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Brutality of War, The: A Memoir of Vietnam Hardcover – July 7, 2009
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From the Inside Flap
A gripping firsthand look at the true agonies of war, this hard-hitting memoir shares the combat experiences of Vietnam veteran Gene Dark, who served with one of the most decorated companies in the United States Marine Corps.
Nineteen-year-old Dark joins the Marine Corps at the height of the Vietnam War and is immediately thrown into the stark reality of the battlefield. Quickly transformed into a hardened soldier and forced to endure the terror of firefight and the rigors of combat, Dark experiences shock and grief as he watches his closest friends fall. However, it is Dark's tremendous guilt after taking another human being's life that leaves an indelible mark upon his soul.
The Brutality of War is not only Dark's recollections of an unpopular, rancorous conflict, but also his own private perspective on the nature of war itself as experienced in the murky jungles of Vietnam.
From the Back Cover
"Dark's story is powerful and relevant in a time when our country is yet again at war."
-Greg Langley, books editor, Baton Rouge Advocate
In 1968, nineteen-year-old Gene R. Dark joined the Marine Corps at the height of the Vietnam War. The horrors of combat forced the young man to grow up quickly as he endured the visceral and painful world of war. A member of the Fox Company, Second Battalion, Fifth Marines-one of the most decorated marine companies to serve in Vietnam-Dark experienced the ineffable shock, grief, and terror of serving his country while fighting for survival in the Quang Nam Province.
An honest and candid memoir, this work captures the emotions of war that arise from losing friends on the battlefield, killing without remorse, and constantly fearing the loss of one's own life. In his poignant prose, Dark relates the horrifying firefights on the Arizona Territory, juxtaposing the nightmares and losses with vignettes demonstrating the true camaraderie shared amongst his fellow marines.
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I served in the Marine Corps, active duty and active reserve in the Viet Nam era 1964-1970 though I was never sent to Viet Nam. While I can relate to Gene Dark and his training experiences, etc. I will never relate to his courage and travail in War.
For those who get excited about sending young men to foreign lands to fight, die and be crippled for “our” freedom I would challenge them to read Dark’s tome. He and those he served with fought for the men beside them. They fought in a hell and carnage that only a politician could love.
One of the truly noble missives to come from the Viet Nam War was written by Army Major Michael Davis O’Donnell who was killed in action three months after he wrote it. I will save it to my dying day. For those who have never read it, Major O’Donnell wrote the following on January 1, 1970 at Dak To, Viet Nam:
"If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and one backward glance when you are leaving, for the places they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not always have. Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind."
Semper Fi Gene.
I thank anyone who serves and is reading this now, I am proud to call you my brother or sister in arms.
And we did play, and we won somehow. Over and over. So we never had to practice, and never got to know each other.
Gene was the best pitcher, I was a kludge (I threw hard, without style). I can still remember Gene's delivery that made me slightly jealous.
Not many years later, our lives diverted. So I learned from "Brutality of War." Damn, Gene, you made such a courageous and dangerous decision. Some friends made a similar decision; I did not. Your story is riveting and true. Your book is always on my coffee table and has prompted so many conversations.
What more would an author want?
While many very fine authors, such as Tim O'Brien, have gained wide readership for novels about the Vietnam 'conflict', making Vietnam the background draping for their novel/dramas, Dark very simply and very honestly reports on the way it was. From his induction into the USMC with all the high hopes of the teenager testosterone-driven dreams of being a hero, through the brutality of the training preparations in being taught to kill, to the actual day by day experiences of engaging the enemy in their ubiquitous positioning, to the extreme hardships of living through the monsoons with the misery of gross skin infections from the filth that could not be cleansed, to the moments of seeing friends blown apart by enemy fire and in response to those sights, finding the killer within - the fire of hate and vengeance with which war soils the mind - it is all here, written without apology, without over-the-edge dramatics, and at all times with the keen-eyed observation of a human being becoming a murderer. 'We were living day to day with an enemy trying to kill us and we were trying to survive by killing them. We saw death often. Don't be quick to judge unless you've had the wet, sticky blood of a friend etched into your skin. And make no mistake - killing is brutal and there is nothing civilized about it.'
One of the most poignant moments in a book that hits the heart with a bayonet on every page is Dark's sharing a small gesture on the commercial airline flight home after he had survived Vietnam: the flight was overbooked and an insensitive stewardess told Dark she didn't have sufficient food trays to give him one, but instead gave him peanuts - and no one offered to share his food with a Marine returning from the horrors and hungers of America's guilty war. It affected Dark deeply: his recounting of the incident reflects the reader profoundly.
So why did Gene Dark persist in finally writing and publishing his memoirs? For the healing effect of putting that horrid time and experience in the past - or at least in perspective. There are many damaged veterans from the Vietnam War, as well as the Iraq War, who desperately need public understanding for their sacrifice. They only ask America to look at the effects of wars and to address the impact and the aftermath, pleading for changes to be made. Dark accomplishes this as well as any writer this reader has read. Grady Harp, May 12
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