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They Marched Into Sunlight: War And Peace, Vietnam And America, October 1967

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Here is the epic story of Vietnam and the sixties told through the events of a few gripping, passionate days of war and peace in October 1967. They Marched Into Sunlight brings that tumultuous time back to life while exploring questions about the meaning of dissent and the official manipulation of truth, issues as relevant today as they were decades ago. In a seamless narra Here is the epic story of Vietnam and the sixties told through the events of a few gripping, passionate days of war and peace in October 1967. They Marched Into Sunlight brings that tumultuous time back to life while exploring questions about the meaning of dissent and the official manipulation of truth, issues as relevant today as they were decades ago. In a seamless narrative, Maraniss weaves together the stories of three very different worlds: the death and heroism of soldiers in Vietnam, the anger and anxiety of antiwar students back home, and the confusion and obfuscating behavior of officials in Washington. To understand what happens to the people in these interconnected stories is to understand America's anguish. Based on thousands of primary documents and 180 on-the-record interviews, the book describes the battles that evoked cultural and political conflicts that still reverberate.


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Here is the epic story of Vietnam and the sixties told through the events of a few gripping, passionate days of war and peace in October 1967. They Marched Into Sunlight brings that tumultuous time back to life while exploring questions about the meaning of dissent and the official manipulation of truth, issues as relevant today as they were decades ago. In a seamless narra Here is the epic story of Vietnam and the sixties told through the events of a few gripping, passionate days of war and peace in October 1967. They Marched Into Sunlight brings that tumultuous time back to life while exploring questions about the meaning of dissent and the official manipulation of truth, issues as relevant today as they were decades ago. In a seamless narrative, Maraniss weaves together the stories of three very different worlds: the death and heroism of soldiers in Vietnam, the anger and anxiety of antiwar students back home, and the confusion and obfuscating behavior of officials in Washington. To understand what happens to the people in these interconnected stories is to understand America's anguish. Based on thousands of primary documents and 180 on-the-record interviews, the book describes the battles that evoked cultural and political conflicts that still reverberate.

30 review for They Marched Into Sunlight: War And Peace, Vietnam And America, October 1967

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gary Grubb

    This is a book well worth reading. It's a funny thing, you know. The fact that I graduated from high school in 1965, just in time for the escalation of the Vietnam "war" "police action" "conflict". We were hauled off by the busloads to the nearest military base for our draft physicals within months of walking down the aisle in our caps and gowns. I joined the Navy on the east coast. After completion of boot-camp we each had the honor of filling out our "dream-sheets". This is when we got to writ This is a book well worth reading. It's a funny thing, you know. The fact that I graduated from high school in 1965, just in time for the escalation of the Vietnam "war" "police action" "conflict". We were hauled off by the busloads to the nearest military base for our draft physicals within months of walking down the aisle in our caps and gowns. I joined the Navy on the east coast. After completion of boot-camp we each had the honor of filling out our "dream-sheets". This is when we got to write down our top three choices of where we would like to serve our military time. My three were: 1. USS John F. Kennedy... a ready-to-be-commissioned aircraft carrier headed on a cruise around the world followed by a tour-of-duty in the Tonkin Gulf (Vietnam). 2. USS New Jersey... a ready-to-be-recommissioned battleship headed for the Tonkin Gulf. 3. Duty somewhere in Vietnam. They call it a "dream-sheet" because you're dreaming if you actually think they'll let you go where you ask to go. I was placed on the USS Chukawan (AO100)... an oiler in the Atlantic Fleet. I asked for duty stations that were going to be a part of the Vietnam war because I felt a real allegiance to my country. And many of my friends were headed there... some to die... some to return to tell about, so why shouldn't I. Well, now I'm sixty-six years old, and believe it or not I STILL feel that I missed something in my life that I shouldn't have. I wasn't there to fight alongside my buddies. Not because I didn't want to be. But because they chose to send me in another direction. Please don't ask me why it seems to have left such a big hole in my life. No one should have died there... on either side. But many did... and I wasn't given the opportunity. I lost some friends there. I had friends come back that were nowhere near the same person they were before they fought in the jungles. But I wasn't given the opportunity to either die... or live to tell about it. The parts of "They Marched Into the Sunlight" that I tried to live in my mind were the chapters surrounding the bloody battle at Lai Khe. For some reason... although I'm now opposed to war measures... I had a hard time connecting with the chapters dealing with the University of Wisconsin protests. I certainly oppose use of such things as Napalm, and know of the horrors it poured upon the Vietnamese people. But I didn't know those things back then. Today I would choose for no one to go into battle. Yet, for some reason or reasons, I feel like I let my buddies down for not being there with them. For me the most powerful of all in this book is the epilogue. THIS is what brought tears to my eyes. The coming together of people from both sides of the battle at Lai Khe. Walking the landscape of the battle together... remembering, together, what they went through as they faced each other that horrible day in October 1967. I've always longed to visit Vietnam, to visit where it all happened... where I lost my buddies... where I feel I should have been when it mattered. Chances are I'll never get there. That part of my life will remain... not with the remnants of a bullet hole... but a hole of emptiness none-the-less. Otherwise, my life has been full and well worth living. I hope to continue that trend for many years yet to come. Something I may not have been able to do had I been shipped to Vietnam in 1968.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Alexander

