10 May 2005

Book Review: Dear Mom, a Sniper's Vietnam, by Joseph T. Ward, ***

The letters Joseph Ward, one of the elite Marine Scout Snipers, wrote home reveal a side of the Vietnam war seldom seen. Whether under nigthly mortar attack in An Hoa, with a Marine company in the bullet-scarred jungle, on secret missions to Laos, or on dangerous two-man hunter-kills, Ward lived the war in a way few men did. And he fought the enemy as few men did--up close and personal.

This book was never meant to win the Pulitzer prize, but a little more editing on the part of the publisher would not have hurt! But then again, you don't expect great literature from a Marine sniper. What you do expect, and the reader gets plenty of it here, is a true front line account of the dangerous life of a sniper in the Vietnam war.

Ward writes about a lot more than sniping. He recounts his experience at the front, which he lived through a very special perspective because he was not a normal soldier but part of an elite. Some episodes sound a bit like semi-fiction, and I am in no position to tell. But I have read a lot about the war and even if he did fill in fictitious details (but why would he anyway?) they are not unrealistic.

Don't look for sophisticated political or sociological analysis here about the war or life in Vietnam in that period, but then again this is not why we bought this book is it? I recommend it for what it is: a passionately felt account of a soldier writing to his mom about his war, his fears, his feelings.

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