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The Village Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 2003
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The Washington Post A minor classic about war.
The New York Times A vivid and unbiased portrait of one Vietnamese hamlet in the grip of war...Exceptional insight....West has told this story with honesty and without embroidery, while bringing out its inherent human drama.
Charles B. MacDonald Author of Company Commander Unquestionably the best book to come out of the Vietnam war -- human, compassionate, suspenseful, dramatic.
Peter Braestrup Author of Tet A superbly honest, readable work that goes beyond journalism to become good literature.
Washington Post Book Review This is the way Vietnam should have been fought -- by tough volunteers who lived alongside the Vietnamese....It will take the sternest idealogue to remain unmoved by West's perceptive and human treatment of the men who fought it....It's an account of brave men at war in a far country, honestly told.
Keith William Nolan Author of The Battle for Saigon and A Hundred Miles of Bad Road One of the small handful of truly great books to come out of the Vietnam war.
Pacific Affairs Pure Hemingway in the best sense of that characterization....West brilliantly portrays the drama of a war few Americans have known.
Leatherneck Magazine A fantastic, down in the mud and crud book of enlisted Marines fighting to defend a village....West tells of some of the victories and the tragic cost. And he tells it well.
About the Author
Francis J. "Bing" West served in Vietnam as a Marine infantry officer, and later as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Dean of Research at the Naval War College, an analyst at the RAND Corporation, and a lead CNN commentator during Desert Storm. A frequent contributor to defense journals, West is also the author nine books.
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Many readers many have to exercise quite a bit of patience at first however, because despite a well structured framework, much of the first third of the book focuses almost exclusively on the night patrols that the Marines and their South Vietnamese allies were so often required to engage in throughout the war. As a result, the narrative sometimes seems to get lost in all the details, as one account of lying in wait for the enemy in the pitch black jungle night often feels very much like all the other, quite similar accounts. And if you're like yours truly, you may actually be more interested in the real life characters than all the obligatory military details and jargon. But don't let that deter you. Francis J. West Jr.'s The Village is still a very engrossing and highly educational read.
And honestly, it's hard to fault the author too much on account of the mostly monotonous details about all the mostly monotonous night patrols American soldiers had to endure in Vietnam, because all that gritty martial stuff is of course highly integral to telling the unique story of all the vivid characters that the author somehow manages to render so very exquisitely. And thankfully, as the narrative progresses, and with the introduction of a number of new characters and situations, everything in the book starts to feel a great deal more immersive, intimate, and truly quite riveting.
In fact, what author Bing West does best in The Village, is give readers an up close and very personal view of what life "in country" during the Vietnam war was really like. Yes, in my humble estimation, West seems most adept (and masterful, really) at rendering his highly authentic portraits of American and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Remarkably, neither side is automatically vilified or presented as cardboard cutout heroes or villains, and a more than worthy attempt is made in almost every case to paint a realistic picture of each and every individual presented in the book.
Best of all, this is not your run of the mill book about the Vietnam War! So I can only highly recommend it to absolute anyone, whether they have any interest in the Vietnam conflict at all or not. All the real life individuals (friends, foes and otherwise) that are chronicled in The Village are portrayed in a very no nonsense and unbiased fashion, and ultimately, that is what makes The Village such a highly memorable and truly outstanding read.
This is a remarkable story told to us by former Marine Captain Francis J. “Bing” West, who later served as an assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and in the Reagan Administration as an Under-secretary of Defense. When Bing West returned to Binh Nghia 37 years later, he found an extraordinary thing: many of the villagers from 1966-1967 had died —particularly those who served alongside the Marines; some married and moved away from the village —and yet in spite of this, everyone living in the village in 2003 could recount stories about “their Marines.”
You see, the villagers passed down the stories of what happened in Binh Nghia to their children, then they told the stories to their children. Everyone knew what these Marines did, and as Mr. West walked through the village in 2003, one old farmer came to him and asked, “Tell me Dai U’y where is Sergeant Mac? Do you know Bill ... Marines number one, what happened to Monty? What happened to Frill (Phil)?” Not far away Mr. Bing found a marker resting between two palm trees, and on it a small inscription to the Marines who had built their well and shrine in 1967.
Herein lies the true pain of the Vietnam War. Young Americans went to Vietnam to fight a vicious and resourceful enemy. A few of these people ended up protecting a few thousand residents of a small village along the coast in Quang Ngai province. Most of the Marines cherished these simple people so much that they ended up dying for them. In return, the villagers ended up adopting these Marines; they remember their sacrifices even today. If only the American people had loved these Marines as much.
The Village is a worthwhile book, on many different levels.
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Also read 1 Million Steps...SSDD.