In his memoir "Reflections on the Vietnam War: A Fifty-Year Journey", Hunt chronicles his long struggle to come to grips with the meaning of the Vietnam War and how it affected him before, during and after his tour in Vietnam with the U.S. First Infantry Division. Using a stylistic mix of personal anecdote, historical reflection and essay, the author weaves his experience of the war into a broad context encompassing the course of his life.
Starting out as a naive and patriotic teenager drafted at age 19, he traces his path through military training, his impressions of Vietnam and its people, the absurdity of daily basecamp life, and the crucible of enemy fire. Returning to a nation torn apart by the war, he soon realizes that, even though he is no longer in the army, he cannot escape the war's insane grasp.
Catastrophic events in Vietnam and on the home front, along with the dawning awareness of suicides among his fellow veterans, prompt him to seek answers to the questions that haunt his daily life: Why did America go to war in Vietnam? How could we lose? Why did so many people have to suffer in vain?
His quest leads him to the unveiling of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., where painful memories and powerful emotions merge to initiate a healing process for the author, his fellow veterans and the country at large.
Reflections on the Vietnam War: A Fifty-Year Journey, by Warren E. Hunt Warren E. Hunt through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, $12.95, 142 pages, Format: Trade
Star Rating: 4.5 / 5
In an extraordinary account of the Vietnam War, Warren E. Hunt takes readers behind the lines in his debut book Reflections on the Vietnam War: A Fifty-Year Journey. His account captures the war and his feelings regarding it from a perspective from which few have written. A plethora of books have been published about this infamous war, but few from a surviving veteran four decades after the war ended. Hunt served in the oldest and most decorated signal battaliion in the United States Army, the 121st Signal Battalion. He was a signal corpsman whose main priority was protecting a relay system against enemy attack. He spent most of his deployment at Lai Khe base camp, which resided 35 miles to the northwest of Saigon. Early in his memoir, he describes what it felt like when the lights went out in the cabin while he and his fellow comrades were in route to Saigon, flying over South Vietnam for the first time: “An eerie silence prevailed in the cabin, speaking to the fear and reality of what lie ahead.” He speaks of the fear and constant hyper-vigilance that resulted from witnessing a number of near-hits of projectile missiles, the ringing in his ears that never seemed to stop. Further, Hunt shares with his readers the emotional impact of witnessing another U.S. soldier losing his life, nearly within arm’s reach of him. And, in a war where so much was lost and so little gained, he found himself, like countless others, wondering exactly why he and his fellow soldiers were there, fighting a war that was impossible to win. He describes the politics involved and the image the American people were given, despite the realities behind the battle lines. It had a profound impact on who he was and whom he would become, though much of its impact wasn’t unraveled until he began his search for answers to a set of innocent interview questions that inevitably resulted in his distinctive memoir.
Reflections on the Vietnam War: A Fifty-Year Journey is perfect for those learning about the Vietnam War for the first time. Hunt not only outlines how the United States got involved in what arguably became one of the biggest atrocities of American history, but he tells a personal story of how it felt to be a soldier fighting a battle that was, in the end, unwinnable. Further, he shares with his readers insights into the culture of this war-torn country, how he was treated by the natives of the land, and how the South Vietnamese people felt about U.S. soldiers invading their land. Hunt also shares what it was like to come home to a country in which animosity prevailed. The divide among many Americans was considerable, and the rate at which his fellow veterans began experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder was alarming. Fortunately, Vietnam Veterans of America has been a salvation for many, including Hunt. In describing his sentiments about the first meeting he attended, he stated, “It didn’t take long for me to realize that what had been missing from my life since I returned from the war was being together with other Vietnam vets. We came together in a mutual effort to sort out the war, its effects on us and our country, and on the country of Vietnam.” Additionally, he includes details in this memoir about the Vietnam Memorial dedication and its related events. Because of the vast scope of his story, his simplistic writing style, and his ability to glean such a unique and long-term perspective on a war that holds such great significance in American history, his account is prime material for high school and college-level history teachers and professors to incorporate into their curriculums. It’s relatively short and concise and has depth and insight that lend to greater understanding and knowledge.
Reviewed by Jennifer Padgett
Reflections on the Vietnam War by Warren E. Hunt, CreateSpace.com
$12.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 142pp, www.amazon.com
As the Vietnam generation now ages and new generations enter the world and consider the Vietnam War as so much ancient history, Warren Hunt's memoir will be of immense benefit, and will continue to be of historical benefit in the future. Written with amazing candor and insight, "Reflections on the Vietnam War: A Fifty-Year Journey" is a compelling and impressively informative account of one man's life during and after an American war that deeply divided the country and whose Washington, D.C. monument continues to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
"Reflections on the Vietnam War: A Fifty-Year Journey" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography collections in general, and Vietnam War supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Reflections on the Vietnam War: A Fifty-Year Journey" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).
Former Army draftee Warren E. Hunt’s Reflections on the Vietnam War: A Fifty-Year Journey (CreateSpace, 142 pp., $12.95, paper; $3.99, Kindle) records his views of military life. It’s based on a questionnaire he received from a high school history class project.
The questionnaire motivated Hunt to recall “how he joined the military, his duties in Vietnam, his impressions of the Vietnamese, his typical day, his frightening experiences, his leisure time, and his postwar adjustment to civilian life.” Hunt’s concentrated view from fifty years after he went to Vietnam gave new meaning to the war, he says, along with his role in it—and its influence on him.
These thoughts in the book’s forward and introduction made me eagerly anticipate a flow of Hunt’s profound thoughts about war and life in general.
Initially, my expectations were too high. Hunt starts by presenting a litany of info on the draft, training, travel to Nam, assignment to a unit (in his case, the Big Red One at Lai Khe as a radio teletype operator), and the unit’s history. He also provides time-worn history lessons about how the U.S. became involved in the war and compares American military tactics to those of the North Vietnamese Army.
At best, the beginning of this book is a primer for readers uninformed about the Vietnam War.
Approaching the midpoint of this “remembrance,” as he calls the book, Hunt shifts gears and talks about the drama of the war as he saw it during his July 1968 to July 1969 tour of duty. Although he did not experience face-to-face combat, Warren Hunt went through more than enough danger to hold my attention. His duty area stretched beyond Lai Khe to what he calls the “hellhole” of Quan Loi, five miles from the Cambodian border.
Hunt’s perspective is infused with naiveté enhanced by empathy and compassion. What he did and saw registered deeply. He tells interesting and informative stories about mortar and rocket attacks, the Nui Ba Den massacre, Lai Khe race riots, fragging and associated threats, drugs, and other incidents. He explains how each event influenced his attitude toward life.
Hunt closes with a heartfelt recollection of attending the 1982 dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., when he renewed friendships with men he had expected never to see again. The ceremonies made him more active in Vietnam Veterans of America and with projects to benefit veterans.
In this slim book, Hunt repeats what has been written before. But at the same time he reconstructs events that provide fresh looks at military life under combat conditions.
One could call Hunt’s work a prequel to Steve Atkinson’s one-thousand-page Liberating Strife: A Memoir of the Vietnam Years, which focuses on Big Red One desk duty at Lai Khe in 1969-70 and includes letters from a long-distance love.
Warren Hunt’s Reflections on the Vietnam War: A Fifty-Year Journey tells a better story.
Reviewed by Henry Zeybel