Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Read: "Company M" by John Sack

Company M by John Sack, from Mayville P.L.

Company M by John Sack. Published in 1966. Sack followed an Army company from advanced infantry training to their first big operation in Vietnam.

Sack introduces a wide variety of enlisted men and officers but focuses on a handful of the PFCs in the company. Since Company M starts out in an advanced training school they all will be assigned wherever the Army needs them. But, this is 1966 and half of them will end up in Vietnam. A good portion of those guys end up in the same Battalion.

This was a good book. Sack gave a lot of detail and information about the Army and the way it runs as both a large organization and in smaller groups like the Vietnam battalion some of M’s members are assigned to. Examples of how things went astray: during a major Divisional operation the Battalion commander repeatedly orders his troops to not burn down villages. As the order winds down the ranks to the sergeants and others at squad level the order has been transformed into, “Burn it.”

The rinky-dink Army nonsense about having everything “just so” is gone into detail during M’s initial training. No dust, everything polished, everything clean, everything in it’s assigned place. Then they get to Vietnam and are living in a dust pit where everything is covered in red dirt including their beds. For all the time M spent during training putting toothpaste tubes in their proper footlocker position they could have been preparing for combat.

A humorous, and scary, moment was at the end of training. Second Lieutenant Chorba is the safety officer during a mock attack with live ammunition. Chorba does not want the job, “Inside Chorba’s breast there sat an apprehension of imminent catastrophe, a sense of M’s ineludible doom had twisted itself around his heart…three thousand pieces of solid lead to be sent shrieking above America at four times the speed of sound…each of them instantaneously activated at the flick of an adolescent’s finger.” Poor muzzle control, stepping into the line of fire, clogged - and burst – barrels, and one ND that zips by “two or three inches from Prochaska’s unprepared neck.” Zoinks!

Sack has published several non-fiction items since including Company C: the real war in Iraq from 1996. I’ve ordered that to look through. There is a possibility Company C is a book I have casually read through before.

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