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Guns Up!

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Overview

THIS GUT-WRENCHING FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT OF THE WAR IS A CLASSIC IN THE ANNALS OF VIETNAM LITERATURE.

"Guns up!" was the battle cry that sent machine gunners racing forward with their M60s to mow down the enemy, hoping that this wasn't the day they would meet their deaths. Marine Johnnie Clark heard that the life expectancy of a machine gunner in Vietnam was seven to ten seconds after a firefight began. Johnnie was only eighteen when he got there,...

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Overview

THIS GUT-WRENCHING FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT OF THE WAR IS A CLASSIC IN THE ANNALS OF VIETNAM LITERATURE.

"Guns up!" was the battle cry that sent machine gunners racing forward with their M60s to mow down the enemy, hoping that this wasn't the day they would meet their deaths. Marine Johnnie Clark heard that the life expectancy of a machine gunner in Vietnam was seven to ten seconds after a firefight began. Johnnie was only eighteen when he got there, at the height of the bloody Tet Offensive at Hue, and he quickly realized the grim statistic held a chilling truth.

The Marines who fought and bled and died were ordinary men, many still teenagers, but the selfless bravery they showed day after day in a nightmarish jungle war made them true heroes. This new edition of Guns Up!, filled with photographs and updated information about those harrowing battles, also contains the real names of these extraordinary warriors and details of their lives after the war. The book's continuing success is a tribute to the raw courage and sacrifice of the United States Marines.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345450265
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 230,520
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.87 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Johnnie M. Clark is a disabled veteran who lives with his wife and two children in St. Petersburg, Florida. After joining the Marine Corps at age seventeen, he served as a machine gunner with the famous 5th Marine Regiment in 1968 and was wounded three times. He was awarded the Silver Star for bravery. While recuperating in Okinawa, Mr. Clark studied karate as part of his rehabilitation program, and after his discharge, he taught martial arts at the University of South Florida. He is now a 6th Dan Master of tae kwan do and operates a tae kwan do school in St. Petersburg. Clark is also the author of Semper Fidelis, The Old Corps, No Better Way to Die, and the forthcoming Harlot's Cup. He is the recipient of the Brig. Gen. Robert L. Denig Memorial Distinguished Service Award for writing.

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Read an Excerpt

WELCOME TO THE FIFTH MARINES AND THE BATTLE FOR TRUOI BRIDGE

The one comforting thought was that I wasn’t alone. The plane bulged with young Marine Corps faces. Private First Class Richard Chan was the only one I knew very well. We had been together since Parris Island, the Marine Corps boot camp.

Chan had been born in Red China. His father and mother smuggled him out as an infant. He wasn’t your average Marine. Besides being Chinese-American, he had his pre-med degree from the University of Tennessee with a minor in ministry. He could have been playing doctor in New York, but he joined the Corps because he felt that he owed the country a debt for taking him in. Corny as it might sound, he also wanted to be the best, a Marine, a feeling we all shared.

We couldn’t get away from each other. Bunkies at Parris Island, bunkies at ITR (Infantry Training Regiment) School, bunkies at jungle warfare school in Camp Pendleton, California. Now we sat beside each other on a plane landing in Da Nang.

The blistering sun stung my eyes as I reached the first step of the drab gray departing ramp. I tried to be ready to duck. Scuttlebutt had it that one planeload of Marines had gotten hit on the runway, but I couldn’t hear any gunshots, just some moronic sergeant screaming, “Move it! Move it! Move it!” By the time I reached the bottom of the ramp, my eyes adjusted enough to see a hot blue sky without a single cloud. A sleek, impressive camouflaged Phantom jet whined to a stop nearby. Thundering artillery echoed across the airstrip. The Marine in front of me whistled. “Man! They mean business.” God, I thought, this is the real thing. I’m in a war. I mumbled a quick prayer, something I hadn’t done since I was fourteen.

A skinny-looking helicopter floated down one hundred meters to our right. Its camouflaged body bristled with rockets and machine guns. The roar of another camouflaged Phantom streaking down a runway snatched my eyes as it sprang off the ground and climbed sharply above the steep green mountains surrounding Da Nang.

We double-timed over to a processing area. It was a couple of hundred yards away, but by the time we stopped, I was dripping wet. The pilot of the Braniff had said it was 119 degrees. I’d thought he’d been joking.

The Tet Offensive was in full swing, and the battle for Hue City had covered the front page of every newspaper back home. On TV the house-to-house fighting looked like World War II films.

Chan stood in front of me in the alphabetical line of Marines filing past a loud dispersing officer. Each man handed him a set of orders which he grabbed quickly and stamped with a big rubber stamp as he screamed, “Fifth Marines!” I tapped Chan on the shoulder.

