Not a Gentleman's War: An Inside View of Junior Officers in the Vietnam War / Edition 1

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Overview

Wars are not fought by politicians and generals--they are fought by soldiers. Written by a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, Not a Gentleman's War is about such soldiers--a gritty, against-the-grain defense of the much-maligned junior officer.

Conventional wisdom holds that the junior officer in Vietnam was a no-talent, poorly trained, unmotivated soldier typified by Lt. William Calley of My Lai infamy. Drawing on oral histories, after-action reports, diaries, letters, and other archival sources, Ron Milam debunks this view, demonstrating that most of the lieutenants who served in combat performed their duties well and effectively, serving with great skill, dedication, and commitment to the men they led. Milam's narrative provides a vivid, on-the-ground portrait of what the platoon leader faced: training his men, keeping racial tensions at bay, and preventing alcohol and drug abuse, all in a war without fronts. Yet despite these obstacles, junior officers performed admirably, as documented by field reports and evaluations of their superior officers.

More than 5,000 junior officers died in Vietnam; all of them had volunteered to lead men in battle. Based on meticulous and wide-ranging research, this book provides a much-needed serious treatment of these men--the only such study in print--shedding new light on the longest war in American history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Contributes significantly to the historiography of the war and our understanding of the U.S. Army in the 1960s and early 1970s. . . . Highly recommend[ed] . . . to historians of the Vietnam War era."--The Journal of American History

"Primarily useful to military history insiders, Vietnam War veterans, and advanced scholars. . . . Recommended."--Choice

"A useful corrective to those histories denigrating the contributions of junior officers in Vietnam and a solid contribution of collective biography."--Army History

"Not a Gentleman's War fills a void in the scholarship of the Vietnam War. Much has been written about generals and enlisted men, but this is the first study that looks at the junior officers' war and the challenges they faced." --On Point

"This book addresses an important topic and should become a standard work in the historiography of the war."--American Historical Review

"This is a good book and an easy read and should be required reading for anyone who wants to better understand the contributions of the junior officers who, unshaven and with muddy boots, carried so much of the burden of the ungentlemanly war in Vietnam."--Journal of America's Military Past

"Milam uses extensive interviews . . . and other archival resources to paint a more accurate and realistic picture of junior officer performance in Vietnam. . . . This is an important and relevant book, one that scholars of the Vietnam War should read, and that ROTC programs and the Military History Department at West Point should add to required reading lists for officer candidates."--Military History of the West

"Highly recommended for historians of the Vietnam War and the United States Army. [Milam's] very useful comprehensive treatment of pre-commissioning training will remain the best single treatment of this issue for years to come."--Journal of Military History

"Provides a vivid, on-the-ground portrait of what the platoon leader faced. . . . Well-researched, meticulously documented and extremely readable."--McCormick Messenger

"Milam, himself a Vietnam veteran, comes to the topic with plenty of passion and a desire to right the record."--The Chronicle Review

"Useful in depicting the terrific pressure junior officers were under in Vietnam."--History Wire

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807833308
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ron Milam is associate professor of military history at Texas Tech University. He served as an infantry advisor to Montagnard forces in the Vietnam War.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The rare combination of scholarly research and with an easy reading text

    Not a Gentleman's War: An Inside View of Junior Officers in the Vietnam War is the story of the 5,069 junior officers who died in Vietnam as well as the ones who survived. We are reminded all officers had volunteered to lead men in battle. Based on Ron Milam's detailed and thorough research, Not a Gentleman's War: An Inside View of Junior Officers in the Vietnam War gives an excellent analysis of these men. The author has the rare combination of scholarly research and with an easy reading text. The book is divided into two main parts.

    Part one views the future officers and officers in the United States. It examines their officer training programs: West Point, Officer Candidate School (OCS), and Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). The selection, training, and evaluation process of each is explained in detail. We see how the army ramped up for the increased demand in officers. We feel the arrogance of the West Point educated toward the Infantry Officer Basic Course and the slow change of curriculum at the United States Military Academy. We learn that the majority of officers were commissioned through ROTC. We find out the selection standards were not lowered for OCS. We are reminded that changing views on campus impacted the world views of men commissioned through ROTC.

    Part two has the young officer in Vietnam. The four chapters in this section examine the junior officer's performance as combat leaders. We experience the life and death tests they faced. We confront the myths about the men. We experience the different leadership challenges of being on a mission in the field and being in a firebase or in garrison such as preventing alcohol and drug abuse as well as racial tensions.

    Myths about the Vietnam War say the junior officer was a no-talent, inadequately trained, and unenthusiastic soldier. Lt. William Calley of My Lai often is held up as the typical junior officer baby killer. Ron Milam debunks this view with detailed research including oral histories, after-action reports, diaries, letters, and other records.

    The author has excellent primary resource materials. He clearly shows that most of the lieutenants who served in combat performed their duties well. The junior officers were effective. They served with great skill. While they were not always clean shaven and often had mud on their boots, they were dedicated and committed to the men they led. Ron Milam's story provides a vibrant, you-are-there portrayal of what the platoon leader faced and his ability to meet the challenges as documented by field reports and evaluations of their superior officers.

    This is a book that all students of the Vietnam War should read. I encourage all military officers to read the book as well. Not a Gentleman's War: An Inside View of Junior Officers in the Vietnam War should be in every college library in the world. Ron Milam has written an excellent book. Dr. Milam is assistant professor of military history at Texas tech University.

    On a personal level, the book helped me better understand my own experience as an US Army officer. I received my officer training through the ROTC between 1971 and 1975. Some of the training I received was based on decisions explained in the book.

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    Posted October 30, 2009

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