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When We Walked Above the Clouds: A Memoir of Vietnam Hardcover – September 1, 2011

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

When We Walked Above the Clouds was written for those who want to know what it was like to dig trenches in 110 degree heat, rip off leeches, zip a buddy inside a body bag, or pull the trigger on a complete stranger. This is what the war in Vietnam was like as told from a grunt’s level. Barnes pulls no punches in his gritty account of the teammates he served with, and of those he lost, at a mountain jungle village called Tra Bong.”—Lt. Col. (Ret.) Raymond C. Morris, U.S. Army Special Forces, author of The Ether Zone: U.S. Army Special Forces Detachment B-52, Project Delta
(Lt. Col. (Ret.) Raymond C. Morris 2011-02-21)

“As beautifully written as it is heartbreaking, Lee Barnes’s memoir probes through the conventional views of the Vietnam War and finds, amid the squalor, the banal, and the absurd in the Tra Bong action of 1966, the truly heroic.”—Mary Clearman Blew, author of All but the Waltz
(Mary Clearman Blew 2011-02-21)

“Lee Barnes growls his profane hymn not just to this war but to all wars. In the process, he justly scuttles Hollywood hyperbole, REMF embroidery, and self-serving short-rounds. The writing is stark. Hard. Honest. Do you and yours a favor. Own this book. You will be left with the scent of blood and cinnamon and something more: the need to shake the hand of a returning warrior.”—Bill Branon, Captain (DC) USN (Ret.), author of Let Us Prey, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (Bill Branon 2011-02-21)

"In the grand scheme of things, not much happened at Tra Bong; "the life of a trooper out here meant little, except to those who were out here." But with sharp and unsentimental prose, Barnes makes it matter a great deal. A war remembrance of beauty and unadorned brutality."—Kirkus Reviews
(Kirkus Reviews 2011-07-15)

"This rare look into life as a Green Beret makes a compelling read."—Joint Forces Journal
(Joint Forces Journal 2011-09-23)

"Perhaps the best aspect of the book . . . is the attention Barnes pays to the words he puts on the page. Each one carries with it a meaning and a weight that makes his story far more than a war memoir or even a coming of age story."—Caleb S. Cage, Nevada Review
(Caleb S. Cage Nevada Review 2011-12-12)

About the Author

H. Lee Barnes is a professor of English at the College of Southern Nevada. He is the author of several collections of short stories, including Minimal Damage, and a novel, The Lucky.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803234481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803234482
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #700,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M McCoy on April 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Barnes account of his Vietnam experience scores a touchdown with real war veterans. His realistic and truthful picture of day to day life in a combat zone with it's long days of the mundane punctuated by minutes or hours of sheer terror. Mr. Barnes has heard the crack boom often enough to know that the day to day stuff is much preferred to the sound of AK-47 rounds whizzing past your ears. For those of you who do not understand the "crack" is the sound the round breaking the sound barrier as it rockets past your head. The "boom" is the sound of the report. Barnes does not embellish his experience like so many other authors who have painted a picture of their war service. A realistic portrait, this is a must read for those interested in the day to day experience rather than some pumped up tome designed to spark a vicarious thrill ride into an experience the reader will never have.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A.D. Hopkins on February 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
One should never pick up a military memoir expecting an action adventure novel. Confusing the two will lead to disappointment. Lee Barnes understands the difference, so his own memoir is less about heroic incidents than about reality, tragedy, and the kind of courage that gets up every day to mend the wire and keep the fields of fire clear, and sleeps uneasy, ready to repel an attack that might come tomorrow, next week, or never. When I want derring-do, I'll rewatch a Chuck Norris movie and willingly suspend disbelief. When I want to remind myself what the Vietnam War was really like for my contemporaries, I'll reread "When We Walked Above The Clouds." It helps show how a well-intentioned war was lost, partly by a system that used its most highly trained soldiers, Special Forces, to hold down isolated and poorly supported posts, too often under the supervision of bad officers. It was duty more dangerous and disagreeable than it had to be, and the men who did the job rarely got the thanks they deserved, let alone fame. Barnes fixes some of that, with jump-off-the-page portraits of men with whom he served, showing whatever warts and whatever wisdom he discerned in each, whether he liked them or didn't. Because of Barnes' book, a few of them will be remembered as long as scholars winnow the guts-and-glory pseudo-histories to find one that tells the truth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Linda Reiter on May 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Being an Viet Nam vertern and former airborne member I found the book incredible, read the entire book in just a day. All I can say Currahee, Airborne!,,
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Raymond C. Morris on March 19, 2015
Format: Audible Audio Edition
Imagine training with eleven other elite Special Forces men for months, eating, sleeping and drinking with them, getting to know their family, and then being sent to a remote camp in the Vietnam Central Highlands where, within only a few weeks, watching those same friends massacred - and then having to recover their bodies. That was H. Lee Barnes introduction into war. Lee Barnes lived the life and writes of those experiences in his own style - all of it well-done. Stuck on an isolated Special Forces A-team in the middle of enemy territory with less than competent leaders, Barnes and the other young soldiers on the team rose to the occasion and did what was required to not only survive, but to get the job done. I have seen a few of the ineffective leaders of which Barnes writes, most of who were simply burned-out by too many combat tours and drank too much, or just got too old and disillusioned to do the demanding job required of a Special Forces field commander. It is my good fortune that I never encountered more than a few of these men in 26 years with SF, and never grouped on a single A-team such as this. One can literally smell the burnt powder in the air, feel the leeches crawling, and taste the bitterness clinging to Barnes words as he relives these experiences. This is a well-written book, done from the heart, and one that honors his fallen comrades. A real read for those who want to know the "entire" experience that was Vietnam.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By William L. Wilson on December 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was there
Tough and hard times.
I led the patrol to find the remains of the initial rescue force and 4 missing American SF soldiers
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven Cooper on March 19, 2015
Format: Audible Audio Edition
I'm not a friend of the author's nor am I a Vietnam Vet, but I liked the audio version of Barnes' memoir. I liked the vivid imagery brought out masterfully by the narrator. I enjoyed hearing about the inside day-to-day of a war that I did not participate in from a perspective that is very intriguing to many of us, today-- the Special Forces. Thank you, Mr. Barnes and Mr. Spalding for providing us younger history students with some profound perspective and insights.
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