    They Marched Into Sunlight is a fascinating, rich, and moving work of history. The conceit is unusual. Maraniss focuses on two events from the 1960s which occurred at about the same time. On October 17, 1967, Viet Cong troops ambushed a United States force. On October 18th a group of University of Wisconsin students protested Dow Chemical recruiters, and were attacked by Madison police (one link). They Marched Into Sunlight explores both of these events in painstaking, sensitive detail, then slow They Marched Into Sunlight is a fascinating, rich, and moving work of history. The conceit is unusual. Maraniss focuses on two events from the 1960s which occurred at about the same time. On October 17, 1967, Viet Cong troops ambushed a United States force. On October 18th a group of University of Wisconsin students protested Dow Chemical recruiters, and were attacked by Madison police (one link). They Marched Into Sunlight explores both of these events in painstaking, sensitive detail, then slowly works the connections between them, building up a snapshot of American life during the Vietnam war. This is a deeply human book, identifying hundreds of individuals: American soldiers, students, president Johnson, police, medics, spouses, children, provosts, guerrillas, farmers. Maraniss situates each one in the moment, describing their role in either Ong Thanh or Madison, while establishing their personal backstories and subsequent lives. They Marched Into Sunlight reads like an ambitious Russian historical novel, and I mean that as high praise. It's compelling to read the book tracing people's lives as their opinions form, meet reality, change, then evolve further, while intersecting with other people/characters. The details are exhaustive. We see American soldiers join the army (after learning about their childhood and teen years), train, ship across the Pacific, get situated in a new units, serve in various ways, then participate in one very bad battle described down to the minute. Then we follow the survivors as they react, recover, continue being soldiers, and some return to the USA. Similarly we track students as they go to classes, engage with the protest, react to it, create lives afterwards. Each person is embedded in larger networks of power and causality. Those soldiers entering a Vietcong ambush, for example, do so after we learn of pressures exerted from the White House through the US Pacific Command on down to local generals. Although neither of these events was world-shaking, they appear in webs of connection that inform our broader understanding of the period. The Dow protests, for example, occur during a rising tide of student unrest. We see a west coast guerrilla theater group ride to Madison to play a role in sparking the Dow action, then follow radicalized students as they head east to march more famously on the Pentagon. Units and policymakers around Ong Thanh act, knowingly or otherwise, on the path to the decisive January 1968 Tet Offensive. I was particularly fascinated to see Maraniss make connections to subsequent history. Dick and Lynne Cheney appear around the Madison protests, for example. LBJ's decision to not run for reelection stems from this period. I also enjoyed many small details, like the Vietnamese referring to American movements as "Maori music", because of the color and loudness. Or the eerie coincidence between one soldier's good luck habit (knocking on wood) and the Vietnamese commander's attack signal (knocking on wood). The cumulative effect is very powerful. The ambush is a nightmarish experience for the American soldiers, a bitter and unacknowledged defeat. Maraniss does a fine job of presenting battlefield complexity in an accessible way. The Dow protests, while obviously less violent, nonetheless impressed me as a lifelong academic. The title of the book comes from a Bruce Weigl poem, "Elegy". American literature of the Vietnam war is rich and powerful, criminally underappreciated in the academy. Here's the text: Into sunlight they marched, into dog day, into no saints day, and were cut down. They marched without knowing how the air would be sucked from their lungs, how their lungs would collapse, how the world would twist itself, would bend into cruel angles. Into the black understanding they marched until the angels came calling their names, until they rose, one by one from the blood. The light blasted down on them. The bullets sliced through the razor grass so there was not even time to speak. The words would not let themselves be spoken. Some of them died. Some of them were not allowed to.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mike Kershaw

    I used this book as the basis for an LPD we hosted at Fort Drum prior to deploying to Iraq in 2006. I paired this with an accompanying PBS Frontline Special, "Two Days in October" and was able to involve the surviving company commander who is a central figure in the book. It is the story of a battalion (-) of the Big Red One that gets overrun during heavy fighting with heavy casualties, losing the battalion commander/sergeant major and brigade S3 killed in action in some heavy fighting. It contr I used this book as the basis for an LPD we hosted at Fort Drum prior to deploying to Iraq in 2006. I paired this with an accompanying PBS Frontline Special, "Two Days in October" and was able to involve the surviving company commander who is a central figure in the book. It is the story of a battalion (-) of the Big Red One that gets overrun during heavy fighting with heavy casualties, losing the battalion commander/sergeant major and brigade S3 killed in action in some heavy fighting. It contrasts these events with one of the first major anti-war protests in the Madison, Wisconsin that occurred simultaneously to illustrate the difficult prisms by which our country both viewed and dealt with this war. My purpose was to prepare my unit for what could be a tough and lethal fight (we already knew we were going into a dangerous sector) as well as prepare them for the ramifications if support for the war in Iraq went south on us while we were there. There are infantry centric accounts of the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam in particular but this is exceptionally well written. The former Battalion S3 of the battalion (Shelton) wrote a book about the engagement itself ("The Beast was out There") that refutes some of Maraniss' assertions about the battalion's leadership in general but doesn't take major issues with the book. Read the second book if you want a more infantry-centric view of the engagement.

