Tattoo overflows with revealing–sometimes harrowing–stories of military life. War games in training, conflicts with commanding officers, the fascinating early days of Army Special Forces, the horrors of Vietnam: Lang covers this and more in clear-eyed, scene-driven prose unencumbered by romance or overstatement. He refers to himself in the third person, but his command of the language ensures feeling (sometimes even humor) suffuses every page: “After watching Lang shoot, [the CIA operative] asked how Lang felt about shooting individuals. The reply was that this would depend on who they were.”
It resonates deeply, then, when Lang does indulge emotion, express doubt about a mission, or set the record straight. One impassioned clarification: The U.S. did not furnish Iraq with military materials during its 1980s war with Iran. Don’t expect much in the way of guidance of where this life is going or a précis of lessons learned in the manner of many contemporary memoirs. Still, with a scrupulous eye for detail, Tattoo illuminates every international conflict Lang saw and offers a fascinating portrait of what soldiering means.
Takeaway: An incisive and revealing survey of the career of an American soldier, from Vietnam to the Middle East.
Great for fans of: Richard E. Mack’s Memoirs of a Cold War Soldier, Elliot Ackerman’s Places and Names.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+