Vietnam No Regrets is the story of a soldier who volunteers to fight for his country in Vietnam. He would have no idea of what he will have to go through to leave the killing fields of Vietnam alive. You will be able to follow him from his first step in-country until his very last day and see for yourself what life was like for the infantry soldier in Vietnam. This story will be told through the eyes of one individual Vietnam combat soldier, but it is a compelling story that all combat veterans will have no trouble relating ...
Vietnam No Regrets is the story of a soldier who volunteers to fight for his country in Vietnam. He would have no idea of what he will have to go through to leave the killing fields of Vietnam alive. You will be able to follow him from his first step in-country until his very last day and see for yourself what life was like for the infantry soldier in Vietnam. This story will be told through the eyes of one individual Vietnam combat soldier, but it is a compelling story that all combat veterans will have no trouble relating to.
5.0 out of 5 stars "Was This What My tour Was Deve
Written by Bernie Weisz/Historian Pembroke Pines, Florida February 27, 2010 e mail:BernWei1@aol.com
I have studied the Vietnam War in high school, and more intensively in college, but what I learned in academia as opposed to the multiple memoirs of the actual participants are 2 different accounts altogether. J. Richard Watkins shoots from the hips in this catharsis, with this memoir being penned 25 years after the fact. Official accounts of the ground war, our relationship with our allies, the South Vietnamese, the conduct of the way the North Vietnamese fought us, and especially the version of the 1970 Cambodian Incursion do not jive with what Watkins saw threw his 22 year old eyes and related on the pages of "Vietnam: No Regrets".
When the reader finishes the last page of this amazing memoir, using Watkins observations, he or she will realize that all U.S. battles with the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were "anti-climatic." Watkins wrote throughout "No Regrets" that there were no big battles when expected, especially in Cambodia. The majority of U.S. aggression was motivated by retaliation for a grunt's wounding by enemy sniping, primitive booby traps or ambushes. Our foe was a sneaky, elusive enemy who disappeared under the multiple underground caves the Communists built to avoid confrontation. Watkins writes of exciting small unit actions and ambushes in the sweltering jungle. The reason Watkins wrote about "one big need for revenge" was because of the way the N.V.A fought us. "Charlie" as the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were called, only showed himself in force when he thought the situation was favorable. After Watkins' unit, the U.S. 27 nth Infantry Division also known as the "Wolfhounds" took casualties, they undertook an avenging battle of setting up deadly ambushes in the sweltering, insect infested jungles of Vietnam.
Mr. Watkins recalled the painful task of "The Wolfhounds" vengefully pursuing the elusive enemy and attempting to ferret them out of their secretive redoubts, who for the most part frustratingly evaded capture and withdrew over and over. They disappeared in hidden, underground sanctuaries, or even more frustratingly, mingled with the local people and were bypassed by the Wolfhounds, who in turn were attacked by them from the rear at night. Watkins also wrote of a special, elite unit that pursued this insidious enemy, known as the "Tunnel Rats", who with great tenacity and braveness pursued this subterranean foe. The stories I read in Watkins' "No Regrets" made it easy for me to understand how a "My Lai Massacre" incident could occur, and even more lingering, how a Veteran could leave Vietnam with torturous P.T.S.D., based on the incidents Watkins described in this book.
Mr. Watkins does not talk much about his early life in "No Regrets". This memoir starts with the author's surprise at finding out that instead of being flown from Northern California to Vietnam via a military plane, he was transported with 160 other soldiers he had never met before aboard a United Airlines 707 Jetliner. Watkins' observations of landing in Vietnam, after a 14 hour journey that included stops in Hawaii and Guam, are noteworthy. Watkins wrote: "On our final approach for landing at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, we came in very low and very slow. From the windows of the plane we could see all the shell holes around the airport;they looked like craters on the moon, except they were a very bright green wet surface. Flying in, we could also see the small shacks that the local people called home, alongside the gun emplacements of our troops. GI's waved to us or gave us the finger as our plane flew over their positions." Watkins' last impressions as he left this "war chariot" were as follows: "As the back door of the plane opened and the outside air permeated the interior of the plane, we immediately felt the heat and humidity and the smell of Vietnam. As I looked at the sober faces of the men aboard our flight just in from the States and then looked at the stewardesses saying goodbye to us, I know that these girls might be the last American girl I ever saw. Some of the guys they were saying goodbye to would never board a flight again-alive, that is".
There is much to this memoir then I could possibly cover in this review. J. R. Watkins related the pain he experienced when his girlfriend, who promised to wait until he returned from Vietnam to marry him, sent Watkins a "Dear John" breakup letter. This callously announced that she had married another man, painfully crushing Watkins. It also interestingly served as a motivation for him to come home alive, survive the war, and confront this woman. This ultimately happened. Watkins also related the difficulty he had adjusting to the climate and insects in Vietnam, the salt pills, the leeches, the constant wetness of the "monsoon season", and his addiction to the enticing action and excitement of "combat adrenaline". Watkins reviewed the weapons of this war, the fear and awesome devastation of "B-52" air strikes, and the inferno of pain, destruction and fire that napalm caused (Watkins said this was invented by the "devil himself") He also recalled with chilling details his near brush with capture, being thrown from a helicopter from 15 feet up in the middle of a field swarming with the N.V.A. However, I would like to end this review with a quote from Mr. Watkins, whose theme was an undercurrent throughout the book that I named this review as such.