  4. 5 out of 5

    sdw

    The concept behind this book is smart. Maraniss examines the connections between two seemingly distant events that occur nearly simultaneously: the crushing ambush of the Black Lions squadron in Vietnam on October 17th, 1967, and the protests of Dow Chemical’s recruitment interviews on the campus of University of Wisconsin, Madison on October 18th, 1967. Because the book focuses on a two day period with a set group of actors, the author provides a range of individual stories, provoking the diver The concept behind this book is smart. Maraniss examines the connections between two seemingly distant events that occur nearly simultaneously: the crushing ambush of the Black Lions squadron in Vietnam on October 17th, 1967, and the protests of Dow Chemical’s recruitment interviews on the campus of University of Wisconsin, Madison on October 18th, 1967. Because the book focuses on a two day period with a set group of actors, the author provides a range of individual stories, provoking the diversity of the soldiers and protestors. The book pays attention to how each individual got to Vietnam and to the University of Madison. The book is written like a novel and Maraniss is careful not to give away who lives, who dies, who gets arrested, and who’s skull is bashed by the cops, etc until the moment of action. Maraniss explains his interest lies in “the connections of history and of individual lives, the accidents, incidents, and intentions that rip people apart and sew them back together.” The book succeeds in arranging the complicated connections between the two moments, and I found the descriptions of the ideological tensions within families (like those of the Dow employees) moving. What do you do when you make Napalm for a living and your wife turns against the war? I found myself disturbed and teary-eyed faced with the details of the warfront. The narrative really brought home that these were a bunch of bright-eyed eighteen year old working class kids, many of whom had pregnant young wives at home. Some (but not enough) attention was given to the perspectives of the North Vietnamese soldiers. In contrast, the details of the lengthy posturing at protest meetings and the pure sense of panic as the cops with raised nightsticks descended on the students at Madison was more familiar to me – allowing me to realize how little has changed in the student activist scene of the past forty years. Maraniss seems fascinated by political bigwhigs. He seems not to miss an opportunity to include characters tied to famous politicians. A certain subtheme of the book appears to be that University of Wisconsin graduate students go on to become famous and influential members of the American political machinery. I’m now excited for the day when I discover that Emily has become the governor of Wisconsin. The perspectives of Lynne and Dick Cheney on the events seemed relevant as were grad students at Wisconsin during the time. Yet, John McCain’s capture seemed more gratuitous, and I couldn’t quite find the Wisconsin-Black Lions connection. A final interesting thought: Near the end of the book, Maraniss offers the kind of hypothetical speculating I usually find extremely annoying. He asks what would have happened had the students focused on Agent Orange rather than Napalm. Would it have allowed the anti-war demonstrators to connect more deeply with the returning soldiers? Would it more clearly demonstrated that the protestors really did have the health and well-being of the soldiers in the hearts? How much would history have changed if a different evil chemical produced for profit had been chosen as an anti-war emblem?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    One of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. At first I wasn't going to read another Vietnam book; I figured I had already exhausted the genre. But Maraniss' portrayal of two simulataneous events - a deadly ambush in the jungles of Vietnam and a student protest at the University of Wisconsin that turns bloody - covers the war in a more complete fashion than anything I've ever read. Though this is non-fiction, it reads like a novel. Knowing what lonely death those kids were forced to face in One of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. At first I wasn't going to read another Vietnam book; I figured I had already exhausted the genre. But Maraniss' portrayal of two simulataneous events - a deadly ambush in the jungles of Vietnam and a student protest at the University of Wisconsin that turns bloody - covers the war in a more complete fashion than anything I've ever read. Though this is non-fiction, it reads like a novel. Knowing what lonely death those kids were forced to face in the jungles of Vietnam while the country was tearing itself apart was moving and heartwrenching. Equally touching is the PBC documentary that was made based on this book: "Two Days in October"

  6. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Having grown up with the 'cold' and the Vietnam (actually SE Asian as the US also invaded Cambodia and Laos) wars this book had emotional resonance for me. The author, himself at the University of Wisconsin, Madison at the time, tells two stories, each from roughly two perspectives. On the one hand, he presents a military engagement in Vietnam, on the other, the concurrent demonstrations against the war and Dow Chemical, manufacturers of napalm, at UW. In both instances, two sides: the US troops Having grown up with the 'cold' and the Vietnam (actually SE Asian as the US also invaded Cambodia and Laos) wars this book had emotional resonance for me. The author, himself at the University of Wisconsin, Madison at the time, tells two stories, each from roughly two perspectives. On the one hand, he presents a military engagement in Vietnam, on the other, the concurrent demonstrations against the war and Dow Chemical, manufacturers of napalm, at UW. In both instances, two sides: the US troops and the Vietnamese, the demonstrators and their opponents. All are presented primarily from the bottom up, from the perspectives of ordinary participants, there being enough asides to events in D.C., in Hanoi, in the offices of the university administration and at the endless meetings of the protestors, to give sufficient background to events on the ground. By the fall of 1967 I had become committed to the antiwar movement, attending my first demonstrations as a high school sophomore and joining S.D.S. By the next year I was hard at work in two states for Eugene McCarthy's campaign for the presidency. I was probably unaware of the successful Vietnamese ambush detailed in this book (the facts of which had been covered up in any case), but I was very aware of events in Madison--and the subsequent storming of the Pentagon. An epilogue details the author's trip to Vietnam in 2002 during which some of the veterans of the battle, American and Vietnamese, met one another personally for the first time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ava Catherine

