In this “great and necessary addition to the canon of Vietnam War memoirs” the author “is a thoroughly human Virgil guiding us through the hell of combat” (New York Journal of Books).
Peter Clark’s year in Vietnam began in July 1966, when he was shipped out with hundreds of other young recruits as a replacement in the 1st Infantry Division. Assigned to the Alpha Company, Clark gives a visceral and vivid account of life in the platoon as he progresses from green recruit to seasoned soldier over the course of a year.
Alpha One Sixteen follows Clark as he discovers how to handle the daily confusion of distinguishing combatants from civilians. The Viet Cong were a largely unseen enemy who fought a guerrilla war, setting traps and landmines everywhere. As he continues his journey, Clark gradually learns the techniques for coping with the daily horrors he encounters, the technical skills needed to fight and survive, and how to deal with the awful reality of civilian casualties.
Fighting aside, it rained almost every day, and insect bites constantly plagued the soldiers as they moved through dense jungle, muddy rice paddies, and sandy roads. From the food they ate to the inventive ways they managed to shower—and the off-duty time they spent in the bars of Tokyo—every aspect of the platoon’s lives is explored in this revealing book.
A Military Book Club main selection.