Mike Holiday’s A Marine’s Journal: Feb. ’67 – Feb ’68 (Abbott Press, 218 pp., $15.99, paper; $3.99, Kindle) looks like a published journal by a Marine dealing with his thirteen-month Vietnam War tour. However, we learn in that it is much more complicated than that.
This book is based on real events that either happened to the author or to someone he knew. “I have decided to label this work as fiction, ” Holiday writes, because memory becomes clouded. The names are fictitious but the people are all real, we are told. That is as clear as mud.
I doubt that many teen-age Marines who left high school early spent time in Vietnam keeping a journal, but Mike Holiday did. It is apparent that Holiday is an exceptional person, and not just because the way he deals with mindless authority and sergeants who find a button unbuttoned more important than common sense and saving lives.
The book is told in a complex format that works, but at first it is a bit hard to follow. Holiday alternates first-person commentary journal entries with current third-person point of view which expands and explains them. Plus he sometimes goes off on jarring rants about war protesters and commies trying to take over the world just like the Nazis did and how the Vietnamese didn’t seem to appreciate that the United States was there to save them from communism.
Holiday makes no bones about his agenda in this book. “Despite revisionist history, most of the young men who fought in the war were not dopers, potheads, murderers or baby killers as the liberal media and liberal society have painted them over the years.” Holiday’s book shows us “the written voice” of an “eighteen or nineteen year old, from traditional America…. A youthful patriot.”
A Marine’s Journal is far more complex than the author’s stated agenda would lead us to think. Holiday was told by his stepmother when he left for Vietnam that she hoped he’d die so she’d never have to see him again. Also one of the strongest episodes in the book shows a Marine killing a baby by punching him in the head to make him be quiet and not give away their position to enemy soldiers.
“This was war, ” Holiday says. “This was not murder.” Nevertheless, a dead baby was the result.
When Holiday arrived in Vietnam, he was briefly assigned to Headquarters, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, on the late-night shift as a radioman. During the day he put up concertina wire, dug trenches, and burned shit. He soon volunteered for the field where he carried the thirty-pound PRC 25 radio and called in artillery support for his platoon when they needed it, which was very often.
A Marine’s Journal contains most of the usual references that are found in a Marine Corps memoir of the Vietnam War, but there are some new ones, too. I had never encountered the term “Billy Boat Band” for a newbie before. Or “Funewgy” for fucking new guy. There is an excellent glossary at the end of this book, but it is not in alphabetical order.
With the help of an editor to smooth out repetitions, misprints and typos, and the deletion of some of the boring rants, this book could have been one of the classic Marine Corps journals of the Vietnam War. If Holiday says it once, he says it a hundred times in many ways: “We were dying to save a backward country from takeover by communists.”
Still, the book is well worth reading. I give Holiday huge credit for never mentioning Jane Fonda, John Wayne, or Bob Hope. Also, I give him big credit for the epiphany he had in Vietnam about going to college to become a teacher when he got out of the Marines so he could make a positive contribution to American society.
Holliday did that. He has my respect.