    This is an interesting, well written book about Vietnam. It contrasts the views of the war from the perspective of groups of students protesting on a college campus with those of GIs fighting in Vietnam. At the end of the book, Maraniss reveals the perspective of the commander of the North Vietnamese troops who crushingly defeated the Americans in a critical battle. If you are interested in the Vietnam War and how we were defeated by a lowtech army, this is a great book to read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    It took me a while to finish this book. I actually started it sometime mid-2017, but got distracted with other pressing issues and finally got back around to reading it after Christmas. I'm frustrated that it took me so long to get around to reading because it is truly a superb work of history. They Marched into Sunlight focused on two events—one in Vietnam, one at UW-Madison—in October 1967. Since Maraniss finished his book and it was published in the early 2000s, more scholars, journalists, an It took me a while to finish this book. I actually started it sometime mid-2017, but got distracted with other pressing issues and finally got back around to reading it after Christmas. I'm frustrated that it took me so long to get around to reading because it is truly a superb work of history. They Marched into Sunlight focused on two events—one in Vietnam, one at UW-Madison—in October 1967. Since Maraniss finished his book and it was published in the early 2000s, more scholars, journalists, and other writers have devoted attention to "1967" as a pivotal year of change both in the United States and in Vietnam policy. It used to be taken for granted that the 1968 Tet Offensive (Jan - Mar 1968) caused a sudden and widespread disillusionment with Vietnam among American soldiers, anti-war activists, and policymakers because it put the lie to Westmoreland's optimistic assessments about reaching the "crossover point" where after the Viet Cong and NVA could not muster enough military strength to challenge American forces in the RVN. Maraniss (and now many others) have illustrated how these trends were present and being subtly developed in mid- to late-1967. Tet only added fuel to already present movements and attitudes. Maraniss focuses on two events: The Battle of Ong Thanh on October 17, 1967, in South Vietnam, and the "Dow II" protests at Commerce Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on October 18, 1967. In both cases, Maraniss provides pain-staking and rich detail about the lives, motivations, feelings, and experiences of soldiers, politicians, generals, student activists, UW faculty and administration, and others. For example, Maraniss might describe the childhood and general socioeconomic background of a young man prior to induction or enlistment, their training, their deployment to Vietnam (as individuals or as part of C Packet in '67 that landed at Vung Tau), their relationship with comrades in the unit, their experiences during the Battle of Ong Thanh, and their lives (or that of their families) after service. Likewise, for those involved in the Dow protests at Madison, Maraniss gives equal treatment to individual actors, including how "Dow II" radicalized many students and pushed them in different directions: protesting police brutality, the war in Vietnam, academic freedom, etc. The Battle of Ong Thanh was not very well known except among serious students of the Vietnam War or veterans of the First Infantry Division's "Black Lions" (The 2nd Battalion of the 28th Infantry Regiment). The 2-28, commanded by Terry de la Mesa Allen, Jr., son of a World War II general known for his victories in Tunisia and southern Italy, pursued search-and-destroy operations based out of Lai Khe in 1967. On October 16, 1967, an American platoon patrolling in the jungle encountered sporadic fire from guerillas leading to the death of an American RF/PF advisor temporarily attached to the battalion as an interpreter to coordinate efforts between the Americans, Regional and Popular Forces, and the ARVN. Lt. Col. Allen learned from VC defectors that a significant enemy unit was camped several clicks away from the battalion's NDP (Night Defensive Position). Under pressure from his superiors to increase the body count and destroy the enemy, Allen prepared a bold move for the following day: the battalion's three infantry companies would move out into the jungle where intelligence had indicated a VC unit of undetermined strength would be camped. Unfortunately, two of the three companies were severely under strength. Some soldiers were wounded and recovering at army hospitals. Others were sickened with malaria and undergoing treatment. Several men were on R&R in Japan, while almost a dozen more were expecting to return to the United States and therefore held back from the operation. To make matters worse, more than a dozen replacements were not yet integrated into the unit. Nevertheless, on the morning of the 17th, Allen organized his HHC and moved into the field alongside the three infantry companies. The Viet Cong, expecting an American assault, established a clever trap that involved camouflaged snipers hiding in the canopies of trees throughout the area, dozens of machine gun emplacements, and forces in reserve to overwhelm the Americans at close quarters. While Allen had approximately 150 - 160 men the enemy mustered nearly 1,500 for the battle. Thus, what roughly constituted the strength of one infantry company was arrayed against an entire infantry regiment. The VC sprung the ambush and a desperate battle ensued until night fall. The result: 58 Americans killed in action and more than 60 wounded. Included among the dead were Battalion Commander Allen, A Company Commander, a First Sergeant, forward observer, one platoon leader, four platoon sergeants, two radio-telephone operators, two medics, more than a dozen rifleman, ammo bearers, and others, and almost all squad leaders. Two companies effectively ceased to exist. The “Dow II” protest at UW-Madison on October 18, 1967, followed the “Dow I” protest of February 1967. This story is probably more familiar to those who lived through the Sixties or are vaguely familiar with the anti-war movement in the Untied States during this period. Maraniss argues that “Dow II” marked the transition from “civil disobedience” to more radical and violent forms of protest at Madison and on other college campuses across the United States. To briefly summarize: thousands of students descended on Commerce Hall to protest the Dow Chemical Company holding interviews for its college placement program on campus. Hundreds spilled into Commerce Hall and packed its narrow corridors until there was barely enough room to move. Campus administrators asked the students inside Commerce Hall to stop impeding the basic functions of the University but their efforts were rebuffed. Eventually, when all other tactics failed, the Madison Police Department sent a wedge formation of police officers in riot gear and wielding night sticks to force the students out of Commerce Hall. What ensued was a violent melee between police, some violent protestors, and a lot of innocent bystanders and peaceful demonstrators. Dozens of students were sent to the hospital with bleeding head wounds, although no serious injuries were recorded. A plainclothes detective observing the demonstrations from afar was incidentally wounded in the face by a flying brick thrown by a protestor that required numerous facial surgeries and caused permanent damage to his sinuses. Maraniss observes that the police’s probably overreaction and improper use of nightsticks made an already combustible situation explode and likely contributed to a rise in campus radicalism at Madison. In other words, police action catalyzed the very thing that campus administrators hoped to avoid: further anti-war protests and demonstrations on campus. Maraniss, who was a student at UW-Madison during these protests but not an active participant, suggests that “Dow II” was really a failure for student activists. Although anti-war sentiments in the United States were on the rise in 1967, at the same time the public increasingly disapproved or abhorred student demonstrators and public protests—particularly the rag-tag, “Hippie”, protestors who seemed an effrontery to American values. So, on one hand, student activists found that a smaller percentage of Americans (and even liberals) sympathized with their cause or tactics. In this Maraniss brilliantly traces the fracturing of the left between Far Left radicals (particularly SDS, the Weathermen, and other student radicals) and center-left liberals (such as UW-Madison administrators). These rifts centered more on the tactics used for protesting official policy than on the targets of such protests. Both center-left liberals and radicals abhorred the Vietnam War, but the former group saw their mostly younger counterparts as a general distraction from the causes they cared passionately about. Anti-war protests on UW-Madison’s campus disappeared in the following months as the chief organizers of “Dow II” either fled Madison, were jailed, or expelled from the university. The student demonstrations in late-1967 and early-1968 were composed of mostly moderates who, disgusted by police violence on October 18, advocated for ending police brutality. There were no obvious connections between the Battle of Ong Thanh and “Dow II.” Much, much, later a marriage was formedd between the children of a veteran of that battle and a former campus activist who participated in “Dow II.” But in terms of each event’s significance, “Dow II” probably sent broader ripples through the domestic anti-war movement than the calamity that was the Battle of Ong Thanh challenged prevailing wisdom about American policies in Vietnam. Maraniss does a remarkable job showing how military brass (specifically Westmoreland) covered up or obfuscated many aspects of Ong Thanh. First, Westmoreland and others insisted that Americans were not ambushed—they had been. Westy and the First ID commander claimed approximately 103 VC dead (in other words, despite 58 Americans killed it was still a ‘victory’). These “body count” figures were based on duplicate reports of individual soldiers seeing the same enemy deceased on the field of battle. In all likelihood, American soldiers killed between 22 and 40 VC during the battle. Soldiers who witnessed Ong Thanh remarked that Stars & Stripes and domestic newspapers reported an almost entirely fictional account of the battle. Even if Americans were paying attention their interpretation of Ong Thanh would have been colored by this bias in military reporting. Terry Allen, Jr., was criticized by his superiors for a number of tactical errors and for not ordering a general retreat out of the ambush early enough in the battle. By all eyewitness accounts, though, Allen did an outstanding job under extraordinary circumstances. He was wounded several times by shrapnel while continuing to maneuver companies in the field and work a way around the ambush, before finally being killed. What seemed to contribute the most to the disaster at Ong Thanh was a brigade or division level decision to check-fire artillery in an effort to draw in close air support for the beleaguered soldiers of 2-28. Many soldiers thought Allen made the call to check-fire artillery, but the decision came from higher-up according to official accounts. Artillery ceased for approximately thirty minutes, allowing irregular enemy forces an opportunity to close with the Americans and reinforce their positions. Air support never arrived. Even mortar platoon support from the NDP was not forthcoming because of a divisional policy against using mortars within a certain proximity of American units in the field. But Allen had died in the battle and thus made an easy target for superiors at the brigade, divisional, and MACV levels to shift blame. The First Infantry Division’s commanding general, John H. Hay, Jr., learned of the battle at Ong Thanh late in the day after attending meetings with MACV officials. Nevertheless, Hay later received a Silver Star for his actions at Ong Thanh, where a citation claimed that Hay hovered above the fracas in his command-and-control helicopter, ordered his pilot to move through extreme enemy fire, called in accurate artillery support, and maintained order and discipline in the ranks that possibly averted a greater disaster. Maraniss found the citation in Hay’s papers at the Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. Maraniss concluded that Hay only arrived at the battleground when the fighting had practically ended and 58 Americans were already killed. This is a outstanding book on the war and deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction. Maraniss is a superb storyteller and relied on voluminous research from archives and around 280 personal interviews with participants. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that has an interest in the Vietnam War and the time to consume a long read about a pretty short period of time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    David Maraniss hits the mark once again with an intense look at the events surrounding two disturbing days in October 1967. As usual, Maraniss has a mastery for detail and for being able to describe periods of intense activity with crystal clarity. In this book, the focus is the Vietnam War, but only a microcosm of it. Maraniss alternates between a deadly battle involving the 2/28 Black Lions battalion, and the escalating demonstrations at the University of Wisconsin. He also weaves a third, som David Maraniss hits the mark once again with an intense look at the events surrounding two disturbing days in October 1967. As usual, Maraniss has a mastery for detail and for being able to describe periods of intense activity with crystal clarity. In this book, the focus is the Vietnam War, but only a microcosm of it. Maraniss alternates between a deadly battle involving the 2/28 Black Lions battalion, and the escalating demonstrations at the University of Wisconsin. He also weaves a third, somewhat minor storyline into the book: the agitations and anger of Lyndon Johnson and his top advisers as they unsuccessfully grapple with the growing war protests and the bleak battle news coming back from Vietnam. Maraniss has the ability to recreate events in such a compelling manner as to make it difficult to set a book down. This occurs in the chapters about the actual battle in Binh Long Province; Maraniss manages to tell the battle from the point of view of many of the survivors, what they saw, what they heard, how they felt, the injuries they sustained, how they managed to survive, and who they saw die. Maraniss helps to make it more meaningful by spending time early in the book detailing the backgrounds of many of the participants. Anyone looking for first-hand accounts of what battles were like in the Vietnam War would be hard-pressed to find a more well-written, detailed story than they could find here. It is fascinating, horrifying, disgusting, infuriating, and heroic all at the same time. What is more frustrating than anything is the cover-your-ass thinking by the high command in Saigon. Maraniss scores the command staff, led by General William Westmoreland, and their shameful preoccupation with Vietnamese body counts and manipulation of the truth about how badly the war is going, largely thanks to their own mismanagement and misunderstandings about the conflict. When Maraniss reels off all of the famous people that have been to a military hospital to visit sick and injured troops before Westmoreland ever visited, that speaks volumes as to how removed he was from what was really going on. And hovering over all of this is that the soldiers really did not understand why they were there in the first place and just what (and who) they were fighting for. The previous sentence also applies to the participants in the Wisconsin side of the book. The protests originate due to Dow Chemical holding recruiting sessions on campus; Dow makes napalm, which was being used liberally (and devastatingly, at least to the local population) in Vietnam. But much like the battle in South Vietnam, the protest quickly gets out of hand as all sides – the protestors themselves, the local police, and the Wisconsin administration – mismanage affairs to the point where a violent clash ensues, resulting in multiple casualties but no deaths. Fingers quickly get pointed everywhere, with nobody accepting any responsibility for their own actions. In the end, all sides come out looking bad: the student protestors provoked the police, at times attacked them, and harassed other students who were not taking part in the obstruction; the police wielded batons and started beating people, at times indiscriminately, and made a tense situation much worse while the commanders squabbled amongst themselves and abdicated responsibility for the actions of their officers; and the school administration, run by a chancellor who was paralyzed with fear and a president who was not even on campus when this happened. In the battle in Vietnam, many medals were deservedly given out afterward to soldiers who risked their own lives in order to save their comrades. In Wisconsin, no awards were to be handed out, unless we wanted to give out a Who Bears the Most Responsibility for This Debacle Award, and it would be difficult to declare a winner. The epilogue nicely brings the story full circle, with Maraniss writing about a trip he took to Vietnam with Clark Welch in 2002 to see the battlefield and speak to the Vietnamese commander who opposed the Americans. While it is just about impossible for any book about the Vietnam War to have a happy ending, Maraniss at least ends on a mildly positive note in describing the two former opponents coming to terms with their respective roles and recognizing that both sides lost something at that battle. Anyone interested in the Vietnam War, or antiwar feeling America during the late 1960s, will find this book a worthy read. Even if you are not interested in those subjects, you would be well-served by allowing Maraniss to take you back to a few crucial days in October 1967.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    When a book starts out like this, I know it’s going to be a good one: “The narrative of this book is based on primary sources: hundreds of letters and journal entries, thousands of archival documents, and interviews with 180 people. Many subjects were interviewed several times.” Plus it’s 528 pages in length. The author’s research produced the following diary entry from PFC Gregory Landon on July 22, 1967: “Until there can be two sides to this war, and not 50,000 shades of commitment, this war When a book starts out like this, I know it’s going to be a good one: “The narrative of this book is based on primary sources: hundreds of letters and journal entries, thousands of archival documents, and interviews with 180 people. Many subjects were interviewed several times.” Plus it’s 528 pages in length. The author’s research produced the following diary entry from PFC Gregory Landon on July 22, 1967: “Until there can be two sides to this war, and not 50,000 shades of commitment, this war cannot and will not be won.” A PFC knows this is an unwinnable war, but the Generals and politicians don’t. The end result: a Vietnam memorial containing the names the 58,272 American servicemen/women who died in the war. It is 146 feet long. AND, imagine a wall that also contained the names of the 3,800,000 Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians who died. Such a wall would be over 4 miles long. All because the Generals and politicians failed to understand as much as a PFC understood back in 1967.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lyz

