Book Review

From the Bookshelf: More on “They were Soldiers”

Book Review: They were Soldiers

Chapter 8: Mike Reagan 

In the last issue of this newsletter, we published a brief review of Joseph Galloway’s recent book, “They Were Soldiers”, a follow-on to his earlier “They Were Soldiers Once – and Young” in which Galloway tracks his earlier subject’s post war lives, including their careers and their challenges in dealing with leaving the war in Vietnam. It is a well written book, some of which may be difficult reading for combat veterans, for that matter it isn’t easy to read period, but it tells a great story of some great Americans and is well worth your time. 

The book is divided into four parts covering quasi related career paths of these veterans. Part One is called “Artists and Professionals” and the reason for this follow-on article is Chapter 8, titled Michael Reagan… yes, that Reagan, our very own Marine artist in residence. 

Most of us in Post 8870 have heard Mike tell the story of how Vincent Santaniello died in his arms in Vietnam in 1968, the event that lives in him every day and is the inspiration for his ongoing Fallen Heroes Project, which, last we heard, had produced in the neighborhood of 7,000 portraits of those heroes for their loved ones. Galloway describes Mike’s return home from the war, the path he took to his long career at the University of Washington, and on into “retirement” and this second career that is his daily life and that has proven his salvation. 

Mike Reagan

Read Mike’s story for yourself. (Oh, and the rest of them too) Makes us proud to call him friend and comrade. 

From the Book Shelf

They Were Soldiers by Joseph L. Galloway

by Mike Denton 

They Were Soldiers showcases the inspiring true stories of 49 Vietnam veterans who returned home from the “lost war” to enrich America’s present and future. 

In this groundbreaking new book, Joseph L. Galloway, distinguished war correspondent and New York Times bestselling author of We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young, and Marvin J. Wolf, Vietnam veteran and awardwinning author, reveal the private lives of those who returned from Vietnam to make astonishing contributions in science, medicine, business, and other arenas, and change America for the better. 

For decades, the soldiers who served in Vietnam were shunned by the American public and ignored by their government. Many were vilified or had their struggles to reintegrate into society magnified by distorted depictions of veterans as dangerous or demented. Even today, Vietnam veterans have not received their due. Until now. These profiles are touching and courageous, and often startling. 

They include veterans both known and unknown, including: 

  • Frederick Wallace (“Fred”) Smith, CEO and founder of FedEx 
  • Marshall Carter, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange Justice
  • Eileen Moore, appellate judge who also serves as a mentor in California’s Combat Veterans Court 
  • Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state under Colin Powell 
  • Guion “Guy” Bluford Jr., first African American in space 

Engrossing, moving, and eye-opening, They Were Soldiers is a magnificent tribute that gives long overdue honor and recognition to the soldiers of this “forgotten generation.” (With thanks to Jim Traner for bringing this book to my attention)er 

From The Bookshelf

by Mike Denton 

Dead Man Launch JOHN J. GOBBELL

As the Vietnam war rages in Southeast Asia, a US traitor sells top-secret codes to the Soviet Union. 

Then a Soviet submarine disappears in the North Pacific…and as the Russians mobilize to find it, a US nuclear submarine goes missing as well. 

Vice Admiral Todd Ingram is caught in the morass—and so is his son, Navy Lieutenant Jerry Ingram. 

Both men are thrust into a web of alliances and betrayal in search of answers…and a truth that could save the world from a major disaster. 

While a work of fiction, the novel is a histroically quite accurate portrayal of the United States’ position in world conflicts in the late 1960s. 

JOHN J. GOBBELL is a former Navy Lieutenant who saw duty as a destroyer weapons officer during the Vietnam War. 

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton 

Sea Stories by William H. McRaven

Admiral William H. McRaven is a part of American military history, having been involved in some of the most famous missions in recent memory, including the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, and the raid to kill Osama bin Laden. 

“Sea Stories” is an unforgettable look back on one man’s incredible life, from childhood days sneaking into high-security military sites to a day job of hunting terrorists and rescuing hostages. 

Action-packed, humorous, and full of valuable life lessons like those exemplified in McRaven’s bestselling Make Your Bed, Sea Stories is a remarkable memoir from one of America’s most accomplished leaders. 

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton

Book review by Mike Denton How it is like to go to war by Karl Marlantes

In 1968, at the age of twenty-three, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of forty Marines who would live or die by his decisions. In his thirteen-month tour he saw intense combat, killing the enemy and watching friends die. Marlantes survived, but like many of his brothers in arms, he has spent the last forty years dealing with his experiences. 

