Nam Sense: Surviving Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division

Overview

An honest tour of the Vietnam War from the soldier's eye view . . .

Nam-Sense is the brilliantly written story of a combat squad leader in the 101st Airborne Division. Arthur Wiknik was a 19-year-old kid from New England when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968. After completing various NCO training programs, he was promoted to sergeant "without ever setting foot in a combat zone" and sent to Vietnam in early 1969. Shortly after his arrival on the far side of the world, ...

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Overview

An honest tour of the Vietnam War from the soldier's eye view . . .

Nam-Sense is the brilliantly written story of a combat squad leader in the 101st Airborne Division. Arthur Wiknik was a 19-year-old kid from New England when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968. After completing various NCO training programs, he was promoted to sergeant "without ever setting foot in a combat zone" and sent to Vietnam in early 1969. Shortly after his arrival on the far side of the world, Wiknik was assigned to Camp Evans, a mixed-unit base camp near the northern village of Phong Dien, only thirty miles from Laos and North Vietnam. On his first jungle patrol, his squad killed a female Viet Cong who turned out to have been the local prostitute. It was the first dead person he had ever seen.

Wiknik's account of life and death in Vietnam includes everything from heavy combat to faking insanity to get some R & R. He was the first man in his unit to reach the top of Hamburger Hill during one of the last offensives launched by U.S. forces, and later discovered a weapons cache that prevented an attack on his advance fire support base. Between the sporadic episodes of combat he mingled with the locals, tricked unwitting U.S. suppliers into providing his platoon with a year of hard to get food, defied a superior and was punished with a dangerous mission, and struggled with himself and his fellow soldiers as the anti-war movement began to affect his ability to wage victorious war.

Nam-Sense offers a perfect blend of candor, sarcasm, and humor - and it spares nothing and no one in its attempt to accurately convey what really transpired for the combat soldier during this unpopular war. Nam-Sense is not about heroism or glory, mental breakdowns, haunting flashbacks, or wallowing in self-pity. The GIs Wiknik lived and fought with during his yearlong tour did not rape, murder, or burn villages, were not strung out on drugs, and did not enjoy killing. They were there to do their duty as they were trained, support their comrades - and get home alive. "The soldiers I knew," explains the author, "demonstrated courage, principle, kindness, and friendship, all the elements found in other wars Americans have proudly fought in."

Wiknik has produced a gripping and complete record of life and death in Vietnam, and he has done so with a style and flair few others will ever achieve.

REVIEWS

Namsense is an honest and realistic account of not only the author's tour of duty but the tours of other Vietnam soldiers as well. I feel honored to have Arthur as an occasional guest on my radio show and my listeners are all the better for it.
Lee Elci WXLM New London, CT

"As a member of Sergeant Wiknik's squad, I found Namsense to be an authentic and absorbing narrative that resonates with every combat GI's story of survival in Vietnam."
Howard Siner, Staten Island Advance

“…the best, most accurate portrayal of the life of an Infantryman in Vietnam… A family member, girlfriend, or fiancée of a soldier who went to Vietnam will find this book most illuminating. For all the rest of you, if you read only one book about a soldier’s life in Vietnam, read NamSense!”
Col. Gene Sherron, 11/2/2010

“…provides an unflinching look at a year in the life of a grunt on Vietnam…”
Military History of the West, Volume 40, 2010

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What People Are Saying

Col. Gene Sherron
"...the best, most accurate portrayal of the life of an Infantryman in Vietnam… A family member, girlfriend, or fiancée of a soldier who went to Vietnam will find this book most illuminating. For all the rest of you, if you read only one book about a soldier’s life in Vietnam, read NamSense!"--(Col. Gene Sherron)
Howard Siner
"As a member of Sergeant Wiknik's squad, I found Namsense to be an authentic and absorbing narrative that resonates with every combat GI's story of survival in Vietnam."--(Howard Siner, Staten Island Advance)
Lee Elci
"Namsense is an honest and realistic account of not only the author's tour of duty but the tours of other Vietnam soldiers as well. I feel honored to have Arthur as an occasional guest on my radio show and my listeners are all the better for it."--(Lee Elci, WXLM New London, CT)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935149095
  • Publisher: Casemate Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/8/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 464,398
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements xi

