Year in Nam: A Native American Soldier's Story

Overview

In 1968 Leroy TeCube left his home on the Jicarilla Apache reservation to serve as an infantryman in Vietnam. Year in Nam is his story of that long, terrifying, and numbing year of combat, one that profoundly affected the men in TeCube's platoon and tested the strength of his own Native American heritage. TeCube was a respected point man and leader of his platoon. His memoir provides an intimate glimpse of the daily lives of infantry-men - the monotony of camp, the oppressive heat, the seemingly endless and ...
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Overview

In 1968 Leroy TeCube left his home on the Jicarilla Apache reservation to serve as an infantryman in Vietnam. Year in Nam is his story of that long, terrifying, and numbing year of combat, one that profoundly affected the men in TeCube's platoon and tested the strength of his own Native American heritage. TeCube was a respected point man and leader of his platoon. His memoir provides an intimate glimpse of the daily lives of infantry-men - the monotony of camp, the oppressive heat, the seemingly endless and deceptively dull routine of patrols, the brief but furious eruptions of combat, a pervasive sadness and indifference, and a growing acceptance of the imminence of death. Particularly powerful are TeCube's observations and experiences from the perspective of a Native American soldier. TeCube's cultural heritage - his traditional religious beliefs, the farewell blessing from an Apache medicine man, the memory of special powwow dances held back home for soldiers - was a source of strength to him.
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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT
A youth spent outdoors and in an Indian boarding school, says TeCube, a Jicarilla Apache, especially equipped him to fight and survive a turn in the infantry during the war in Vietnam. About 82,000 American Indians, who had patriotic warrior traditions, fought in Vietnam, reasoning that they were still fighting for the land on which they lived. TeCube tells his story from the point of view of an infantryman assigned to the most basic of tasks, including walking point on search and destroy patrols. Night after night, they would deal with identical-seeming villages they could not determine were friend or foe. Yet he threw his best skills into fighting "Charlie," an enemy that was often invisible, and he developed a "sixth sense" about the imminence of danger. He volunteered as a "tunnel rat" and coped with death in the timeless way of not getting too close to his buddies: "You still lived each day thinking that it might be your last." He tells of his fear of the tunnels, the troops' dependence on choppers, the oppressive heat, venomous snakes, witnessing My Lai, and death and mutilation. "We worried daily about the usual dangers—getting shot, stepping on a mine, the weather, the terrain, insects and mosquitoes. We were particularly wary of the water buffalo." Despite the American soldiers' best efforts, Charlie contrived to control the countryside. Of drug use, says TeCube, "the war went away," but "I resolved to be careful with the stuff." Gradually, he realized that "in the most simple terms it was merely kill or be killed." His tour of duty seemed to last a lifetime. He and his buddies were fighting a war whose goals held little meaning for them. He was aware of protests backhome and saw them as not supporting him and the other soldiers. TeCube's being an Indian colored many aspects of his tour in Vietnam. He brought the faith of his fathers, unique skills, and strong spirit to the job. He developed a relationship with some Vietnamese, who noted his resemblance to them and asked him if he was Asian. He was called "Chief" by his fellow soldiers. He was buoyed by his people's traditional prayers and a sense of connectedness to earlier generations of Indian warriors. He found practical usefulness in the WW II stories an older Jicarilla Apache man had told him. This is an ordinary soldier's story, but immensely powerful in its ordinariness. Get for Native American and any Vietnam War collections that include personal reminiscences. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Univ. of Nebraska/Bison Books, 261p, illus, 23cm, 98-37668, $14.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Edna M. Boardman; former Lib. Media Spec., Magic City Campus, Minot, ND, November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
Booknews
A Jicarilla Apache relates the story of his time serving as an infantryman in Vietnam. While much of the narrative focuses on combat experiences, other aspects of military life are discussed. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A detailed, almost passionless narrative of the author's combat-heavy tour of duty in the Vietnam War. TeCube spent the 12 months beginning in January 1968 as an infantryman with the US Army's American Division in Vietnam. His year in the war zone consisted of a steady, dangerous diet of combat assaults, search and destroy missions, night ambushes, reconnaissance patrols, helicopter landings in enemy territory, and countless mortar, sniper, and satchel charge attacks on his base camps. TeCube, a Jicarilla Apache from New Mexico, tells his Vietnam War story chronologically in a dry narrative style that is long on detail and short on reflection. TeCube seemingly leaves nothing out, offering at times almost minute-by-minute details on his war experiences, from the mundane to the adrenaline-charged. Even when he writes about the worst that war has to offer, TeCube rarely does little more than describe, almost dispassionately, what took place. Only occasionally does the author reflect on his upbringing on the reservation in New Mexico and on the Indian religious teachings that helped him through his year in combat. The one section in which TeCube gives more than a hint of analysis is when he describes his tangential involvement in the My Lai massacre. TeCube's company acted as a blocking force at My Lai. He was not present at the killing and didn't learn of the massacre until 16 months later. His company, though, was thoroughly familiar with the very dangerous area around My Lai. "I do not condone the killings. However," he says, "I can understand why it happened." After American forces' suffering many killed and wounded in the area, the "situation was ripe for the animal to emerge.Unfortunately, at My Lai it appears that the animal completely took over not just one individual, but a whole unit." A solid if largely unenlightening Vietnam War memoir.
Choice
"TeCube, a Jicarilla Apache and one of the approximately 82,000 Native Americans who served in the Vietnam War, tells a story of his year in combat that is both ordinary and extraordinary."—Choice
Booklist
"TeCube’s salvation was the discipline and strength of his native culture, which he drew upon in his darkest times. Straightforward and unaffected, this memoir presents a point of view rarely found in the literature of the Vietnam War."—Booklist
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Leroy TeCube works in the Environmental Protection Office of the Jicarilla Apache Tribe.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction
1 Getting There 1
2 Chu Lai 9
3 Landing Zone Uptight 18
4 Task Force Barker 35
5 Landing Zone Dottie 49
6 Rain of Death 57
7 Area of Operation Awareness 62
8 Minefield 70
9 Pinkville 81
10 My Lai 94
11 Close Call 101
12 Blessing in Disguise 115
13 Landing Zone Bronco 122
14 Back to Chu Lai 135
15 Observation Post Black 147
16 Hiep Duc Valley 161
17 Tracks 180
18 West Quang Ngai 189
19 Arc Lights 198
20 Responsibility 208
21 Stripes 214
22 Getting Short 229
23 Bangkok 241
24 Farewell 253
Epilogue 259
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2001

