Lurps: A Ranger’s Diary of Tet, Khe Sanh, A Shau, and Quang Tri
By Robert C. Ankony. Hamilton Books, Lanham, Md., 2006, softcover $37.
Dr. Robert C. Ankony has written a fascinating, highly readable memoir of his distinguished military career. Following him from the decision to join the Army at 17 through the difficult task of becoming a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, we experience some of the most significant battles of the Vietnam War.
Stylistically, Lurps (whose title is the nickname for “long-range reconnaissance patrol”) reads more like a first-person novel, with conversations and action written as they unfold, than as a traditional memoir or an academic history. By giving the work a sense of immediacy that many autobiographies lack, this approach allows the reader to live the experiences as Ankony remembers them. But the book is more than a combat diary; it also contains frank discussions, from a soldier’s perspective, about the turbulent political and social aspects of the war. These elements combine to make the book a unique addition to the growing field of Vietnam literature.
Lurps can be described as a Campbellian “Hero’s Journey.” The story begins with Ankony, a bored and rebellious kid living in a lower middle-class neighborhood in Michigan in the mid-1960s, dreaming of adventure and of one day “getting out.” Through service to his country and fellowship with the other Rangers, Ankony slowly becomes a new man. Gone is the impetuous, undisciplined boy who could not stand school and once tried to rob Fort Wayne of a Browning automatic rifle. He has been reborn a decorated veteran (Bronze Star,Air Medal, Combat Infantry Badge) who eventually earns a Ph.D. The book is not, however, about his own heroism so much as what his service meant, as well as a tribute to those men who helped make him who he is. A pleasure to read, Lurps is among the best war diaries available.
Originally published in the April 2007 issue of Vietnam Magazine. To subscribe, click here.