Boys Of ‘ 67 : Charlie Company’s War In Vietnam by Andrew Wiest

Boys Of ' 67 : Charlie Company's War In Vietnam by Andrew Wiest

When the US Army drafted the 160 men of Charlie Company (4th Battalion/47th Infantry/9th ID) in May 1966, they were part of a large influx of soldiers that would bring the American military presence in Vietnam to 80,000 combat troops by the peak of the war in 1968. In the beginning, during the spring of 1966, the war enjoyed considerable support and the draftees of Charlie Company saw their service as a significant milestone. However, by December 1967, when the company rotated back home, only 30 men had managed to avoid becoming casualties. Tragically, these veterans were among the first to experience the disrespect and mistreatment from war protesters upon their return to the United States.

In his latest book, titled The Boys of ’67, Andy Wiest, an acclaimed author known for his works Vietnam’s Forgotten Army and The Vietnam War 1956-1975, delves into the experiences of Charlie Company. This company was remarkable for being the only division during the Vietnam era to train and deploy together in a manner similar to the renowned 101st Airborne Division in World War II. Wiest conducted over 50 interviews with officers and enlisted men who served in Charlie Company, including the surviving platoon leaders and both of the company’s commanders. He also sought the perspectives of 15 family members, such as wives, children, parents, and siblings, providing a comprehensive examination of their journey. Additionally, Wiest had access to a wealth of primary sources, including personal papers, letters, diaries, newspaper clippings, training materials, manuals, condolence letters, and photographs from various stages of the conflict.

As Wiest reveals, the combat that Charlie Company experienced during 1967 was incredibly fierce, rivaling some of the more infamous battles that received greater media attention, like the ‘Ia Drang’ and ‘Hamburger Hill.’ Consequently, many surviving members of Charlie Company returned home afflicted with what is now recognized as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by the military. It is worth noting that PTSD was not officially recognized until the late 1970s and did not receive widespread treatment until the 1980s. It took over four decades for numerous members of Charlie Company to find meaningful and sustained relief from their suffering.

Boys of 67: A Human Perspective on the Vietnam War

I highly recommend the book “Boys of ’67” by Dr. Andrew Waste, a military history professor at the University of Southern Mississippi. The book focuses on Charlie Company, a unit in the Vietnam War composed mainly of drafted soldiers from various backgrounds. Despite being drafted, the soldiers of Charlie Company were enthusiastic about serving in the war and believed in their duty. We learn about their experiences before getting drafted, during training, and in the midst of battles. However, the book goes beyond just military engagements and delves into the personal stories of the soldiers, highlighting their resilience and the challenges they faced.

One notable soldier is John Young, the sole enlistee of Charlie Company. Young eventually developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it was through his friendship with Dr. Waste that they both started conducting lectures on PTSD. Despite his struggles, Young continued to share his experiences and educate others about the Vietnam War. “Boys of ’67” gives us an intimate look at the soldiers as individuals, shedding light on their humanity and the range of emotions they experienced.

This book is an engaging read that captivates readers and provides a different perspective on the Vietnam War. It showcases the bravery and sacrifices of the soldiers, such as William McTeer, an African American soldier who faced discrimination in his own hometown. McTeer’s commitment to serving his country despite the prejudices he faced is commendable. He later turned his life around and dedicated himself to helping other veterans cope with their own struggles.

“Boys of ’67” reveals the diverse backgrounds of the soldiers, with only a small percentage hailing from upper-class families. Racial tensions within the unit were minimal, as soldiers quickly formed bonds regardless of their backgrounds. McTeer, for example, initially worried about interacting with white soldiers but found acceptance and friendship among them.

“Boys of ’67” is a powerful book that humanizes the soldiers of Charlie Company. It delves into their personal stories, resilience, and the challenges they faced during the Vietnam War. I highly recommend reading this book to gain a deeper understanding of the soldiers’ experiences and the impact of war on individuals.

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