Chapter 1 Vietnam Apprenticeship 1

Chapter 2 No Career Moves for Me 19

Chapter 3 The Battle for Hamburger Hill 33

Chapter 4 The A Shau Valley 55

Chapter 5 The Bamboo Shooters 87

Chapter 6 The Emotional Gauntlet 105

Chapter 7 Ghosting in the Rear 117

Chapter 8 The Bamboo Blues 145

Chapter 9 Guns and Chain Saws 171

Chapter 10 R&R Hawaii 183

Chapter 11 Return to Vietnam 197

Chapter 12 Insanity to go, Please 213

Chapter 13 Vacation Time 229

Chapter 14 Countdown to Freedom 237

Chapter 15 Going, Going ... 247

Epilogue 255

Glossary 259

Bibliography 263

Index 267

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2006

    deep respect for telling untidy,unimaginable truth

    Not every book engages me. Not every book makes me give up sleep in order to continue reading. Not all books begin at the beginning and end at the end, but this one does. This author tells his story, giving life to his memories, making you feel as though the events he chronicles happened weeks not decades ago. He may have left things out for the sake of time, space or his own personal reason. But if there are holes in this history, I was unable to find them. The story is tight without being uptight. He doesn¿t pull any punches and is not shy in the least about speaking the truth as he sees it. This sometimes means a tough criticism of those who were his superior, our government and the American people. But who better to judge than someone who lived the story? He speaks from practical experience and some an incredible experience some of them were. They might even be hard to believe except for the fact that many that he relates are well documented by many other sources. His entire book is very well laid out and gives you what I believe is a very clear picture of how a regular young man did some quite extraordinary things. Much of what he did, he feels was just what he should have been doing, trying to use his head to keep himself and others alive and whole, keeping his integrity and self respect intact, but if that was an easy task, then there can be no explanation why so many men were unable to do the same. The more logical explanation is that he may have been a down to earth young man, wanting not a lot more than to stay alive, but he was no regular guy. He was born to be a leader. Not the sort of leader than sits back and doesn¿t get involved. Not the sort that never knows what is going on but thinks he knows how to get the work done. Nope, he knew how to get the work done, because he was one of the workers. How better to lead than by example? It can¿t be easy to decide to write about your life, especially a part that many who share similar memories would rather forget. But then to write down those remembrances, detail by detail, favorable or not, to finally throw caution to the wind, is impressive indeed. Much credit should be given to a man who could easily brush over the unglorified, untidy and unimaginable but doesn¿t. If you are looking for a book completely free of chest pounding, he-man GI Joe and check me-out I am a hero talk, then you have found the right book. If you were hoping for a story that will just tell you how a man might end up in a place a gazillion miles from his home, fighting a war whose motives changed like the directions of the wind, this is the one. He will answer your questions and offer you more. In his own quiet, conversational, plain-speak way, without shouting it from the highest peak and without a single whisper of HE-man talk, Mr. Wiknik proves he was and is a warrior, an American hero and a living part of our history. If you ever had questions about the war, if you ever doubted the intentions of the powers that were, without a doubt when you close the covers of the book you will have no concerns about the motives, integrity or will of the man who went there.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2014

    Although I was in the army during that time and I had the good f

    Although I was in the army during that time and I had the good fortune of going to the same training as Mr. Wiknik, I was fortunate to never have been sent to Vietnam. As a veteran, I felt great honesty in Wiknik's book. I believe a great many, if not most, of the GIs had similar feelings and mixed emotions about the war, orders and more.
    What Wiknik writes about reflects very much the same things I heard from immediate family members who were in the military at that time and they also served in NAM. Members of my veteran groups essentially corroborate the essence of what is written in NAMSENSEI. Also, the portrayal presented in NAMSENSE is very, very similar to those told to me by many other men who went through the NCOC training and Vietnam. It is from the heart. Thank you for a Job Well Done. Bob Clark

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2006

    wow

    this book was great. everyone in the family read it. it really gave me a greater insight to what happened to my father in law when he was stationed over there. it started me on a journey of reading more books on vietnam.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2006

    A must read

    Having missed this war by one year because I repeated 4th grade. I can't relate to Mr Wikniks experience but I can relate to his questioning the orders that don't make sense. This is the truest Emotional account that I've read to date. Mr Wiknik is honest in telling his story as it relates to orders that put the soldiers at unnecessary risk. I applaud him. Thank you Mr Wiknik

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2005

    The Kid Next Door

    If you came of age in the sixties, this is a must read. Many of us went to war, most of us did'nt. For those of us who did'nt, we knew someone who did, be it a high school or college classmate, or a kid in the neighborhood. Art Wiknik is one of those guys. He tells his story in an enthralling, intimate and personal style. You might imagine that he is talking to you over a beer at your high school reunion, that you are his long time friend to whom he is revealing the most intimate and personal details of his Vietnam experience. We all know an Art Wiknik. Read this book and find out what happened in Vietnam to the kid next door.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2005

    Great Reading

    I really loved this book. It made me laugh and cry, and I gained respect for all the soldiers who fought in any war. I felt remorse for how my fellow countrymen treated the veterans of the Viet Nam war. They certainly didn't deserve it. This book made me understand the trials that our soldiers had to go through during their tour of duty. It told of their close friendships with other soldiers and the loss of these friends when they went home- dead or alive. I encourage everyone to read this book. It has humor, sadness and joy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2005

    Wow!!! Never a dull moment.

    The book is very well written. I found it amazing that one person experienced this all in one year. I'm glad Arthur made it back alive and is able to share with us, with an often humorous tone, all that happened to him. It's so important to have real life books like this from a 'grunt', for this is part of our history and not Hollywood. My favorite quote was the one at the end of the book about how leaving Vietnam was like being released from prison for a crime that you never committed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2005

    NAM SENSE - A MUST READ

    NAM SENSE, as the parody of this title suggests, is an AMAZING story, which undoubtedly rings as true today as it did 40 years ago when it all happened! It was written by a bright and capable man who never wanted to be in the Viet Nam war, nor any war for that matter, but who made the best of an ugly situation, in order to keep himself and his men alive. As a Non-Commissioned Officer at a very young age, Art Wiknik Jr. was forced to deal with all of the ugliness of war: macho superior officers, hunger, mistakes, uncertainty, homesickness, lack of love, death of friends and fellow soldiers, and the constant fear of never returning home alive. His book is a candid exposé of the reality of war, including the psychological trauma inflicted by fighting a war that was not supported by a large contingent of the American people. The writing is riveting, sometimes horrific, but always honest in its portrayal of his inner emotions, as counter as they sometimes were to logic or sanity. In it, you can feel the frustration, anger and pain that these young soldiers experienced as they were thrown into a war that no one (except the military ¿Lifers¿) wanted to be in. Many of his experiences make one wonder why we value the lives of our young men and women so little when we send them to war, and when they come home after they have sacrificed so much. The realities of Wiknik¿s life as a soldier, the emotional roller coaster he felt and the fear of imminent potential death must parallel the same emotions felt by our brave soldiers now in Iraq, especially as support for the present war is waning. This is a MUST READ for those interested in the inner feelings of brave young men sent to war, no matter which continent, no matter which century. Tom Suchanek, Ph.D.

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