Review of Digger Dogface Brownjob Grunt
By Thomas W. Leo, CPP, Lead Reviewer for West Point
This is an eminently readable book, HIGHLY recommended, especially to anyone who served in Vietnam, or is close to someone who served.
It is almost axiomatic – an unwritten rule – that people who fight, who are REALLY INVOLVED, on the ground – in wars – from WWII, through Korea, then Vietnam rarely if ever speak of their experiences.
In the case of this situation, the Vietnam War, the subject speaks with the voices of those who elected, or had no choice, to remain silent.
The only thing that is missing from the work – it is REALLY WELL WRITTEN – are maps which would have graphically assisted the reader in making the book much more understandable, would have shown the reader a two dimensional picture related to the narrative.
The author, the protagonist was THERE, and therefore he can relate to the actual situation, what the ‘ground pounders’ were faced with, however the readers must rely on his insights, the memory of the storyteller, for spatial relationships.
The book, the narrative, flows freely, seamlessly, so smoothly in fact that it seems to the reader that s/he is just sitting on someone’s back porch at home at twilight having a couple of drinks, a beer or two, listening to some ‘war stories’.
This is a story of the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of an Infantry Lieutenant (promoted to Captain along the way) – an ‘LT’ – “El Tee” in the vernacular.
The LT was a ‘Grunt’, a GI, initially a First Lt, a platoon leader, then a Capt, a Company Commander, slogging along with his troops through the mud, the jungles in the central highlands of Viet Nam in the late ‘60s, trying to maintain (mindful of the unwritten rule that officers do not fraternize) a distance between them and the enlisted men who they command. Despite this ‘unwritten’ rule, and to his benefit and that of those he lead, in several instances the ‘rule’ was ignored.
Along the way- frequently – the subject of drug abuse within the Military in Vietnam is addressed; to a much lesser degree the negative political stance adopted by the Main Stream Media is touched upon.
The subject/narrator, Edward Hardin, tells the story of his year, his ‘tour’ in Vietnam, mostly in battle, on the ground and infrequently standing down, (resting) as he fights his way through the jungle, through the war, through himself, his mind, becoming ever closer to his men, and in the process nurturing a loathing for the ‘REMFS’, some – NOT ALL – officers at the battalion level and above who directed his actions, and those of his peers without understanding what the ground pounders were up against on a daily basis, and infrequently if ever managed to spend any appreciable time ‘on the ground’!
As events unfold Hardin does become closer and closer to his troops, to the point that, as they are killed, transferred, cycle back home, as he loses mental and physical contact with them for one reason or another the emotional toll that he suffers continues to eat away at him.
Added to the mental misery he undergoes is the fact that he suffers from a FUO – a Fever of Unknown Origin – which flashes back at the worst possible times imaginable.
This is a violent story, Very graphically told in the language of the Digger, the Dogface, the Brownjob – or as the individual is known throughout the world, at least in the American Military, – the Grunt, the GI.
The book is Not recommended for Nuns and ‘little old ladies’ – they probably wouldn’t understand it anyway, never mind the ‘basic, down-to-earth language, expressions, the patois of the combat soldier on the ground.
Although the book is written as a novel, it most probably mirrors a portion of the military life of the author, a brother of a West Point Grad, who served in Vietnam.
The reviewer is a former Army Artillery Officer, he never served in Vietnam, having departed the service prior to Vietnam ‘warming up’ – he still needed some help sorting out, understanding some of the language, the mental anguish in the book.
Thomas W. Leo, CPP, is a Graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point.