Firefights and Writing History
288 Pages, 6 x 9 in, Maps, B&W illustrations and 95 color photographs
- January 2023
- In Stock
2nd Place Winner, Nonfiction — War, 2023 PenCraft Book Awards
"Readers who want to learn what it was like for a twenty-two-year-old lieutenant to lead even younger Americans in combat, in miserable conditions, in a war no one understood, and where no one wanted to be the last man to die, there is no better place to begin than Vietnam Combat."
– On Point: The Journal of Army History
The year 1968 was arguably the most significant year of the war. It was the height of the American involvement, and because officer casualties had been so great after the Tet Offensive of January 1968, all prior officer assignments were canceled.
1st Lieutenant Robin Bartlett, originally on orders to the 101st Airborne Division, suddenly found himself at the “repo-depo” in Bien Hoa reassigned to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). The unit had more helicopter support than any other unit in Vietnam. The soldiers carried lighter packs, more ammo and water because of the availability of rapid helicopter resupply. Immediate support from artillery, helicopter gunships and ARA (aerial rocket artillery) was only minutes away to support a firefight. Wounded troops could be medevaced even in dense jungle using “jungle penetrators.” It also meant that Bartlett’s platoon could deploy through helicopter combat assaults into hot LZs (landing zones) at a moment’s notice if an enemy force had been spotted. And they did.
It was with extreme anxiety that Bartlett made his way to join his battalion and company – it was the worst of times to be a platoon leader in Vietnam, let alone a grunt serving in a combat unit. Bartlett also had to cope with personal issues of commitment to a war that was rapidly losing support not only back home but among the soldiers he was leading through the jungles of I Corps on “search and destroy” missions. Fifty years later, Bartlett’s vivid combat experiences are brought to light in a fast-moving, well-written, first-person narrative expressing the horror, fear, anguish, and sometimes illogical humor of that war.
1. My First Worst Day in Vietnam – dealing with my first KIA
2. Training for War – Airborne and Officer Basic Training
3. Ranger School: learning to Lead; preparing to kill
4. Back To the 82d – gaining experience at the 82d Airborne Division
5. First Days in Country – Assignment to the 1st Cav Division (Airmobile)
6. Ambushing Gazelles – creative ambush gone wrong
7. The Jungle Penetrator – evacuation in dense jungle
8. FNGs in the Field and Base Camp – new replacement story
9. Face-to-Face – meeting the enemy
10. Pay Officer – paying troops in the field
11. Blown Ambush – failed ambush
12. Saturation Ambushing – ambush technique in hot, dense jungle
13. Recon by Fire – enemy base camp – calling for artillery
14. Beyond Artillery Coverage – danger of being out from under artillery cover
15. LZ is Green – landing in a suspected hot LZ
16. Autorotate – falling from the sky
17. Stream Crossing – danger from stream crossing
18. Letting It All Hang Out – failure to get the right size pants
19. Tracer Rounds – starting a fire with tracers
20. Surviving Leg Cramps – becoming dehydrated
21. Ambush in the Rain – the challenge of an ambush in the rain
22. Escort to Laos – escorting CIA into Laos
23. Tear Gas Attack – use of tear gas on enemy
24. Night Firefight – how squad leader saved the day
25. Hard Luck Simons – soldier drafted illegally
26. Walking Point – I did it one time only
27. You Fight It We Write It – staff assignment
28. The Battle of the Parrot’s Beak – battle interview and report
29. Assistant Defense Council – defending soldiers in trial
30. Buying Art Supplies – trip to Saigon
31. Welcome Home – returning to The World
32. Butterfly Coincidences – unusual coincidences
33. Attributions – recognition of combat photographers and artists
34. A Boots on the Ground Point of View – final summary
Glossary and Abbreviations of Military Terms
US and Enemy Weapons
Military Awards, Decorations and Assignments
"Vietnam veteran Bartlett debuts with a cathartic account of his 1968 tour of duty...Poignant and personal, this is an intimate account of one man’s war." ~Publishers Weekly
"Readers who want to learn what it was like for a twenty-two-year-old lieutenant to lead even younger Americans in combat, in miserable conditions, in a war no one understood, and where no one wanted to be the last man to die, there is no better place to begin than Vietnam Combat." ~On Point: The Journal of Army History
“Many times, during my own Vietnam combat experiences I found myself looking up longingly at U.S. Army helicopters that seemed to blacken the sky. As a footsore Marine, I often wondered who those guys were and how they survived so many of the combat air assaults we heard about. The answers are all in Robin Bartlett’s masterful recounting of his time as a platoon leader with the vaunted 1st Air Cav during the most rugged years of the war. In his factual recounting Bartlett tells it all as he saw it from a grunt leader’s perspective. Strong stuff and full of detail and emotional insights.” ~Capt. Dale A. Dye USMC (Ret), Vietnam veteran, actor, filmmaker, and author of "Korean Odyssey"
