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322 of 334 people found the following review helpful
on 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
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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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on 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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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2003
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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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 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
on March 31, 2003
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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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 1999
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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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2002
Not one for many words, but bottom line an excellent book. Well written, and gives a very clear portrayal of DOwns' unit. Men like him deserve the utmost respect. And in my eyes he was a true hero.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2012
First published in 1984 and updated in 2007, Frederick Downs, Jr.'s personal account as an infantryman in Vietnam during the war is one of the best books ever written about those who saw ground combat in Vietnam. It's a jarring story of a soldier's life in the field as told through Downs' chronicle of his time near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in 1967-68. That his novel is a must-read for West Point cadets is a testament to its accurate portrayal of military combat conditions.

My father served in Vietnam in the same area and time period as Downs. His book taught me a lot about what life in the killing zone was like for my father, who rarely spoke of the war before he passed away. The author writes with such vivid detail and intensity that he drags the reader into his story. At times, I thought I was in the field with him -- even though I will never know what men like Downs went through during the war. His book is a tribute to the Vietnam veterans who rightly deserve recognition for their sacrifices. I also appreciated Downs' efforts to promote reconciliation with the Vietnamese people.

I gave this book 4 stars because it's not for everyone. Downs tells it like it was. His graphic depictions of the reality of the Vietnam War and derogatory language might leave some readers offended. It should be understood, however, that his narrative portrays the realities of that time period and was not gratuitous. Written as a daily journal, the book does not follow the traditional structure of a novel. The primary conflict in the story -- war -- does not lend itself to a concise climax or ending.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a first-hand account of the Vietnam War or about the life of a soldier in combat. In an age when soldiers are still deployed to far-away battlefields in hostile conditions and face grave danger each and every day, this 45-year-old story is just as relevant today as it was when it happened.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 1998
This book is on the "Recommended Reading List" of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 295, Indianapolis, Indiana.
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