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The Killing Zone: My Life in the Vietnam War [Kindle Edition]

Frederick Downs Jr.
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“The best damned book from the point of view of the infantrymen who fought there.”—Army Times

Among the best books ever written about men in combat, The Killing Zone tells the story of the platoon of Delta One-six, capturing what it meant to face lethal danger, to follow orders, and to search for the conviction and then the hope that this war was worth the sacrifice. The book includes a new chapter on what happened to the platoon members when they came home.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Frederick Downs Jr. received four Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star with Valor, and the Silver Star for his service in the Vietnam War. He lives in Fort Washington, Maryland.

Product Details

  • File Size: 908 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reissue edition (February 17, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0046RF8V4
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,071 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
318 of 330 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Been there, done that December 20, 2000
Although a combat veteran of Vietnam, I had (or thought I had) put the war behind me for the first dozen years back. Then I ran across Fred's book, saw that it dealt with D 1/14th and bought it. And read it. And read it again.
I humped with Delta on a few occasions in 1969-70 as a fill-in enlisted FO (Recon Sgt) and remember the stories from some of the short-timers about the mythical period of a year previous when the company left the roads and entered the jungle. Fred was part of that transition period.
When my wife first started asking me about Vietnam in the late-80's, I gave her "The Killing Zone" as a primer. I told her after she finished she would have a sufficient background to understand my story. The same situation occurred with my son in the early-90's when he was in college. I now pick up copies whenever I find them in the used bookstores to give to civilians who want to hear "war stories", with the proviso that they read the book first.
As I write this I realize that I am not a proper person to provide a review of this book, since it is like trying to judge a prequel to my own experience. So I will only say that it is a totally honest book. If you are a combat veteran, you will recognize it. If you are a civilian or a non-combat troop, you will come away with a greater appreciation of what the war was like at grunt-eye level.
Mike Medley
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107 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A harrowing personal account June 17, 2000
This book belongs on a short list including Phillip Caputo's "A Rumor of War" and Lt. General Harold G. Moore's "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young," as one of the best first person narratives to come out of the Vietnam War. Downs was a fresh faced platoon leader who, like "Born on the Fourth of July"'s Ron Kovic, looked forward to the opportunity to prove his mettle under fire. Like Kovic, Downs came back from the war with a shattered body and a psyche that was deeply affected by what he experienced. Down's account of Vietnam is simple and straightforward. He is also an excellent writer and his book is a compulsive page turner. This is not a book that should be missed by those with an interest in America's most tragic war.
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55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exiciting reading about a real life hero! December 6, 1998
Fred Downs worked for me when he was recovering from his wounds at Fitzsimmons General Hospital outside of Denver, Colorado. The events in the book were described by some of his friends who were there and are very accurately portrayed in the book. Fred's impact on the wounded at the hospital was almost as spectacular as his adventures in Vietnam and he was an inspiration to everyone around him. I still remember him after 35 years and I am willing to bet everyone who knew him feels the same way. Read the book and you will see why Fred is such a special person. (Someone should ask him to write about his experiences in the hospital and his adventures while he was there.)
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple, but great book! April 23, 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is simply a day-by-day account of the author's combat experiences in Vietnam in 1965.
He doesn't mention it, but he must have kept a journal or diary of some kind, as he writes very specifically about each day.
The book is very simply written and, unlike Phil Caputo's "A Rumor of War", this book is totally unpretentious. The author simply gives you the facts as he experienced them, with little commentary. No geopolitical commentary; no biases tinged by later events. If you want to know what the soldier in the field went through, this is the book.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Eyewitness Account March 8, 2005
When I first started studying the Vietnam war, books on the subject were not that easy to come by. Now there are shelves upon shelves of them at the local bookstore. The great drawback to many of these is that their historical worth is often tainted by the author's own agenda.

There are three types of books I usually find: The ones where the author is trying to "blow your mind" with the weirdness of Nam; the ones where the author is writing in defense of his (and the US) actions in Nam, or the one where the author is trying very hard to portray himself as a great heroic warrior.

This slim volume does not fall into the same trap. There are plenty of surreal moments in the book (for few things can create such surreal moments as life in a war zone), and the author does not deny his own bravery under fire. But it is delivered more like a journal, written for the author himself rather than for publication. The result is a very honest, clear, and flowing read that captures the essence of the infantry experience without bogging down in the morass of politics or apology.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragic tale March 31, 2003
By A Customer
This and Aftermath SHOULD be required reading for AP High School history courses or at least college level. You will understand and "appreciate" the Vietnam war experience of the combat soldier during this harrowing time both at home and away. As stated previously, the book(s) are very well composed and easy to read!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening account of the Vietnam War June 3, 1999
By A Customer
I read this book quite some time ago, not long after I had the pleasure of meeting the author at a school function on the Vietnam War. I have been fascinated by the Vietnam War ever since meeting the author (who happened to grow up in my hometown). I found the book eye-opening and easy to read, especially for those of us who do not have a military background. I felt his platoon's pain, as well as their excitement. All in all, what this man, and thousands like him went through is something that each American should appreciate.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I was there. Its a very realistic account of the war.
Published 8 days ago by Horace E. Cochran, Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars ... is illustrated in this officers story of what its like to have...
the burden of command is illustrated in this officers story of what its like to have peoples lives in your hands, very good
Published 15 days ago by Kori
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting account of a soldier's Viet Nam experiences.
very interesting. If you enjoy reading well written true Vietnam War accounts, get it.
Published 16 days ago by analyst
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good book
Published 29 days ago by Steven D. Sheasly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Best Book!
Published 1 month ago by renzo
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book.
Published 1 month ago by DJ
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad but very visceral account of a futile war
Realistic and frightening. Really highlights the futility of a misguided military intervention that wasted thousands of American lives.
Published 1 month ago by R. SMART
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome.
Wonderfully written and descriptive. Paints an amazing picture of life in the jungle for our infantrymen in Vietnam. A definite must read.
Published 2 months ago by J Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Glad I found it
Downs accurately tells the story as only a grunt can fully understand. I loved it.
Published 2 months ago by William Schmidt
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing ! A must read !
I have read a lot of books about the Vietnam conflict and this one is definitely a "keeper". It goes beyond a tale of a combat tour. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Russell
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