...Vietnam Legacy, from Casemate Books
Title: Memories Unleashed
Author: Carl Rudolph Small
The author joined the US Marines in 1969 and spent 13 months as part of a Special Landing Force working within the 1 Corps area of Vietnam. While the chapters appear to be in essentially a chronological order, each one is actually a self-contained story, a memory of events from his time in Vietnam. It took 40 years before he found himself properly able to speak about his experiences and they appear as reference to 'a marine' rather than telling it as 'himself', although that is quite plain.
On his arrival he was thrown in at the deep end straight away. Involved in a patrol and a firefight with the VC on his first day, he was helped by his squad leader and he survived. Two others who had arrived in-country with him were in another squad and only a short distance away, a squad which was wiped out by a separate VC ambush. Quite an introduction to war he had to cope with. The various stories go on and in particular tell us how it felt to experience the war at first hand, what he had to go through to become an 'experienced' marine by the time he left. There were his friends, the civilians and children he came into contact with, and of course the enemy. Throughout his time he had the thoughts of his girlfriend who remained at home. Of his letters to her which only told her the good things, and not the risks and horrors he had to cope with. He went into action with fellow marines, and issues of racist tensions show up once or twice, as does dealing with fellow marines and drugs. His description of following a VC into the confines of a tunnel hardly bears thinking about.
Even after his tour was over, of flying the 'freedom bird' back home rather than the machine gun armed helicopters that had taken them in and out of action. He returned home and did marry his girlfriend but the nightmares didn't leave him. A really interesting insight into how it felt to be on the front line of the war in Vietnam. Not the lofty view of high command and the strategy of war, but the feelings experienced by a soldier who actually had to fight the war and come face to face with killing other human beings, and in an environment so different to what he had grown up with at home, a home he then went back to.
A fascinating read and I think it is worth saying thank you to author Carl Small for finally feeling able to write down his experiences and share them with the rest of us at last. I hope it helped him to do so as well.
Thanks to Casemate Books, who kindly provided my review copy.