Tiger Bravo's War: An epic year with an elite airborne rifle company in the 101st Airborne Division's Wandering Warriors, at the height o
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Having taught university literature and composition for over forty years, I value clarity, precision, and logical organization over eloquence of style, imaginative metaphor, and literary allusion. Rick St. John in Tiger Bravo's War, his fine book about the Vietnam War, excels at the former but does not fail at the latter. As importantly, even though it is history, this book responds to E. M. Forster's famous answer to the question of what a novel does: "Yes--oh dear yes--it tells a story." St. John relates "the exploits of the men of B Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne) 506th Infantry Regiment--an airborne rifle company in the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, during one year of combat operations in the Vietnam War." It's a story you should read.
From a youthful prank ('borrowing' a banner featuring a tiger that identified their unit) through stateside preparations and in-country orientation, to jungle, lowland, and mountain operations, with changes in leadership, strategy, and goals, the victories and the losses of these men are starkly presented. The strength of the enemy is acknowledged, and the year's toll on a band of young, patriotic soldiers is relentlessly tabulated, not just in injuries and deaths, but also in values and beliefs. St. John also shows how conscious these men were of disheartening events and evolving attitudes back home. The full measure of that dynamic is not clear until we reach a moving section on the after effects of war; that alone is worth reading to begin to understand the cost to those who survived. And, of course, Rick St. John acknowledges and honors the fallen.
The author meticulously documents his narrative (there are over 750 footnotes) through newspaper and periodical articles; battlefield journals, reports and studies; emails, letters, interviews, and personal correspondence. Tiger Bravo's War is a thoroughly researched book that will be valued by historians, lay readers hoping to learn more about a war central to American history, and those who served and their families.
It tells a story--oh dear yes!
Michael Lund, Professor Emeritus of English, Longwood University
Director: Home and Abroad (a writing program for military, veterans, and family)