When the 160 men of Charlie Company (4th Battalion/47th Infantry/9th ID) were drafted by the US Army in May 1966, they were part of the wave of conscription that would swell the American military to 80,000 combat troops in theater by the height of the war in 1968.Read more...
When the 160 men of Charlie Company (4th Battalion/47th Infantry/9th ID) were drafted by the US Army in May 1966, they were part of the wave of conscription that would swell the American military to 80,000 combat troops in theater by the height of the war in 1968. In the spring of 1966, the war was still popular and the draftees of Charlie Company saw their service as a rite of passage. But by December 1967, when the company rotated home, only 30 men were not casualties-and they were among the first vets of the war to be spit on and harassed by war protestors as they arrived back the U.S.
In his new book, The Boys of '67, Andy Wiest, the award-winning author of Vietnam's Forgotten Army and The Vietnam War 1956-1975, examines the experiences of a company from the only division in the Vietnam era to train and deploy together in similar fashion to WWII's famous 101st Airborne Division.
Wiest interviewed more than 50 officers and enlisted men who served with Charlie Company, including the surviving platoon leaders and both of the company's commanders. (One of the platoon leaders, Lt Jack Benedick, lost both of his legs, but went on to become a champion skier.) In addition, he interviewed 15 family members of Charlie Company veterans, including wives, children, parents, and siblings. Wiest also had access to personal papers, collections of letters, a diary, an abundance of newspaper clippings, training notebooks, field manuals, condolence letters, and photographs from before, during, and after the conflict.
As Wiest shows, the fighting that Charlie Company saw in 1967 was nearly as bloody as many of the better publicized battles, including the infamous 'Ia Drang' and 'Hamburger Hill.' As a result, many of the surviving members of Charlie Company came home with what the military now recognizes as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-a diagnosis that was not recognized until the late 1970s and was not widely treated until the 1980s. Only recently, after more than 40 years, have many members of Charlie Company achieved any real and sustained relief from their suffering.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-07-16
- Reviewer: Staff
Wiest (coauthor, Vietnam’s Forgotten Army), who teaches Vietnam War history at the University of Southern Mississippi, concentrates on the human side of the Vietnam War with an in-depth chronicle of a group of men drafted into the army in 1966 and trained together with the 9th Infantry Division, the only division of draftees that was “raised, drafted, and trained for service in the Vietnam War,” Weist notes, and thus developed unusually strong bonds. After training in the States, the men went to Vietnam in January 1967 as a unit on a troop ship. Very few other American fighting units shipped out to Vietnam; the overwhelming majority arrived singly as replacements because of the one-year rotation system. In Vietnam, the men of Charlie Company slogged through the worst the war had to offer. The unit lost half its members to death and injury within two months, and too many of the men suffered anew after returning home, battling posttraumatic stress disorder for decades. Wiest spent three years interviewing 61 officers and men of Charlie Company, 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry. He tells their stories well and empathically, especially those of the dozen or so men whose lives he examines closely before, during, and after their service in the nation’s most controversial overseas war. Illus. (Sept. 18)