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Archive for November 12th, 2018

Book Reviews,Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Veterans,Vietnam War

November 12, 2018

Read This Book

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Bill Jones is a wry and intelligent man who knows how to spin a tale of war. I recently finished reading a third and final iteration of Bill’s book titled THE BODY BURNING DETAIL and I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to get a fresh look at the world of a Marine combat vet in Vietnam.

Bill served as a communicator with the 12th Marines and spent the bulk of his tour of duty out on remote hills and outposts not far below the DMZ.

One of the things about this book is Bill’s use of irony to make the point of how absurd combat is when stacked against the world we live in here in the US. The prose is tight, irreverent, funny, and at times breathtakingly intense. And it moved me to moments of reflection on war, my war, his war, how they were so similar and then again, different.

As readers, we are down in the red mud with Bill as it rains both literally and figuratively, monsoon moisture and mortars. It’s hot. He’s scared. He is dirty. He’s pissed off and he wants to go home. But he also loves his comrades, will fight beside them and for them in the face of nasty odds.

Some of Bill’s mates are funny, some not so funny, not ready for the war. We meet rear echelon personnel on hand to make his life miserable. We are introduced to Marines who thrive in the realm of killing, maybe too well.

Incisive and illuminative writing, Bill’s prose doesn’t lag and it doesn’t veer off into areas that have nothing to do with the narrative flow of a Marine in a combat zone. In some ways, Bill’s story isn’t unlike a lot of other coming-of-age, quest to find out who you are, Vietnam War memoirs: Young man enlists, goes through boot camp, goes to war, survives and goes home to an unappreciative and even hostile environment. But what makes this book different, what makes it work, is the narrator’s self-effacing voice that admits he doesn’t like war or the Marine Corps, for that matter. Like I said, it’s loaded with irony and understatement. You laugh a lot, or at least smile, while you read it.

Bill received his draft notice and on being inducted was confronted, along with a number of other draftees, by a Marine sergeant looking for recruits. As Bill describes it in the book:

“I need two more,” the sergeant announces. “Any volunteers?”

Two hands are timidly raised. One of them, for reasons I still don’t fully understand, is mine.

And yet, there is still the business of the war, and what young warriors do in war, and what is done to them. In a poignant scene from way out in the bush, some dead NVA are burned for sanitation reasons and for quite some time after, the stench of burning flesh infects the noses and minds of the Marines trapped inside the wire on an isolated hill under constant mortar attack and threat of a ground assault.

That scene works like a metaphor. It’s graphic and nasty to think about, and some of the distaste you feel arises from the notion that the stench of those bodies still lingers in Bill’s memory and thoughts. In some ways it remains in ours too, as we think about the figurative odor that still hangs around fifty years after the war, said stench being a lot of things: Anti-war protest, the nature of our leaving the South Vietnamese to their bitter fate, and what all veterans of combat face, the loss of the persons we were before we
marched off to combat.

The book cover for THE BODY BURNING DETAIL by Bill Jones.

This book does not pull punches.

In another striking scene, Bill describes being in his hole at night on what he calls, “LZ Sitting Duck.”

There is a dead, putrid smell in my hole. Lighting a match, I find a piece of scalp, still with a shock of black hair, embedded in the wall.

It is from one of the NVA soldiers we set on fire.

Bill is a poet—and there are poignant poems embedded in the prose of his memoir—who has written some fine war poems as well as cowboy poetry. His story will not be unusual to those of us who have faced the world he describes in THE BODY BURNING DETAIL, but the way he tells his tale is compellingly different.

If you want to know more about the Vietnam War and/or add to your store of narratives that might help you better understand what the hell happened over there, READ THIS BOOK.

You can find Bill Jones’ book here. And some of his poetry here.

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BRAVO! is now available in digital form on Amazon Prime.

This link will take you directly to BRAVO!’s Amazon Prime site where you can take a look at the options for streaming: In the US you can stream at https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

In the United Kingdom, you can stream at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BZKJXBM.

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