    Am I about to abandon YET ANOTHER book? It seems I am doing so much more than finishing books these days. What's my deal?? I'm only on page 40 thus far--so I'll definitely give it a few more evenings. Yet... I think I am perhaps not in the right life "mode" these days for David Maraniss' style. Let me explain. I think his work is fascinating. This book (and the one on Obama, also) is obviously meticulously researched. The amount of detail draws the reader into the book, and helps them truly unde Am I about to abandon YET ANOTHER book? It seems I am doing so much more than finishing books these days. What's my deal?? I'm only on page 40 thus far--so I'll definitely give it a few more evenings. Yet... I think I am perhaps not in the right life "mode" these days for David Maraniss' style. Let me explain. I think his work is fascinating. This book (and the one on Obama, also) is obviously meticulously researched. The amount of detail draws the reader into the book, and helps them truly understand Maraniss' subject(s). Yet the amount of detail is also overwhelming to me. I find that I am compelled to remember exactly who had a father who was a plumber who moved from Minnesota to Wisconsin before enlisting in the war, and I stress out when I get that character confused with the one who started dentistry school in Ohio before leaving for Kansas to be with his new wife and then got drafted. I can't get past focusing on these details, as if they are part of some mystery novel wherein those lists of facts will help me solve the who-dun-it later in the book. It's hard to explain. But I think I don't have enough space in my brain to focus the way a Maraniss novel deserves, and I also can't "just go with it" enough to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride of reading David Maraniss. Sad, right? Perhaps my life is just too full, already, for David Maraniss??

