Book Review: Blue Spaders: The 26th Infantry Regiment 1917-1967 (edited by Steven Weingartner) : VN

8/12/2001 • Theodore Roosevelt, Vietnam Book Reviews

Blue Spaders: The 26th Infantry Regiment 1917-1967, edited by Steven Weingartner, First Division Museum at Cantigny, 1 South 151 Winfield Road, Wheaton, Ill., 1996, $20.

In his interview in this issue, “Operation Attleboro: The Wolfhounds’ Brave Stand,” Maj. Gen. (then Major) Guy S. Meloy tells how his unit was relieved on the battlefield in November 1966 by the 1st Infantry Division. One of those “Big Red One” battalions was the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, commanded by Lt. Col. (later General) Paul F. Gorman. Among the stories in this outstanding regimental history is Gorman’s personal account of the combat actions that followed Attleboro.

Of more personal interest is his account of an earlier battle, Operation Amarillo, in August 1966, during which he took command of the remnants of several battalions, my own included, which had been badly mauled while overrunning a Viet Cong trench line. The next morning our command post was hit by two tanks of napalm that came in short. The entire world was on fire, including my left hand, right shoulder and a case of grenades at my feet. The map in Gorman’s hand vaporized, and all the rubber handset cords on our radios melted instantly. If ever there was panic time, that was it!

But there was no panic. By the force of his will alone, Gorman steadied the entire force. It was the most impressive act of leadership I had ever seen. Characteristically, in the book Gorman dismisses the incident lightly. “My map and radio were literally burned up,” he says, “and I got singed a bit. I asked that they keep laying the napalm on, and they did.”

Vietnam is not the only war brought to life in this riveting anecdotal history. Some chapters also recall the Blue Spaders’ exploits in World War I, when one of its battalions was commanded by reserve Major Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who later commanded the entire regiment. Also chronicled is the “relentless pursuit” the regiment made from its World War II landing in Normandy on D-Day through V-E Day, by which time it had advanced across Europe and into Czechoslovakia.

Blue Spaders is not intended to be a comprehensive history of the 26th Infantry Regiment, but rather a book that captures the unit’s “personality.” And in that endeavor it has succeeded admirably.

Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr.