Description: Equally appealing for classroom use and general readers, this book provides a fresh approach to understanding the American combat soldier's experience in Vietnam that integrates such topics as the political culture, the experiences of training, the actual Vietnam experience, and the "homecoming." It offers a remarkable overview of the 870,000 "grunts" who bore the brunt of the fighting in the jungles and highlands of South Vietnam, and eventually Cambodia and Laos.
The book addresses many of the stereotypes of the Vietnam combat veteran that have been perpetuated in popular culture, and also considers how Vietnam veterans have been commemorated through memorials and other means, and how the veterans remember each other. Coverage also includes women who served in or near the front lines as well as on the home front. The author draws on memoirs and oral histories including his personal interviews with veterans, but the book conveys a picture of the Vietnam combat soldier's experience far more powerful than what individual memoirs can provide.
Chapter 1. Johnny Get Your Gun: Decisions to Enter the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War
Comment(s): " Grunts: The American Combat Soldier in Vietnam is the most extensive and moving account of the experience of young Americans sent to war that I have read. Using the widest possible variety of sources, Longley traces his subjects from the moment they show up for their physicals to the time when they return home--or don't. His canvas is vast and he peoples it vividly, from patriot to protestor and the many degrees in between. Longley's sensitive book is an all too timely reminder of the realities of war." -- Marilyn B. Young, New York University, author of The Vietnam Wars 1945-1990
Review(s): " Grunts is a book that has been overdue in the historiography of the American combat soldier's experience in twentieth-century warfare. Longley excels at synthesizing the recurrent themes one finds in service members' accounts. To this end, his work is a voice for the Vietnam veterans who could never fully piece together and put into words what they endured. By creating a work that removes the focus from how painful the Vietnam War was for the nation and rightfully placing the spotlight back on the servicemen who bore the agony and burden of combat, as well as their families, Grunts is a monument to the Vietnam veteran. It is more than a compilation of some of the best anecdotes of the war. It is an exhaustively researched and analyzed work, and a logical starting point for those who wish to understand soldiers' and marines' experiences in a war that many people still struggle to fathom." -- Army History
"Throughout his book, Longley incorporates personal examples of soldiers and marines going through different phases of their military careers. These personal examples are the glue holding his story together and capture the reader's attention; they are the real strength of the book. Longley does a great job in giving the reader an overview of the conflict from the infantryman's perspective of his return from the war. His book is well researched and documented, with voluminous notes and citations. This book is recommended for those desiring an overview of the Vietnam War from the grunt's point of view." -- On Point: The Journal of Army History
" Grunts details the experiences of the American soldiers in Vietnam, from how the boys were raised to become soldiers to the impact of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It contains extensive footnotes and a comprehensive bibliography. The scholarly format makes it suitable for classroom use while the author's engaging style makes it appealing to general readers." -- The Journal of Military History