    A Tour In Nam

    Having done a tour myself, I have seen the movies and read several books that have come out about the war in Viet Nam. Nothing, and no one, has been able to authenticate the reality of the day to day operations of search and destroy missions, the monotony, the high levels of alertness, the tragedies, the camaraderie and the senseless pain and suffering that took place on both sides, until now. Leroy does a superlative job of describing the feelings of the GI and those of the Vietnamese. His description of events are factual yet without sensationalism, a manner that can only be told by a seasoned combat veteran who became immune to the catastrophic events that surrounded him, as a means of survival, both physically and mentally. This is a must read for anyone who served in I Corp or the Americal. You will again feel yourself walking through the paddies, on the trails, smelling the odors of the villages, or hugging a rice paddy dike as the sniper rounds were in-coming. This book truly describes the reality of the life of a combat infantryman (grunt) during the war in Viet Nam.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 1999

    An eye opener for those who don't quite understand

    I purchased this book at a Veteran's Day presentation and book signing, where I personally met Leroy. He is an outstanding man, and his story is much the same. This book tells of how he survived numerous sniper attacks, and how he dealt with walking point and how he led his platoon, starting his tour as a private, and ending his tour as a platoon leader. His spiritual upbringing is reflected in how he observed the Vietnamese, their culture, even a lunar eclipse. This book is a very real story told from the heart of the soldier who experienced it. I highly recommend it, not only for those who served in Vietnam, but also those who feel a sense of patriotism.

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