Sunday, March 14, 2010

Read: "Death in the A Shau Valley" by Larry Chambers

Read: Death in the A Shau Valley: L Company LRRPs in Vietnam, 1969-1970 by Larry Chambers, 1998, 0804115753.

I requested this after reading a recommendation online. A decent read but not much to it. Maybe I'll check out the more extensive histories that this book followed.

This is a curious book because it is mainly a bunch of leftovers. Chambers wrote a couple other books about LRRPs and collaborated with former unit members on more books. The stories in Death are the leftover, untold stories of Chambers and stories of the soldiers Chambers recruited for the Rangers during Chambers' last couple months in Vietnam.

Because of all that there is only about 160 pages worth of history by Chambers and history of different recon missions. There is an additional 50 page appendix of with excerpts from recon or Ranger manuals about how to operate, what to carry, how to patrol, etc. My eyes glazed over while reading the appendix.

Items of note to me:
1. Chambers had a couple real strong selling points when he was recruiting new members. (At least the points would have appealed to me.) Point one: the recruits would be joining a superior and skilled force rather than a run-of-the-mill line company. They therefore would be safer even though they would have a greater chance of contact. Point two: Ranger comraderie would also ensure survival and guarantee they would not be left behind.
2. Chambers has disdain for the cherries. Nothing new there, I've read that all the time in Vietnam memoirs. But, Chambers and others worked to ensure that new guys were trained and acclimated, not left to live or die.
3. I didn't know that a reaction force would be scrambled to land and help recon teams. I don't recall reading anything like that before for Vietnam. Stories about recon units on the run and fighting it out on their own are common but why the hell not have a reaction team?
4. Patrols would not travel far. Two kilometers over 4 days seems normal.

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