No Shining Armor: The Marines at War in Vietnam An Oral History

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"No more Vietnams!"

A quarter century after the war in Vietnam, that battle cry brought a flag-waving nation to its feet and ignited the superpatriotism of the Gulf War era. But hard as we tried—with yellow ribbons and "We Support Our Troops" bumper stickers and Norman Schwarzkopf videos and Olympics-style homecoming celebrations—we couldn't seem to erase the disturbing memory of Vietnam.

Perhaps forgetting is not the answer. Perhaps the healing process begins with remembering. Painful, clear-headed remembering.

Even those who remember best, the men who fought in Vietnam, aren't anxious to recall their experiences—or recount them to an academician. But in Otto Lehrack they found a sympathetic audience. Lehrack is both a historian and a member of the Third Battalion, Third Marines. He fought alongside the men whose voices he recorded here. Into their accounts, Lehrack has woven a narrative that explains the events they describe and places them into both a historical and a political context.

It's a grunt's-eye view of the Vietnam War that emerges in No Shining Armor—the war as seen by the PFC's, sergeants, and platoon leaders in the rivers and jungles and trenches. It's the story of teenagers leading squads of men into the jungle on night missions, the story of boredom, confusion, and equipment shortages, of friends suddenly blown away, of disappointing homecomings. It's also the story of young men placed under unbearable strain and asked to do the impossible, who somehow stretched to meet the demands placed upon them, and the story of the friendships they forged in combat—friendships deeper than any these men would be able to form later in civilian life.

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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: 991,339
  • 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

Part One

Countering the Viet Cong: War against Guerrillas, 1965-1966

1. The Beginning: Camp Pendleton, California

2. To Okinawa

3. Protecting the Airfield: Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam

4. A Major Operation

5. The First Big One: Operation STARLITE

6. Operation Golden Fleece

7. The First Move North: Danang

8. Pacification

9. Relocation

10. A Troubled Alliance

11. A Chaplain Goes to War

Part Two

Fighting the North Vietnamese: War against Professionalis, 1966-1968

12. The Rockpile

13. Winter Action

14. Two New Lieutenants

15. Ripley and His Raiders

16. A Turbulent Easter

17. The First Battle of Khe Sanh

18. Rough Riders on Route Nine

19. Ca Lu

20. Ambush on Route Nine

21. Deja Vu: Ambush on Route Nine, September 1967

22. War along the Barrier

23. Improving the Supply System

24. Christmas as Cam Lo

25. Working with the ARVN

26. Alpha Three

27. Mike Company at Gio Linh

28. Kilo Company Ambush

29. A Sweet Little Ambush

30. Into the DMZ

31. Mike Company Ambush

32. Green Just Like the Rest of Us

33. Payback

34. The Day Martin Luther King, Jr., Was Shot

35. Bloody May

36. Dai Do

37. Brotherhood

38. Beyond Alpha Three

39. Another Marine's Chaplain

40. Unfamiliar Territory

Part Three

After the Bombing Halt: War with One Hand Tied, 1968-1969

41. The Bombing Halt

42. Operation Taylor Common

43. An Erosion of Discipline

44. School Solution

45. The Beginning of the End: Troop Withdrawals

46. Operation Virginia Ridge

47. The Last Operation

48. Parting Shots

Appendix A. Passing in Review

Appendix B. Medals of Honor

Appendix C. Organization of Marine Infantry Units in Vietnam




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