers. There is plenty of angst in this book, just like many others, but perhaps because the author is a little older than his troops, he keeps it under control and in perspective. Still, there is suffering enough for everyone. Soldiers mourn at the loss of a buddy; officers are responsible for a whole platoon and feel themselves accountable for every casualty. In all, this is a logical, well-structured chronicle of a thoughtful man's year in acombat zone. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Random House, Ballantine, 200p. illus., Ages 15 to adult.
—Raymond Puffer, Ph.D.