“Robin Bartlett has written one of the most honest and searing personal memoirs of the Vietnam War yet published. He served with distinction as a 22-year-old infantry platoon leader during the brutal combat of 1968. Twice wounded and decorated for valor, he returned like many veterans feeling betrayed by US political and senior military leadership. Although dogged by PTSD, he created a successful life. ‘Welcome Home’ brave soldier." ~Gen Barry McCaffrey USA (Ret), four combat tours and three Purple Hearts
“This is an incredible book. Objective and hard hitting. Robin was in the thick of it—fighting in Vietnam as an Infantry combatant. The author put young Americans in body bags and carried them through the jungle. We were soldiers once. What were we fighting for again? We needed a book like this to help us make sense of a determined enemy in a surreal, mysterious place called Vietnam.” ~Jan Craig Scruggs, Chair, National Selective Service Appeals Board and Founder, Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC
“Robin Bartlett’s superb memoir gives readers an understanding of the human dimension of the Vietnam War and the profound and sometimes searing experiences of the American soldiers who fought it. Veterans, like Robin, who did their duty deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. Younger generations should read this book to gain an appreciation for the sacrifices they made and the service they rendered to our nation and one another.” ~H. R. McMaster, author of "Battlegrounds and Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam"
“Robin Bartlett has a gift of writing. Not everyone has it. This book graphically describes his experience as an American soldier on the battlefields of Vietnam. We should all read his story. We should all heed his words and learn and share his lessons. We should never forget. We owe this to our Vietnam veterans. We should always tell them, 'Welcome home, brother.' We owe them that much and more.” ~Skip Vaughn, author of "Vietnam Revisited"
“Robin Bartlett’s book brought to life Vietnam events in vivid detail that I had forgotten. I found it hard to put down and finished reading it in two days.” ~Dan “Doc” Cleary, Medic, A 1/5 Air Cav
“Vietnam Combat gives an excellent description of the areas where we patrolled, our living conditions and combat episodes. I felt like he was telling my story! If one wishes to understand the unvarnished experiences of a combat soldier in 1968, this book is a must-read!" ~Arthur Kuhner, RTO, A 1/5 Air Cav
“The author, a former platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division from 1968-69, has written a first-rate memoir about preparing for and then surviving a tour of combat. Highly recommended for educators and students wanting to learn about the world of an airmobile infantryman during the height of the Vietnam War.” ~Dr. Erik B. Villard, Historian, Author of "Army Combat Operations in the Vietnam War: Staying the Course"
“Robin Bartlett’s narrative immerses you into the action and you can feel the sweat dripping down your neck, smell the stench of dirty, unwashed uniforms, and hear the crack of rifles and the staccato pop of the M-60 machine guns. His chapters are well-organized and begin with an evocative excerpt that draws you into the story. He includes excerpts from letters home and to his friends from that period that contextualize the combat stories he shares. His experiences from over fifty years ago in Vietnam are as fresh and as pertinent as if they were combat stories from today. I strongly recommend Bartlett’s book as it provides a compelling snapshot into a Platoon Leader’s experience in the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam during the critical period from 1968 to 1969.” ~Lt Col David Siry, Director of the Center for Oral History at the United States Military Academy, West Point
“Robin Bartlett’s poignant memoir is more than a personal journey through his Vietnam experiences. It is an informative, emotional, and visceral examination of day-to-day life for a young platoon leader in grueling circumstances.” ~Kelly E. Crager, PhD, Head, Oral History Project, Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University
"As the character of war changes from conflict to conflict, the nature of combat - the management of necessary violence and its persistent consequences - changes little from generation to generation. Mr. Bartlett's first-hand, boots-in-the-mud account is a rare and sobering look at both the character and nature of combat. To wit, violence inflicts many scars - many not visible - and many do not heal with the tincture of time alone. With prior service as a 'Dog-faced Soldier' and past duty as the 1st Cavalry Division Psychiatrist serving in combat, I would submit that authentic connection makes the difference in taking care of Soldiers in the field and in the clinical setting. From "mad minutes" to Monarch butterflies, the manner in which Mr. Bartlett shares his memories can help to connect and heal".
~Col. Dennis Sarmiento, Medical Corps, US Army War College
"Robin Bartlett exhibited courage, performed his jobs well, cared for those who served under him, and developed leadership and organizational skills." ~The VVA Veteran
"...an absolutely incredible memoir that gives readers an in-depth and pressing glimpse into the world of soldiers in Vietnam." ~ReaderViews