Through the Valley: Vietnam, 1967-1968, by James F. Humphries, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, Colo., 1999 $49.95 hardcover.
From the ghastly fight for Hill 104 to Colonel Frank Kroesen’s command on Hill 406 comes a “strangely unreported slice of Vietnam,” describing the efforts of the Americal Division and the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. James F. Humphries’ Through the Valley: Vietnam, 1967-1968 is a memoir of sorts, combining real experiences with eyewitness reports and research based on official documents. In this engrossing chronicle, Humphries offers a balance of emotion and dispassionate professionalism, demonstrating his ability to describe the controlled chaos of combat without reducing it to a sterile recital of facts.
Humphries also provides a unique description of the enemy side, giving Through the Valley a three-dimensional approach most books forego by covering only a single side in a conflict. Early on in his tour, however, the real enemy seemed to be Humphries’ own leadership. Less than a month after assuming company command, Hum-phries was relieved because of a suicide that occurred on his watch. Humphries later assumed command of the “Assassins,” the reconnaissance team of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry “Gimlets.”
This book is more than a simple collection of interlaced narratives. Rather, Hum-phries complements the individual accounts with extraordinarily detailed and comprehensive research. His multidisciplinary approach enriches the story. As described by F. Clifton Berry, Jr., the former operations officer of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Humphries’ primary aim is the construction of “combat truth.” He describes this truth from his perspective as a leader and commander, documenting the day-to-day actions against the VC and NVA in the Que Son and Hiep Duc valleys of northern I Corps.
Humphries’ memoir includes numerous maps and sketches that show the movements of friendly and opposing forces. Through the Valley brings the reader to the battlefield, inside the soldier’s mind, and offers a glimpse into how the enemy thought. But it also tells the story of the sacrifices made by American soldiers during the costly conflict.
Major Dominic J. Caraccilo