In “What It Is Like to Go to War”, Marlantes takes a candid look at these experiences and critically examines how we might better prepare young soldiers for war. In the past, warriors were prepared for battle by ritual, religion, and literature—which also helped bring them home. While contemplating ancient works from Homer to the Mahabharata, Marlantes writes of the daily contradictions modern warriors are subject to, of being haunted by the face of a young North Vietnamese soldier he killed at close quarters, and of how he finally found a way to make peace with his past. Through it all, he demonstrates just how poorly prepared our nineteen-year-old warriors are for the psychological and spiritual aspects of the journey. 

This reader found some of his discussions of ritual, religion and literature a bit overstated, but it is clear that these thought processes and his writing (Marlantes has also written novels about the war) have become Marlantes’ personal way of dealing with his PTSD, perhaps allowing us to overlook a few excesses here and there. Overall, Marlantes expresses his individual view of war and its impact on young warriors well. This is, for the most part a well written book that might be of value to those who have not served, in understanding the vet’s world view.  

From the Bookshelf

From the Bookshelf

Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

by James D. Hornfischer 

The Battle of Guadalcanal has long been heralded as a Marine Corps victory and not without reason. Now, with his powerful portrait of the Navy’s sacrifice, James D. Hornfischer tells the full story of the men who fought in destroyers, cruisers, and battleships in the narrow, deadly waters of “Ironbottom Sound.” Here are the seven major naval actions that began in August 1942, a time when the war seemed unwinnable and America fought on a shoestring, with the outcome always in doubt. Hornfischer paints a vivid picture of the officers and enlisted men who opposed the Japanese in America’s hour of need. It is worth noting that despite long a standing Marine view that the Navy abandoned the Marines to their own devices at Guadalcanal, (and one can understand that view) in the end USN KIA (5041) vastly exceeded those of the USMC ashore (1,592). 

It is an honor to once again review a book which tells a story lived by one of our Post 8870 comrades, in this case 101 year old Edgar Shepherd, member of the ship’s company of USS Helena, a key participant in the actions described in this book and lost the year following the Guadalcanal campaign at the battle of Kula Gulf. From the Bookshelf It is an honor to once again review a book which tells a story lived by one of our Post 8870 comrades, in this case 101 year old Edgar Shepherd, member of the ship’s company of USS Helena, a key participant in the actions described in this book and lost the year following the Guadalcanal campaign at the battle of Kula Gulf. 

From the Book Shelf

by Mike Denton 

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors 

by James D. Hornfischer 

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer

By sheer coincidence, your book reviewer read this fine book just before learning of the medal awarded to our own Amos Chapman, who’s ship USS Killen DD-593 took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, around which this book is written. (See Amos Chapman Awarded Medal)

Killen and other destroyers and cruisers destroyed much of the Japanese fleet attempting to thwart the landings at Leyte Island as they approached through Surigao Strait. Another group, comprised of escort carriers, destroyers and destroyer escorts, encountered a force of Japanese cruisers, destroyers and battleships, among them, the largest battleship ever built. 

The entire battle, including the Surigao Strait engagement, took place over less than twenty four hours, but the impact of this stand on the part of the United States Navy cannot be overstated. 

From the Bookshelf

by Carl Kurfess 

Tin Can Titans 

Tin Can Titans

The Heroic Men and Ships of World War II’s Most Decorated Navy Destroyer Squadron. By Wukovits, John F. 

This book tells the story of the first of the new Fletcher-class destroyers that joined the Pacific fleet in fall of 1942. They held the line against the Japanese fleet until America’s shipyards produced the new ships that would eventually defeat the Japanese Navy. These first three ships would later be formed into Destroyer Squadron 21 (Desron 21), which became the battle hardened US Naval squadron of World War II. 

The USS O’Bannon (DD 450), the USS Nicholas (DD 449), and the USS Fletcher (DD 445) arrived in the Pacific theater in September 1942 and were immediately put to work escorting ships, patrolling against enemy submarines, bombarding enemy positions on Guadalcanal, and shooting down enemy planes. There was a severe shortage of destroyers and they were in constant demand and were working and fighting almost non-stop. Other new destroyers arrived in 1943 and were also put to work immediately. Over time, some were sunk, others were damaged, but they were constantly in service. 

When Admiral William Halsey selected Desron 21 to lead his victorious ships into Tokyo Bay to accept the Japanese surrender, he chose the most battle-hardened US naval squadron of the war. But it was not the squadron of ships that had accumulated such an inspiring résumé; it was the people serving aboard them who won the battles. This is the story of Desron 21’s heroic sailors whose battle history is the stuff of legend. Through diaries, personal interviews with survivors, and letters written to and by the crew during the war, John Wukovits brings to life the human story of the squadron and its men who bested the Japanese in the Pacific and helped take the war to Tokyo. – King County Library Review. 