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Twin tales of October 1967 in Vietnam and Madison, WI. Just started it and it is good.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    In these disorienting times of 'Fake News' Maraniss has given us the stark realities of a two-day period in October 1967. His chronicle is chock-a-block full of primary sources and reminds me: the truth is rarely simple . I learned about two simultaneous events - a deadly ambush in the jungles of Vietnam and a student protest at the University of Wisconsin that turns bloody - as well as about the actions of President Johnson, his cabinet and military leaders during that time. For me, daunting- i In these disorienting times of 'Fake News' Maraniss has given us the stark realities of a two-day period in October 1967. His chronicle is chock-a-block full of primary sources and reminds me: the truth is rarely simple . I learned about two simultaneous events - a deadly ambush in the jungles of Vietnam and a student protest at the University of Wisconsin that turns bloody - as well as about the actions of President Johnson, his cabinet and military leaders during that time. For me, daunting- increasing my understanding of what happened 50 years ago. Maraniss does not spoon-feed you. What I learned: * The government and military WERE manipulating facts to discredit the peoples' growing fear that the war was (even that early on!) in an unwinnable stalemate- body counts were highly exaggerated, tragic losses in battle were portrayed as victories- "The enlisted men wanted no part of an official effort to sugarcoat what had happened. The knew what they had endured, and to deny the reality, however horrible, or perhaps because it was so horrible, was, in a sense, to strip them of their battlefield honor." * Leaders on a national through local level were increasingly concerned with and receiving intelligence about antiwar activities. This, even though according to the CIA's report: "the peace movement's diversity makes it impossible to attach specific political or ideological labels to any significant section of the movement. . .what brought them together was not outside money or manipulation but their opposition to US actions in Vietnam."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jc

    6-Stars for this one! This was recommended to me years ago by a retired AirForce historian who I worked with. He, like myself, is also a resident of Madison. Dennis and I have had many discussions about politics, history, the role of the military, and other diverse topics. So, when he suggested They Marched, I took his recommendation seriously. Sure, took me a decade, but I finally got to it. What an absorbing read – very hard to put down. It tells three parallel stories, all taking place in Oct 6-Stars for this one! This was recommended to me years ago by a retired AirForce historian who I worked with. He, like myself, is also a resident of Madison. Dennis and I have had many discussions about politics, history, the role of the military, and other diverse topics. So, when he suggested They Marched, I took his recommendation seriously. Sure, took me a decade, but I finally got to it. What an absorbing read – very hard to put down. It tells three parallel stories, all taking place in October 1967: 1) what was happening in Vietnam, focusing on a particular US Army battalion (including the perspective of the Vietnamese soldiers); 2) what was happening in the American Anti-War Movement in the US, focusing on the University of Wisconsin Madison campus; and 3) what was happening in Washington, focusing on the Johnson administration. The three stories, interspersed with other details from the three theaters (for want of a better word), wind in and out of each other moved forward by increasing tension in all three locals. A fascinating examination of the world of the mid-1960s written in such a way that would put many big-time novelists to shame. This is history, and it is good reading. Thanks Dennis for the recommendation!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nemo

