Reviewed by Peter Brush
By Jim Brown
University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 2004
In spite of this book’s subtitle, there was no “battle of the DMZ.” Rather, there was a series of vicious battles south of the Demilitarized Zone that defined the Marine Corps Vietnam experience in this period of the war, and Jim Brown provides an insider’s account of them: Dong Ha, The Rockpile, Camp Carroll, Ca Lu, Con Thien and Khe Sanh.
The point of view here is that of an artillery officer, not infantry, and the book has a good balance between description and introspection. Brown covers a lot of personal territory, including the deaths of friends, surviving an airstrike, earning a Silver Star, and being wounded and evacuated to a hospital ship. His accounts of the emotional costs of war are the book’s strengths. He is weaker in his analysis of the larger issues, such as the political reasons for fighting the war in the manner it was fought. Although he maintained his professionalism throughout his tour of duty, toward the end Brown became disillusioned with that manner. Secretary of State Robert McNamara and LBJ are faulted “for putting American lives at risk in a one-sided conflict.” One-sided? Which side had B-52s, gunships, helicopter evacuation and naval gunfire?