From the Bookshelf

by Carl Kurfess

War Animals — The Unsung Heroes of World War II

By Robin L. Hutton 

War Animals -The Unsung Heroes of World War II. By Robin L. Hutton

“Today, war is a high-tech affair. The modern soldier relies on advanced weapons and communications technology as his essential support. But in World War II, soldiers relied on an entirely different kind of support–a kind of support soldiers have used since ancient times. Animals. Dogs, horses, and pigeons became World War II soldiers’ best friends in battle, serving to carry weapons, wounded men, and messages through artillery fire. In War Animals, bestselling author Robin Hutton brings the animal heroes of World War II to vivid life with the heroic true tales of: Famed pigeon G.I. Joe, who saved an Italian village and British troops by flying 20 miles in 20 minutes to carry a message to Allied forces; Chips, a German Shepherd trained as a sentry who attacked an Italian machine gun team, sustaining powder burns and saving his handler’s life; Bing, a paradog who jumped out of a plane on D-Day, landed in a tree, and once on the ground helped his handlers locate the enemy. A heartwarming and sometimes even hilarious history of bonafide heroes of feather and fur, War Animals is a World War II story you’ve never read before.”– Provided by publisher. 

I found this book quite interesting, especially the War Dog part. The US Army used dogs as sentry, scout dogs, sled and pack, mine detection, and messenger dogs. The US Coast Guard used them mainly for sentry duties, and the US Marines used them as scout dogs. Pigeons were used as message carriers, horses and mules were used it the Italian theater, carrying supplies up hills and mountains that vehicles could not traverse. 

The book also covers the British use of animals, especially rescue dogs who located trapped civilians in bombed out buildings from German bombing attacks. This book introduced me to the British People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Dicken Medal which was awarded to some of these outstanding animals. 

From the Bookshelf “Tin Can Titans”

Tin Can Titans

The Heroic Men and Ships of World War II’s Most Decorated Navy Destroyer Squadron. 

This book tells the story of the first of the new Fletcher-class destroyers that joined the Pacific fleet in fall of 1942. They held the line against the Japanese fleet until America’s shipyards produced the new ships that would eventually defeat the Japanese Navy. These first three ships would later be formed into Destroyer Squadron 21 (Desron 21), which became the battle hardened US Naval squadron of World War II. 

The USS O’Bannon (DD 450), the USS Nicholas (DD 449), and the USS Fletcher (DD 445) arrived in the Pacific theater in September 1942 and were immediately put to work escorting ships, patrolling against enemy submarines, bombarding enemy positions on Guadalcanal, and shooting down enemy planes. There was a severe shortage of destroyers and they were in constant demand and were working and fighting almost nonstop. Other new destroyers arrived in 1943 and were also put to work immediately. Over time, some were sunk, others were damaged, but they were constantly in service. 

When Admiral William Halsey selected Destroyer Squadron 21 (Desron 21) to lead his victorious ships into Tokyo Bay to accept the Japanese surrender, he chose the most battle-hardened US naval squadron of the war. But it was not the squadron of ships that had accumulated such an inspiring résumé; it was the people serving aboard them who won the battles. This is the story of Desron 21’s heroic sailors whose battle history is the stuff of legend. Through diaries, personal interviews with survivors, and letters written to and by the crew during the war, John Wukovits brings to life the human story of the squadron and its men who bested the Japanese in the Pacific and helped take the war to Tokyo. – King County Library Review. 

(ed. note: Later in the Pacific war, the destroyer’s role in the battle of Okinawa was described as “absorbing torpedoes” on behalf of the larger combatants and troopships, resulting in the heaviest Navy casualties of the war.) 

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton 

Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell

A riveting story of American fighting men, “Outlaw Platoon” is Lieutenant Sean Parnell’s stunning personal account of the legendary U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division’s heroic stand in the mountains of Afghanistan. Acclaimed for its vivid, poignant, and honest recreation of sixteen brutal months of nearly continuous battle in the deadly Hindu Kush, Outlaw Platoon is a Band of Brothers or We Were Soldiers Once and Young for the early 21st century–an action-packed, highly emotional true story of enormous sacrifice and bravery. A magnificent account of heroes, renegades, infidels, and brothers, it stands with Sebastian Junger’s “War” as one of the most important books to yet emerge from the heat, smoke, and fire of America’s War in Afghanistan.

Outlaw Platoon by Sean ParnellThe image at right is the logo Lt. Parnell developed and painted in green on the doors of the platoons vehicles, causing the Taliban to refer to the unit as the “Green Skulls”.