    My last book of 2020, and a pretty heavy one to end this unprecedented book-reading year. I bought it for one dollar at the street cart of Strand, some 15years ago. And I didn't really give it a chance because it looks so thick and the title of the book is a bit dry. Well, finally I realized that it is a Pulitzer winner book, and that fact alone made me open it for a try. Have to say it is worth the reward, and has a well designed structure of a Vietnam troop near HCM City and a student body at My last book of 2020, and a pretty heavy one to end this unprecedented book-reading year. I bought it for one dollar at the street cart of Strand, some 15years ago. And I didn't really give it a chance because it looks so thick and the title of the book is a bit dry. Well, finally I realized that it is a Pulitzer winner book, and that fact alone made me open it for a try. Have to say it is worth the reward, and has a well designed structure of a Vietnam troop near HCM City and a student body at U of Wisconsin campus, starting in parallel as two story lines and gradually weaving together. There are many,many, and maybe too many details of almost everything of the battles in Vietnam and demonstration in Wisconsin. I kept a pace of 50 pages a day, and by retrospect I think it is a really challenge to finish the book by walking through soooo many names in each page. A lot of names just appeared once, and a lot of details may not mean much to the themes of this book. So I guess it has its heads and tails, without such deailedness it is just a mediocre book about Vietnam battles and anti war movements at campus, with such detailedness it reads not easy and I got distracted from time to time. In short, a good read and a pretty well researched history book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Garrison

    Review from my blog: David Maraniss, They Marched into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002) 572 pages including notes, bibliography and index. I was in Mr. Brigg's 5th grade class in the fall of 1967. At the same time, David Maraniss was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, site of one of the first violent anti-war protests. I don't recall any of the anti-war protest in '67 and Maraniss recalls little of the protests, mostly just a wh Review from my blog: David Maraniss, They Marched into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002) 572 pages including notes, bibliography and index. I was in Mr. Brigg's 5th grade class in the fall of 1967. At the same time, David Maraniss was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, site of one of the first violent anti-war protests. I don't recall any of the anti-war protest in '67 and Maraniss recalls little of the protests, mostly just a whiff of tear gas he got while watching the chaos from a distance. After exhaustive research, he now knows more about it and after reading his book, I understand a bit about what was happening. There had been numerous protests against the Vietnam War prior to October ‘67, but the Wisconsin protest marked a change in tactics on both sides. Unbeknownst to the protesting students, the day before and half a world away, the “Black Lions,†a highly decorated American battalion, was ambushed in the Long Nguyen Secret Zone northwest of Saigon. Using the Wisconsin protest and the battle as a backdrop, and based upon countless interviews, Maraniss weaves together a compelling story. This is a timely book, as we again find ourselves as a nation in a war that is raises a lot of questions. The world was more innocent in ’67. Although thousands of soldiers had died in Vietnam, the battle of October 17, 1967 was especially troublesome. It was unheard of such a large force to be ambushed. There were many mistakes made on the American side in the battle. Some of the bad decisions were made by commanders on the ground, who even though they made mistakes, by all reports remained calm in the face of overwhelming odds. Other decisions were made by higher ups far removed from battle. One such decision at the beginning of the battle was to halt artillery fire to allow air strikes to move in. But the air support wasn’t forthcoming and the soldiers were left to their own resources for over thirty minutes. During this time they couldn’t even use mortars. Prior battles plans called for American soldiers to engage the enemy, and then withdraw allowing air strikes and artillery to be brought in on enemy positions. This time, with the battalion commander under pressure to engage the enemy, the Americans didn’t pull back and found themselves fighting for the lives against a hidden and much larger enemy force. By the time the battle was over, there was plenty of blame to be passed around. In addition to poor decisions, equipment failure was also a problem. The equipment officer in going over the heavy machine guns found that of the eight abandoned on the battlefield, only two were functioning properly. Many M-16s jammed as well as the grenade launchers. Pinned down by a well hidden enemy, the failure of equipment only added to the chaos. The dead from the October 17th battle included the battalion commander, Lt. Colonel Terry Allen, son of a World War II General and Major Donald Holleder, who had been a football standout at West Point. The Army couldn’t deny the battle occurred, so they tried their best to spin the events. With so many of the ground commanders and officers dead, this was easier than it might have been. They greatly inflated the number of enemy killed. They refused to call the battle an ambush and called it a victory even though survivors said otherwise. One of the most amazing “spins†of the battle was awarding Major General Hay, commander of the 1st Division, the Silver Star for his heroic actions that day. Maraniss found no evidence that he was even on site during the battle, yet the citation tells about how he brought his command helicopter in low to direct artillery fire on enemy positions. If it hadn’t been so deadly, some of the antics of the military would have been quite humorous. “What a funny war,†one soldier kept saying in his letter’s home. If Vietnam was changing in ’67, so were things on American campuses. As protests replaced panty raids, police and university administrators found themselves in a new situation. In Wisconsin, what many assumed would be a peaceful protest, with many of the students having learned non-violent tactics in the civil rights movement, turned into a full scale riot. What started as a protest against Dow Chemical (makers of napalm) on October 18, ended up in a full scale riot. Neither students nor police were equipped to handle the situation. Only four officers in Madison had riot training. Many students, who had been ambivalent toward the war, became incensed at the police handling of the situation and became overnight radicals. A split began to occur between extremists who wanted to tear down the system and those who were just against the war. The radicals began to despise the liberals almost as much as they despised the conservatives. Maraniss provides detail into the lives of students and facility involved as well as background into the planning by both the students and the police. The weekend after the protests in Madison, many of Wisconsin’s students boarded buses to Washington DC for a march against the war. In the city, a depressed President Johnson was trying to figure it all out. Maraniss provides a behind the scene looks at the collapsing Johnson administration. This books gives insight into lives and training of the officers and soldiers in Vietnam, takes you into the boardroom of Dow Chemical, into the halls of academia and into the White House. Maraniss does an outstanding job weaving together all these threads as he recalls the events in the fall of ’67. Although I recommend this book, it’s only a start in understanding the complexity of the Vietnam War.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ted Haussman

