UP-CLOSE & PERSONAL: In-Country, Chieu Hoi, Vietnam 1969-1970 recounts, in painstaking detail, young Robert C. Bogison’s deployment to Vietnam in July 1969 and his ensuing year-long tour. Bogison, an enlisted man, volunteers for Vietnam and begins his time “in country” with the 284th Military Police Company.
The writer’s conversational voice engages the reader from the onset. In the opening pages of the memoir, Bogison sits next to a seasoned soldier on one of the many plane rides that will eventually take him “in-country.” The soldier offers Bogison a swig from a flask full of “a combination of mess hall coffee, some heavy cream and the Brothers Christian.” Bogison doesn’t know what “the Brothers Christian” is and has to ask discover that it’s brandy. The scene is representative of how Bogison often juggles the comedic with the solemn throughout the narrative.
There is no shortage of unique and heartbreaking accounts as Bogison doesn’t shy away from the most dramatic moments of his wartime experience. There is constant engagement with enemy troops, often captured in suspenseful scenes: “I truly believed that I was going to die and listed as just another MIA,” Bogison writes. “Lorraine, my family and friends would never know how or what happened to me. The Army would tell them that I am missing in action, by known means and presumed dead.”
Although there are sections of UP-CLOSE & PERSONAL that feel bloated with superfluous detail, the narrative stays on course. Bogison is mostly cognizant of his audience, bringing the reader through the roller-coaster of emotions that is war and between the peril and the horror, there is comradery. As the dangerous days in the heat and humidity of Vietnam wear on, the reader recognizes that Bogison and his fellow soldiers are coming of age. It is this loss of innocence, coupled with the heartbreak of returning to an unreceptive American public, that is at the center of this memoir.
Regardless of whether the reader is a historical novice or a Vietnam War scholar, UP-CLOSE & PERSONAL offers the opportunity to experience the conflict from one soldier’s perspective, while learning about its greater cultural and historical context.
Intense wartime scenes are teamed with moments of tender comradery in UP-CLOSE & PERSONAL, an epic Vietnam memoir that relays author Robert C. Bogison’s raw journey through the jungles of Vietnam.
~Geoff Watkinson for IndieReader