Hidden Army by Lawrence Rock | Books in Review


VVA member Lawrence Rock was a sergeant in the U. S. Marine Corps from 1964-67. He is the editor of a previous book on Vietnam War support troops, The Tooth and the Tail .  A disclaimer: I reviewed that book  in Books in Review II , and my positive review is quoted in Rock’s new book—Hidden Army: Support Troops Types in Vietnam: An Oral History  (CreateSpace, 346 pp., $14.99, paper).

Hidden Army is well organized into subject chapters with clear headings such as “The Blue Water Navy, Early Years, ” “Supply Logistics Support, ” “Medical Support, ” and so on down to Chapter 10, “The Blue Water Navy, the Later Years.”  Because I was an Army stenographer in Vietnam, I turned first to the “Administrative Staff Support” chapter. This thirty-page chapter is clearly organized and arranged, with a brief introduction and then lists the names, identities, and ranks of those interviewed.

I immediately hit gold when I read about Army Spec4 William Harkins, an ammo specialist at Long Binh, who matter-of-factly describes a detail he was on when he first arrived in Vietnam, “spreading Agent Orange around our perimeter.”  I “do not remember inhaling any spray, ” Harkins says, “but I do remember the defoliant coming into contact with my hands.”  Since I have developed Multiple Myeloma caused by my exposure to Agent Orange while I was stationed at Long Binh Post in 1967, this bit of first-person evidence of AO being applied there was of high interest to me.

This entire book is packed with such revelations, and every page is worth reading. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to truly get a sense of how it was in Vietnam for the almost 90 percent of us who served as support troops.

The book does not have an index, so you’ll have to read all of it to find a precious nugget that hits you in the heart. It is worth the effort.

—David Willson

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