"2018 SAN FRANCISCO BOOK FESTIVAL HONORS VIETNAM SAGA FOR TOP PRIZE
SAN FRANCISCO: The remarkable story of an enlisted man’s struggles in the jungles of Vietnam is the grand prize winner of the 2018 San Francisco Book Festival, which honors the best books of the spring.
Johnny F. Pugh’s Through Smoke-Teared Eyes (iUniverse) is an action-packed and vivid account of one soldier’s thoughts and experiences in combat. Written to confront the demons of his past, Pugh recounts the year he spent as an Army rifleman, trapped in the Iron Triangle of the Vietnam War. His accounts of kill zones, mortar attacks and jungle survival are sobering and raise questions about the conflict and all wars."
To confront the demons of his past, author Johnny F. Pugh relives the year he spent as an army rifleman battling unseen guerilla fighters in one of the most dangerous places during the Vietnam War, the Iron Triangle.
Through his stories and poetry, he shows how it felt to be trapped in a kill zone, enemy bullets just inches from his face, and the mind-numbing terror experienced after being thrown by a land mine explosion while fighting off bloodsucking leeches, vicious mosquitoes, and stifling heat and humidity.
Through Smoke-Teared Eyes offers an engaging, sometimes bilingual, account of the close friendship Pugh shared with his fellow squad members, learning from them critical survival skills and his own identity as a Chicano. After witnessing numerous atrocities against the Vietnamese peasants at the hands of the American military, he is forced to question his own role as a participant in this bloody war.
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What People are Saying About This
Johnny Pugh was drafted into the Army when he lost his college deferment. He went on to serve in Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division beginning in the sweltering heat of July 1966. It was just the first of many shocks for the young biracial New Mexican. Those shocks that took place during his twelve months in country took over his mind and body in ways Pugh never could have expected. He survived combat with only two Purple Hearts, but his soul was destroyed.
Through Smoke-Teared Eyes: The Vietnam War I Fought (iUniverse, 293 pp., $21.95, paper; $3.99, e book) is a wonderfully written narrative of Pugh’s twelve months as an infantryman. It is heart-breakingly honest as Pugh brings the reader into his hooch and lives and walks you with him as he goes through the horror of combat with his unit, Company A of the 2nd Battalion of the 27th Infantry Regiment.
The writing flows as Pugh leads the reader into the killing zones of Operation Attleboro. You cringe at the brutality of war, along with the insidious nonsense that follows it. Pugh tells of his exposure to the black market and other moral challenges he faced with his buddies. There is little humor and a fair amount of Chicano street language that is easy to follow, but what comes through above all is the honesty of the man as he coped with the ghosts he encountered.
Pugh began writing this book as his health declined. He went back to letters his family had saved from those days and the reader can see him take the words from paper and into the reality he faced. Pugh died in 2011 before finishing his book from the all-too-common ills of the Vietnam War: PTSD, Agent Orange, denied VA treatment, alcohol, drugs, and the hardships our nation put on the backs of its Vietnam War veterans.
The book is a testament to his sheer determination and will to write his story for others to see. Pugh’s third wife and young daughter took on the task of getting the book ready for publication—a labor of love.
The book is important for several reasons. First, it is a written window into just one of the millions of kids our nation’s leaders sent to war under false premises and with false promises. Johnny Pugh was strong enough to write his story. He could easily have been one of thousands who were unable to write it. It is a book that needs to be sent to every politician as they consider sending young people to kill and maim in the name of freedom.
For some, the book will be a hard read because it exposes many unpleasant truths. The truth of officers, poorly trained, and foggy missions leading to the deaths of friends for no apparent reason. The truth of fear of dying, fear of losing friends, fear of betrayal by those you think are friends. The fear of cowardice or defining courage. These are all in question as one reads Pugh’s story.
Through it all, you see the mind of a young and innocent man grappling with the brutal reality of day-to-day living in the infantry in the Vietnam War.
In the end this is eulogy for Johnny Pugh all of his fellow infantrymen who served in the Vietnam War.