Days of Valor: An Inside Account of the Bloodiest Six Months of the Vietnam War
by Robert L. Tonsetic. Casemate, Philadelphia, 2007, hardcover $32.95.
“When were you there and where were you?” When two Vietnam veterans meet, those two questions will define the parameters of their conversation. The term “Vietnam War” is a misnomer, because there were many wars in Vietnam. The experiences of those who served during the advisory years from 1959 to 1964 will differ from those who were there during the buildup between early 1965 and mid- 1968. The character of the war changed during the period of withdrawal from 1969 to March 1973. Additionally, someone in an infantry unit around Saigon in 1968 will have very different memories from an airman photo-interpreter who served at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in 1971.
Robert L. Tonsetic’s Days of Valor: An Insider’s Account of the Bloodiest Six Months of the Vietnam War, provides verbal combat snapshots of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade during the intense fighting running from December 1967 to May 1968 in and around Saigon, a period encompassing the Tet Offensive. Days of Valor resembles Oliver Stone’s Vietnam epic Platoon in that it leaves the impression that soldiers of the 199th endured constant combat and most were killed or wounded. Not quite, but also not far off target.
Although Tonsetic writes well, the overuse of acronyms and jargon will baffle the militarily uninitiated. Still, Days of Valor will resonate with veterans, especially grunts who served anywhere in Vietnam during the period he covers. His book offers historical insights for today.
The 199th Light Infantry Brigade in 1968, like the Army in Iraq today, struggled to meet a range of asymmetric challenges. How its troops adjusted, how they soldiered on despite a mounting butcher’s bill, reflects the eternally brutal nature of war. During the three years and 10 months the 199th Light Infantry Brigade served in Vietnam, 753 of its members made the ultimate sacrifice. Days of Valor is a worthy memorial.
Originally published in the December 2007 issue of Vietnam Magazine. To subscribe, click here.