“Why’s everybody going to the Fifth Marines? They can’t need this many replacements.”

Chan looked over his shoulder with one of those “Boy have I got news for you” looks. “Oh, I think they might have accommodations for us. That’s the regiment that’s taking Hue City.”

“Thanks, buddy,” I said with a hard slap on his back. “I can always depend on you to find a bright spot in all this.”

“Move it! Move it! Move it!” shouted the sergeant.

A moment later the big rubber stamp came down on my orders like the authority of God. “Fifth Marines!”

We marched to a large dusty tent that was surrounded by a four-foot wall of sandbags. As a darkly tanned corporal called out names, each man stepped into the tent. Inside, a corporal with a huge black mustache handed me an M16 rifle, five magazines, and two bandoliers of ammunition. One of the men got a rifle with a bullet hole through the stock. When they gave the same guy a helmet with a bullet crease on the side, he nearly came unraveled.

Twenty minutes later we were herded into a waiting C-130 for a short flight north to a place called Phu Bai. The flight would have been more comfortable with seats or windows and without rifles sticking in my ear. One guy said we were flying over the South China Sea to avoid potshots. I wanted to be mentally ready for people shooting at me, but I could tell already there was a fine line between ready and panic.

Phu Bai was the base camp for the Fifth Marines. It didn’t look like a dangerous place. One part even looked fairly civilized, with groups of tin-roofed houses made of wood and screen. Sandbag bunkers dotted the camp, and everything was colored beige over green from the dust of tanks, trucks, and jeeps rolling through the dirt streets. I soon found out that the civilized part of Phu Bai belonged to the Army. The Marine area was all tents. As usual, the Army was equipped far better than the Corps—a constant source of irritation to Marines.

Phu Bai sat fifteen miles from Hue City. Just a quick truck ride north on Highway 1 would take me to Hue. Another little longer ride would take me to a place called Khe Sanh.

We were taken to a large tent where an old, crusty-looking master gunnery sergeant with a giant silver handle- bar mustache screamed, “Attention!” The chattering tent went silent.

“I am Master Gunnery Sergeant O’Connel. I will help you in your indoctrination on the Fifth Marine Regiment.” The old sergeant gave his great mustache a slow proud twirl and turned to a large blackboard behind him. “This is the most decorated regiment in the United States Marine Corps.” He spoke as he wrote “French Forteget” at the top of the blackboard. “Some of you may remember hearing about the Belleau Woods in boot camp. The Fifth took the woods in twenty-four hours of hand-to-hand combat. You will wear on your dress uniform the French Forteget. We are the only Marines in the Corps allowed to wear any item other than Marine Corps issue. The Fifth Marines have taken Guadalcanal; New Guinea; New Britain; Peleiu; Okinawa; Tientsin, China; Pusan; Inchon, in Seoul, Korea; and the Chosin Reservoir. Now it’s Hue City.” He put his hands on his hips, standing with his boots more than shoulder-width apart. He beamed with pride as he stuck out his barrel-shaped chest. “We have the highest kill ratio in Vietnam. The colonel does not intend for that to change. Unless we are given permission to invade the North we shall continue fighting under the rules now in effect. You will not kill people who are not in uniform unless you are fired upon by them. You will kill anyone in a North Vietnamese Government . . .”

As the indoctrination continued I became more confused. I wasn’t sure if this guy was saying this crap because it was procedure or if we were really supposed to wait to be fired upon before returning fire.

Thoughts of all kinds scrambled through my mind like a blender. I felt scared and excited and lonely at the same instant, but mostly excited. I couldn’t wait to write the first letter home and tell everyone all about it. I didn’t know a bloody thing about it yet, but I knew I had to keep a few girls worried to make sure I got a lot of mail.

After the indoctrination, we were led to a small firing range where we got a chance to make sure our weapons worked, a small item I hadn’t given a thought to.

A sunburned sergeant began shouting. “The first ten in column spread out facing the targets at the ready position. Feet spread! Rifles at the ready! Move it! Count off!”

“Nine!” I shouted as my turn came to jog into a position facing ten large black-and-white bull’s-eyes staked to the side of a fifty-foot-long by ten-foot-tall mound of dirt. The targets looked about one hundred meters away, just inside the barbed-wire perimeter surrounding Phu Bai.

“Lock and load!” I checked my magazine and flicked my rifle off safety.

“Step two of the prone position! Drop to the knees holding rifle securely! Drop to your stomach breaking your fall with the butt of the rifle!” I dropped to my stomach and took aim at the bull’s-eye straight ahead.

