Tuesday 7 May 2019



A riveting memoir of one marine rifleman's journey from Parris Island through the hell of Vietnam and the Tet Offensive with the Second Battalion, Fourth Marines.

In 1967, a young E. Michael Helms boarded a bus to the legendary grounds of Parris Island, where mere boys were forged into hardened Marines—and sent to the jungles of Vietnam. It was the first stop on a journey that would forever change him—and by its end, he would be awarded the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Citation, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.

From the brutality and endurance-straining ordeals of boot camp to the endless horror of combat, Helms paints a vivid, unflinchingly realistic depiction of the lives of Marines in training and under fire. As powerful and compelling a battlefield memoir as any ever written, Helms's “grunt's-eye” view of the Vietnam War, the men who fought it, and the mindless chaos that surrounded it, is truly a modern military classic.

My second Vietnam related read this year and a much more engaging read than the last one, thankfully.

We follow Michael Helms' progress through boot camp and into the '67 hell hole of Vietnam.

Physical pain, training, friendship, regrets, excitement, competitiveness, pride, nerves, homesickness followed by shipping out and........ fear, terror, sleeplessness, combat, blood, injury, death, loss, futility, stupidity, jungle warfare, patrols, booby traps, walking point, near misses, bravery, responsibility, loyalty, foot rot, cold, damp, misery, grief, a transition from FNG status to war weary troop, calendar counting, physical beauty and appreciation of the country, offset by inherent dangers at every turn, firefights, eventual injury and hospitalisation and in time a safe return home.

I enjoyed Michael Helms' account of his time in the Marines - probably more than he did enduring the realities of an ill-thought out foreign war, as a young man in the 60s. Helms paints a memorable picture of the horror and fears of jungle combat. There's blood and death and grief and loss aplenty, but it's offset by humour - bleak and dark in places granted - and friendship and service and loyalty.

Not an experience I would wish on anyone, friend or foe. If only we all suffered from Trump-like bone spurs.

4.5 from 5

I've enjoyed E. Michael Helms' fiction before - Deadly Catch, Deadly Ruse and Deadly Dunes and still have some catching up to do with the fourth in his Mac McClellan series - Deadly Spirits.

Read in April, 2019
Published - 1990
Page count - 273
Source - review copy from author
Format - kindle


  1. I have to admit, Col, that war memoirs are generally not my thing. But this sounds like a fascinating look at that time, and I know Helms is a skilled writer. I'm glad you enjoyed this.

    1. Thanks Margot. I did enjoy Michael's prose and learning about his experiences

  2. Thanks for the review, Col, and for your comments, Margot (shall I say here how much you are missed?). Very much appreciated!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Michael. I'm glad you shared your experiences. Ditto your sentiments re Margot.

  3. More your thing than mine, Col, but it's good to know it's out there.

    1. Not everyone's thing granted, worked me for me though.

  4. This sounds like a good and interesting book that I would not enjoy reading. I am glad you liked it.

    1. Thanks Tracy. His fiction might be more to your taste.