Author Robert Sholly served in Vietnam first as a personnel officer, then as a company commander for Company B of the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry, and finally as the battalion commander. He writes both from his own perspective and that of his surviving men, who contribute their accounts in their own words. From battles with ants intent on devouring air mattresses to battles with Northern Vietnamese soldiers intent on killing as many Americans as possible, this memoir gives a clear idea of what it was like to serve in the infantry in the Vietnam War.
The country owes Sholly a debt of gratitude, not only for his military service, but also for this detailed and straightforward record, which will be of immense value to future historians. This book has an irreplaceable authenticity and immediacy that cannot be duplicated by any third-party reporting. The author provides practical explanations of military procedures and movements that make much clear to the civilian reader, without once losing the descriptive abilities that really make his experiences come to life on the page. His use of multiple voices is particularly valuable with respect to the battles, where the varied perspectives combine to provide an overall view of the fighting that no single viewpoint could completely manage. A dry sense of humor enlivens his work, as well as a genuine affection and deep respect for the men he served with and commanded. He doesn’t hesitate to give his opinions forthrightly and directly, and isn’t afraid to admit honestly to occasional doubt or regrets concerning his own actions.
It seems a bit churlish to comment on the grammar of such an intense and important memoir. However, the readability and professionalism of the book might be improved with a bit of editorial polish, particularly to remove the ellipses of which the author is a bit too fond. They give a sense that the author’s thoughts simply trail off uncertainly on occasion, which doesn’t fit particularly well with the tone of the book. This is, however, a minor quibble indeed.
YOUNG SOLDIERS, AMAZING WARRIORS is an absorbing, detailed and substantial memoir of military service on the ground in Vietnam, as well as a well-earned tribute to the brave young men with whom Sholly served.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader