No Shining Armor: The Marines at War in Vietnam

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"No Shining Armor should join the front rank of Vietnam books. It describes real Marines in real combat, and it is a ringing tribute to the men who bore the burden of that war. Books about Americans in battle don't get any better than this."—Allan R. Millett, author of Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps

"Unique and intensely personal. This is an account told by the players at the mud level; honest, spontaneous, brutal, poignant. The great majority of Americans can only imagine—and not very well—the inhuman, devastating, brutal conditions of ground combat. These veterans now tell us in their own words, and it defies the imagination."—Col. John W. Ripley, hero of The Bridge at Dong Ha

"Lehrack places his battalion's Vietnam experience in a larger national context-underscoring the irony, the tragedy, and a Marine's shining-hearted pride. Many have tried to write about Vietnam, but few—if any—can match the power, the candor, and the understated eloquence of Marines telling their own stories in their own words."—Col. John G. Miller, author of The Bridge at Dong Ha

"This is war at the small unit level—squad, platoon, and company—told in a 'no holds barred' fashion, which means carnage and killing, chaos and intensity, heroism and terror. . . . A superb book."—Alexander S. Cochran, former editor of the journals Vietnam, World War II, and Military History

"Vivid personal accounts."—V. K. Fleming, Jr., author of Marine Corps in Crisis

"These interviews were clearly conducted with skill and sensitivity. They represent an impressive cross-section of ranks and positions. . . . That the Marines, more than any other service, understood what was happening in Vietnam and struggled against it gives the story of Third Battalion, Third Marines, a bitter poignancy."—John F. Guilmartin, Jr., author of America in Vietnam: The 15-Year War

Author Bio: Otto Lehrack served two tours of duty in Vietnam, the first (1967-68) in the infantry as a captain and commanding officer of India Company, Third Battalion, Third Marines and the second (1970-71) in signals intelligence as a major and operations officer, First Radio Battalion. He has an M.A. in history from the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This oral history covers the experiences of numerous members of one Marine battalion, in which the author served and which he considers representative of the infantry experience in Vietnam. Unlike more dramatic oral histories of Vietnam, such as Mark Baker's Nam , this takes a chronological, battle-by-battle path, offering many logistical details. Often several voices briefly describe one event, creating a bland chorus, but there are interesting reflections, such as one on the art of scavenging for supplies. Moments of eloquence and poignance emerge infrequently: ``I go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial a lot to talk to my guys,'' says one soldier; another describes relocating villagers: ``I felt like I was at the bottom of a toilet for the world.'' Undergirding the book is a staunchly patriotic attitude: interviewees say the Marine Corps lacked racial and drug problems, and emphasize enemy torture but ignore U.S. atrocities. In this account, best suited for military buffs, the soldiers hardly reflect on the bigger picture. ``Once a Marine, always a Marine,'' say more than one. Lehrack sums it up: ``Their casualties were not in vain but were a monument to their heritage and their brotherhood.'' Photos. Military Book Club main selection. (May)
Library Journal
The author himself led a company of the 3rd Marine Division's 3rd Battalion, whose men provided the narratives collected here. Their stories begin with the battalion's training in 1964 and end in October 1969, when it was withdrawn as part of U.S. disengagement. During those five years the young Marines, many barely out of their teens, endured extremes of suffering, loss, and injury; the transcriptions of their recollections are suffused with pain all the more eloquent for being expressed in pauses more than in words. Following a unit through its entire deployment enables the author to show how tactical changes higher up filtered down to affect the combatants' situation. The Marines faced much of the heaviest action in Vietnam; this oral history vividly captures their unique experience. Military collections on Vietnam will not be complete without it. Military Book Club main selection.--Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, Cal.
Lehrack served two tours of duty as a Marine in Vietnam and then earned an M.A. in history from the U. of Hawaii. His work for this book was to listen and record as he interviewed the personnel of the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines about their experiences during the war. Their vivid and excruciating memories are skillfully interwoven with narrative describing events and circumstances. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700605347
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 6/28/1992
  • Series: Modern War Studies Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 398
  • Sales rank: 1,346,431
  • Product dimensions: 8.72 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrations
Dramatis Personae
Prologue: Vietnam Homecoming 1
Pt. 1 Countering the Viet Cong: War against Gueirillas, 1965-1966
1 The Beginning: Camp Pendleton, California 5
2 To Okinawa 10
3 Protecting the Airfield: Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam 16
3 A Major Operation 27
5 The First Big One: Operation STARLITE 33
6 Operation Golden Fleece 53
7 The First Move North: Danang 61
8 Pacification 70
9 Relocation 74
10 A Troubled Alliance 85
11 A Chaplain Goes to War 88
Pt. 2 Fighting the North Vietnamese: War against Professionals, 1966-1968
12 The Rockpile 99
13 Winter Action 110
14 Two New Lieutenants 116
15 Ripley and His Raiders 121
16 A Turbulent Easter 132
17 The First Battle of Khe Sanh 140
18 Rough Riders on Route Nine 143
19 Ca Lu 153
20 Ambush on Route Nine 157
21 Deja Vu: Ambush on Route Nine, September 1967 171
22 War along the Barrier 181
23 Improving the Supply System 187
24 Christmas at Cam Lo 195
25 Working with the ARVN 199
26 Alpha Three 203
27 Mike Company at Gio Linh 208
28 Kilo Company Ambush 215
29 A Sweet Little Ambush 234
30 Into the DMZ 238
31 Mike Company Ambush 243
32 Green Just Like the Rest of Us 253
33 Payback 259
34 The Day Martin Luther King, Jr., Was Shot 263
35 Bloody May 269
36 Dai Do 279
37 Brotherhood 284
38 Beyond Alpha Three 288
39 Another Marine's Chaplain 293
40 Unfamiliar Territory 296
Pt. 3 After the Bombing Halt: War with One Hand Tied, 1968-1969
41 The Bombing Halt 307
42 Operation Taylor Common 315
43 An Erosion of Discipline 324
44 School Solution 332
45 The Beginning of the End: Troop Withdrawals 337
46 Operation Virginia Ridge 342
47 The Last Operation 350
48 Parting Shots 354
Appendix A. Passing in Review 365
Appendix B. Medals of Honor 372
Appendix C. Organization of Marine Infantry Units in Vietnam 375
Glossary 379
Bibliography 387
Index 389
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