“Aim and fire!” shouted the sergeant, and I did. Nothing! I squeezed the trigger again. My weapon sent out a harmless klick amidst the continuous firing from the other nine rifles. My stomach churned as I looked past the targets to the unfriendly mountains beyond.

The sergeant quickly found me a rifle that worked, but the broken firing pin left me with serious doubts. “Check your boots,” my stomach said.

Now that my confidence was thoroughly shaken we were led back to a row of large dusty tents. A voice shouted to get in a formation, so we did. A truckload of Marines drove by, covering us with a solid layer of dust. The men in the truck howled with laughter at us. Some shouted friendly insults about our stateside utilities. We stuck out like big green thumbs. Every person we’d seen so far was dressed in jungle utilities. The men in the truck looked hard. Their jungle clothes were tattered and torn. The men hadn’t shaved in a long time, their skin was dark from the jungle sun, and they looked lean and mean like Marines are supposed to look. We looked like fat, happy kids, clean-shaven, with side-walled haircuts and spit-shined stateside boots.

A small snappy corporal began shouting our names in alphabetical order. Once we were all accounted for, we filed into the first in the long row of tents. Once inside, a tough-looking supply sergeant shouted at me, “What’s your size, Marine?” Like everyone else, I received a flak jacket, cartridge belt, canteens, four grenades, one pack, jungle boots, and utilities. After that we were led to different tents according to the platoons and companies we had been assigned. Unbelievably, Chan and I were together again—same company, same platoon.

Inside our tent were two rows of cots. At the end of one row, dwarfing the small cot he slept on, rested a giant red-headed man. His arms looked as big as my legs, and he must have had on size fifteen boots, which, like his utilities, were bleached beige from the sun and rain. They looked molded to his feet as if they were moccasins he hadn’t taken off for years.

I wanted to talk about this adventure with him right now. Chan must have thought the same thing. We walked to the end of the tent and sat side by side on the cot next to him. I wasn’t sure what he might think, since the rest of the tent was empty. It reminded me of standing at the end of a row of twenty unoccupied urinals and having one guy walk in and take the one right next to me.

He looked like a giant Viking. A big red mustache matched his hair. He was the most handsome red-headed man I’d ever seen. A real billboard Marine. I leaned closer to tap him on the shoulder. As he rolled over, the cot creaked under the strain. I knew one thing for sure: I wanted this monster on my side when the fighting started. He opened one large blue eye, which focused in on Chan.

“What’s this gook doing in here?”

Chan jumped to his feet. He rambled off a series of insults, some of which included the biological background of the big redhead’s parents, his speech, his looks, his smell, and his intelligence.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 36 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2012

    Should be required reading

    The war in Vietnam brought out the ugliness of an uneducated, misinformed group of individuals. A nation turned on its returning heroes, labelling them murderers and child-killers.

    In Guns Up!, LCPL Johnnie Clark silences the critics who were too cowardly to pick up a weapon themselves. It is a story of bravery, courage and true brotherhood. It pays tribute to each and every man who gave his life for his country during that terrible time.

    LCPL Clark was a hero, though he will never admit it. Neither will any man who was in Vietnam, or who served after. This book should be required reading as part of any American History class. It is a perfect example of how the media get it wrong time and again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2009

    Guns Up! - What real Marines faced daily in the Nam

    Johnnie M. Clark has written a number of books about the Korean and Viet Nam wars and the roles of the regular Marine and even specialized troops such as snipers. His books are first person. First hand information on what he and his fellows went through, smelled, tasted, felt and dreamed of while they fought their hearts out for a war that few at home cared about and many spat on when they returned home wounded so that they could be healed and return to the jungles of southeast Asia. Mr Clark writes in a style that causes the reader to feel the sweat that poured down the necks of his Marines from the tropical heat or from the fear of being the next man to die in an ambush or from a sniper's round speeding out from his hidden position to make a sure kill on his target of the moment.

    Those who were there, in the Nam, read his books with tears in their eyes. Those who avoided the draft or the lotteryread his books, many of them coming away ashamed of their actions that half a lifetime ago. Men from either group come away touched, some to their very core.

    One nearly experiences every fear filled moments of every day in the Nam. The thought of rucking up one more time to enter the bush on another long patrol with radios that worked half the time if they were lucky and so-called intellegence that was more often dead wrong than it was right had to make almost any man stab himself or have a friend shoot him so he could stay in the rear in a MASH unit.

