cover image A Sniper's Journey: The Truth About the Man Behind the Rifle

A Sniper's Journey: The Truth About the Man Behind the Rifle

Gary D. Mitchell, with Michael Hirsh. . Penguin/Caliber, $24.95 (268pp) ISBN 978-0-451-21652-6

A compelling, troubling story, this war memoir recounts the hellish experiences of an 18-year-old naïf from Texas who volunteered to fight in the Vietnam War only to find himself transformed into a part-time sniper. Mitchell served as an infantryman and as the commander of an armored recovery vehicle for most of his 1969–1970 tour, spending most of his time in the thick of the guerrilla war. Periodically, he would be plucked from his unit by a team of anonymous intelligence operatives (perhaps members of the CIA's Phoenix Program), handed a special sharpshooter's rifle, put on a helicopter and given a mission to stalk and kill someone. For respite, he was given three weeks of temporary duty working with dead American bodies at the Danang morgue. Mitchell survived the war, but soon after coming home he began suffering from terrifying nightmares and rages that would plague him for three decades. Mitchell tells his life story with the help of journalist Hirsh (None Braver ), also a Vietnam veteran. Though the later sections dealing with Mitchell's efforts to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder are bogged down with repetitive details and long quotes, the authors' recounting of Mitchell's sniper missions are absolutely riveting. (Jan. 3)