cover image Vietnam Combat: Firefights and Writing History

Vietnam Combat: Firefights and Writing History

Robin Bartlett. Casemate, $37.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-63624-242-2

Vietnam veteran Bartlett debuts with a cathartic account of his 1968 tour of duty. Only 22 years old when he was promoted to platoon leader in the 1st Air Cavalry Division, Bartlett was careful not to get too close to his men, most of whom were younger: “I always had to recognize that I might be giving an order to one of my men... that would end up getting the soldier wounded or killed.” Interspersed in the narrative are letters Bartlett wrote to his friends and family in the U.S., in which he matter-of-factly recounts combat missions and more mundane aspects of warfare. In the narrative itself, Bartlett’s prose is more vivid, especially when he describes using his combat knife to kill a teenage Vietnamese soldier during an ambush. When his seven months as an officer in the field were over, Bartlett was transferred to division headquarters and a job compiling after-action reports. After the war, he found work as a textbook salesman and tried to push his memories of stabbing the soldier and other “horrific experiences” to the back of his mind; they eventually resurfaced, and he learned with the help of a psychiatrist how to “deal with the unwelcome thoughts.” Poignant and personal, this is an intimate account of one man’s war. (Mar.)