Mr. Watkins, who I believe spoke for the majority of current Vietnam Veterans, lamented about the Vietnam War in retrospect as follows: "we would always be looking for "payback"-the more, the better. The feelings of the men that actually fought the "Vietnam War" was that the more of the enemy we could kill, the less of them there would be to kill. I know that thinking sounds kind of weird now, but at the time it made complete sense to us." The concluding comment of this review should put things in perspective. Mr. Watkins asserted about his experiences as a "Wolfhound", the 60,000 names of the dead on "The Wall" in the nation's capital and the way the conflict ended as follows: "As I look back on it now, my feelings aren't any different today than they were then. It wasn't worth it one bit, I thought it had stunk then and I still do today. But once the fighting began and the adrenaline started to flow and the willingness to kill and the desire to live kicked in, all bets were off. We took our chances for our country in one way or another and prayed for the best. As my time in-country dragged on and I became more hardened and experienced, I would tune out the possibility that I too could be wounded or killed. After a while one doesn't really believe he will be making it home anyway. We tried to survive day to day and not worry about what tomorrow may bring-tomorrow was out of our control and was going to take care of itself on way or another. We were all at fate's mercy and there wasn't much we could do about it. For in Vietnam, tomorrow was promised to no one". J. Richard Watkins' "Vietnam: No Regrets" is an essential read and an important, intelligently written memoir that will bring nuances and innuendo about this tragic slice of American history to life in a rare, unforgettable and vibrant way
Nov 2, 2008
Soldier Shares Personal View of Vietnam
Vietnam: No Regrets One Soldier?s Tour of Duty By J. Richard Watkins Aventine Press ISBN: 1593303033 193 Pages
Goo-oood Morning Vietnam! In an almost journalistic, diary style, J. Richard Watkins presents his own story in Vietnam: No Regrets ? One Soldier?s Tour of Duty.
When a boy becomes a man in Vietnam, we cry with him. We feel his fear. We hear his prayers. And we rejoice when, after it is over, it is to his mother?s arms he first goes. For by now, his greatest fear is whether or not the unconditional love will still be there for him. Or will his parents be able to see right away how he has changed, what he has done? And will they turn away in disgust from this man that is still their son? As I read the Epilogue of the most comprehensive coverage I have thus far read from a soldier?s viewpoint, only then did my tears run. For after all that he?d been through, this soldier?s greatest fear was indeed whether he would or could go back within the warmth and comfort of his family and friends without their seeing, somehow, what he had done. There¾in the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia.
For the majority of time, Watkins was a radio transmission operator whose duty was to communicate with the artillery batteries to call for artillery support when needed. That meant that he was always with the commander of the unit?and he was always right at the front! Watkins? non-fiction narrative is packed with memories, fresh in his mind, though he left Vietnam in 1970. If I were reading it without knowing the date of its being published, I would have thought he was there, writing for a newspaper, or in a journal. His message is frank, open, and honest. His views are his own, but he?s willing to share them. These are the facts, as he knows them, and he?s willing to state them loudly and clearly!
For the average person back in the States, I never knew, for instance, that the Infantry was the man on the line. ?The army?s rule of thumb was that out of every ten soldiers in-country, nine of the ten would be giving support to the ones that were actually in a real combat situation.? (p.69) What that means in actual numbers was that it was only about 40-50,000 men who actually fought on the front lines?it was ?the Infantry and then there was everyone else.? Those are the men who trudged through the jungles hunting the enemy. They are the men who stood duty during the monsoon rains through which they could not see the man next to them. They were the men who risked their lives?the ?same? men moving from place to place. Now there was a turnover within the Infantry. Most had tours of three months. Watkins, for an unknown reason, was there six months before he got his first R&R. He had gone over his immediate superior?s head to ensure he was able to leave.
It was not the first time I had learned that many men died in this war due to actions by their superiors. One of the most incredible stories shared by Watkins was when a new officer volunteered for them to immediately leave on a rescue mission to try to save a group of Green Berets, even though they had just returned from an extensive patrol. Once there and in the midst of battle, the reality of this officer?s decision became apparent even to him as they ran out of water, food and other necessities and he had to send for emergency support. The new officer had acted without regard to the safety and needs of his own men! And everybody knew it long before he did!
A major contribution toward the value of Vietnam: No Regrets is inclusion of pictures. Additionally, his almost-journalistic approach to reporting on the beauty of Vietnam from the air, as well as actually riding in the helicopters, and in his openness on sharing his times away from base?both in the jungles and out, make for a more informative reading. I think I enjoyed most his quick decision to ?find? his way to see his best friend who was in the Marines and how he hopped rides to get there and back. I could almost envision the look of surprise, shock and pleasure when they stood looking at each other once Watkins had found him! Finally, his open inclusion of the heartache caused by a ?Dear John? letter should make any woman who ever considered writing one to a serviceman immediately change her mind!
Watkins shares that he quickly learned ?tomorrow was promised to no one.? (p. 79) He shares that when you are in the midst of battle, you want to be gone; but once you are out, you miss the adrenaline and want to be back. It works for the time period in which you do battle. But his greatest advice, received almost as soon as he was there, was to be sure to leave everything behind when he left. Watkins remembered that advice, and as his tour ended, he worked hard to ensure that he was able to do that!
Perhaps this book illustrates that those men will never be able to truly forget their time in Vietnam. Vietnam: No Regrets is graphic in its violence, the need to seek out and destroy the enemy while ensuring that their own men were not hurt. It includes mistakes made, but it includes prayers lifted up in both supplication and gratefulness. Watkins made it through Vietnam and has shared a major part of his life as a member of Alpha Company 1/27 Wolfhounds, Twenty-fifth Infantry Division. Thank you!
It seems to me that young men leaving for the service, going into war, would benefit from this book. But would it be preparation? According to Watkins, probably not, because what was experienced in battle must be experienced to understand it! Still, Watkins presents an effective balance in his book and, in my opinion, has presented a major contribution to the story of Vietnam. For those who are searching for answers about a war that many will not even talk about, this is a Must-Read.
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