    Real life adventure, real life pain, real life fear, the things every Marines' life was made of is what Mr. Clark writes about. You are sucked into the lives of these Marines and find yourself caring for each and every one of them until you're spit out the end of the book drained. You realize what being a Marine in wartime is all about and you have to feel like saluting the next Marine you see in uniform and thanking him for all he's done so that you could sleep peacefully in your bed at night.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2012

    Excellent

    A good look of what it was for young Marine in Vietnam.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2012

    Must read

    A heartbreaking story of young men going into battle and experiencing things no person should.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2006

    Best Nam Book Ever

    The best Nam book ever, maybe the best book about war ever. I am a historian and I have read many books on warfare and this gives the reader an insider's look at the subject. It made me proud of those heroes who fought in that war and proud of our military in general. This book is a page-turner from the first word and it delivers non-stop. Well written and very descriptive. It's not just a book about the Hell of war, but about people. It illustrates just how much these guys loved each other and is a depiction of true friendship. Lance Cpl. Johnnie Clark grew-up too quickly in Nam just like many other young men and women who served, but he had to grow up to survive. This is a fantastic story of his love for his fellow Marines and in the end God. If you think this is just a bunch of God, Corps, Mom, apple pie, and flag-waving read this book and get an appreciation for what these warriors have done for YOU. Semper Fi!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2005

    TRUE STORY OF HONOR AND COURAGE

    WOW THIS IS ONE REALLY HOT BOOK! THE WRITER TELLS IT AS ONLY HE CAN TELL IT BECAUSE HE WAS THERE. THIS IS THE VIEW FROM THE MARINE ON THE GROUND THE HONEST TRUTH. THE TRUE MARINE THE FIRST TO FIGHT. WHAT MAKES THIS STORY SPECIAL IS THIS MARINE WAS A MACHINE GUNNER IN THE THICK OF COMBAT AND THE AVERAGE MACHINE GUNNER DIDNT HAVE MUCH OF A LIFE CAUSE THE ENEMY SOLDIERS CAME AFTER HIM FIRST. SO YOU HAD TO REALLY BE THE BEST TO BE A MACHINEGUNNER AND SO THIS BOOK IS NOT ONLY A GREAT TRIBUTE TO THE COURAGE OF ALL THOSE WHO SERVED BUT IT TELLS THE STORY HOW ONE MAN FOUND SOMETHING GREATER. IF YOU HAVE READ THE ORIGINAL GUNS UP YOU NEED TO GET THIS NEWLY RELEASED COPY OF GUNS UP CAUSE THERES ALOT OF INTRESTING FOLLOW INFORMATION PLUS THIS GREAT BOOK HAS BEEN RELEASED ON CASSETTE WHICH WOULD BE GREAT TO TAKE WITH YOU TO THE GYM OR ON A BUSSINESS TRIP. ANY OF THESE FINE BOOKS AND OR THE CASSETE WOULD MAKE A FINE GIFT FOR A FRIEND FAMILY MEMBER OR FELLOW SERVICE MEMBER AND YOU CAN FIND THEM ON BN.COM NO LINES NO CROWDS

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2013

    Hf

    Fh

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    Great read!!!

    Outstanding book and it is a quick book to read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    Good and mike

    I seen this mission on sniper deadliest missions and it looked painfl for thepeople who died

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  • Posted February 1, 2012

    Highly Rec!

    The first war book I've read that truly describes the daily life of a ground grunt....very well written, very quick read.

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  • Posted January 17, 2012

    Must read book on the Vietnam war!

    A well written, first person account of one of the nastiest wars in our history. Takes you into the front lines thru the eyes of a raw recruit as he survives the horrors of war until he is medevaced out as a wounded veteran.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    Great book

    This is a awesome book it tells the life of a american soldier during vietnam it tells about the hardships and the life of his bestfriends

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012

    Great book

    Best book i have ever read. I have even read it a couple times. Semper Fi.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2011

    If u liked this book

    Try out blood trails. It was a journal about a vietnam foot soildor

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2011

    Good

    Very good book. Full of action and is an amazing story.

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  • Posted October 24, 2011

    Great book I highly recommend it.

    Johnnie has a very unique writing style. He makes you know and love the charactors (in this case real life folks, he did not invent them). It was all action and humor even. I could not put the book down. Thank God I was sick fighting a cold when I picked up your book. So I finshed it in 2 days. Wow, I had fun being sick. Can't wait to read the rest of your books.
    Airborne!

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  • Posted August 2, 2011

    Amazing story

    A mind blowing account of vietnam. Probably the best story on the subject i have ever read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2008

    Best book on Vietnam

    Excellent action sequences with great ending. Very accurate

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2007

    A reviewer

    tells what is was like on the ground in Vietnam. Read it in one siting

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2004

    Semper Fi

    I served in Viet Nam in Mike Company, 3/5. I was amazed when I started reading Guns Up and discovered Johnnie was part of 3/5 also. This is the most accurate book I have ever read on Nam, and why not, he was there. We served in the same locations and at almost the same time. Semper Fi Johnnie! great book

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews

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