    Sometimes, you just find that rare, absolutely fabulous book that you didn't want to end. This was one of them. A thorough piece of microhistory covering a week in October 1967 and two events -- seemingly worlds apart -- yet tied together: a horrendous ambush that elements of the First Army Infantry Division walked into in Vietnam and the protest, turned violent, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin over interviews being conducted on campus by Dow Chemical, the manufacturer of napalm. Th Sometimes, you just find that rare, absolutely fabulous book that you didn't want to end. This was one of them. A thorough piece of microhistory covering a week in October 1967 and two events -- seemingly worlds apart -- yet tied together: a horrendous ambush that elements of the First Army Infantry Division walked into in Vietnam and the protest, turned violent, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin over interviews being conducted on campus by Dow Chemical, the manufacturer of napalm. Thoroughly researched and richly told. I loved how seeming disparate threads were woven together. Just a wonderful piece of historical research and telling that evoked so many emotions.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jo Fetsco

    This is the very real, very disturbing story of the horrific ambush of the Black Lions, a U.S. infantry battalion, in Vietnam in 1967.  It is juxtaposed with the anti-war protests’ violent clashes with the police at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the attempt by President Lyndon Johnson to get re-elected while the war is still going on.  It is a very intense, poignant, very detailed read as it covers many very personal stories of those involved, with whom the reader gets to know well This is the very real, very disturbing story of the horrific ambush of the Black Lions, a U.S. infantry battalion, in Vietnam in 1967.  It is juxtaposed with the anti-war protests’ violent clashes with the police at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the attempt by President Lyndon Johnson to get re-elected while the war is still going on.  It is a very intense, poignant, very detailed read as it covers many very personal stories of those involved, with whom the reader gets to know well and empathizes. It's a difficult read because of these detailed and poignant stories.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    Excellent book which I highly recommend. Mr. Maraniss captured both sides of the American experience in the Vietnam war. If you lived in America during that time you remember the protests and the nightly news updates with body counts of American soldiers. If you served in the military, you remember the stories of those who returned, or you even experienced it yourself. The author did a great job of piecing all the stories together of soldiers, protesters, government officials, law enforcement an Excellent book which I highly recommend. Mr. Maraniss captured both sides of the American experience in the Vietnam war. If you lived in America during that time you remember the protests and the nightly news updates with body counts of American soldiers. If you served in the military, you remember the stories of those who returned, or you even experienced it yourself. The author did a great job of piecing all the stories together of soldiers, protesters, government officials, law enforcement and families. Very detailed and engaging story overall.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Gross

    Such outstanding reporting and writing. Maraniss is ever the reporter who brings out the stories, perspectives and feelings of everybody on every side of the war. You understand and empathize with absolutely everybody involved -- from the soldiers to the protesters to the Viet Cong. Quite a feat. It's many pages long, but it's no a long or slow read, as he is good at pacing and story telling. I had trouble keeping dozens of names and characters straight but I trusted his skill and assumed he'd re Such outstanding reporting and writing. Maraniss is ever the reporter who brings out the stories, perspectives and feelings of everybody on every side of the war. You understand and empathize with absolutely everybody involved -- from the soldiers to the protesters to the Viet Cong. Quite a feat. It's many pages long, but it's no a long or slow read, as he is good at pacing and story telling. I had trouble keeping dozens of names and characters straight but I trusted his skill and assumed he'd remind of who they all were when I needed to know --and he did.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gary Nass

    Excellent book and strongly researched. Clearly represents the actions and strategies behind the college protest against Dow Checmical and the Vietnam war at the University of Wisconsin. Exhaustive research on a Vietnam battle that occurred, at the same time as the UW protests, in October 1967, that needlessly claimed many American lives through interviews with the survivors and family members of those killed. A must read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    lawrence

    Very well-crafted book that uniquely ties together events at home and abroad during a climatic week in October of 1967. Balanced, well-researched, it does not try to capture the grander picture of the Vietnam war but focuses on a set of characters in two dramatic events.

  23. 4 out of 5

    K.

    Given that I attended UW/Madison in the mid-to-late-'70s, I read this one with particular interest. It's a unique triptych -- Vietnam, D.C., and Madison, WI -- that provides an expansive yet intimate perspective of the war through the lens of a single month in '67. Given that I attended UW/Madison in the mid-to-late-'70s, I read this one with particular interest. It's a unique triptych -- Vietnam, D.C., and Madison, WI -- that provides an expansive yet intimate perspective of the war through the lens of a single month in '67.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    gut wrenching must read for all anlyzers of failed american policy of american history

  25. 4 out of 5

    Todd

    Excellent book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lindy Beth

    That was long and interesting in that the accounts are real and not forest gumpy. Hard to follow so many different ppl over 500 pages but historically accurate is preferable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ted Mccormack

    An interesting juxtaposition 1967 of a significant battle in the Vietnam War with an anti-war demonstration at the University of Wisconsin.

  28. 5 out of 5

    James N Ruckh

    Great book about two events during October 1967 that reconnect many years later.

  29. 5 out of 5

    ForenSeek

    Absolutely epic story of a terrifying period. Told from various perspectives, which serves the story rather than just being a narrative gimmick. Would make an amazing film.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Frederick

    The detail was at times more than I needed over all a very good read.

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