Humping Heavy by Philip Duncan Hoffmann | Books in Review

HH cover
When they passed out MOS’s, Philip Duncan Hoffmann inexplicably drew a slot in Arizona where, as an 05-B2H, he taught radio procedure. It was a great life, but some months later,  
just as inexplicably, the Army sent him to Vietnam. Hoffmann’s  Humping Hea vy: A Viet nam Memoir (CreateSpace, 230 pp., $12.99, paper) is the record of how he coped.

Pretty typically, it turns out—and very well. Outraged and afraid, Hoffmann screamed all the way to the bush trying to impress various commanders that he was a trained radio operator. But in the boonies, Hoffmann couldn’t cut it.

His first no-nonsense captain gave him a shot at becoming a company RTO, displacing a battle-seasoned soldier who’d worked his way up from squad-level. Hoffmann didn’t understand the pace of combat operations, and was badly out of shape from those halcyon days in Arizona. Soon enough, he was bounced down to squad level.

But he got in shape, proved capable in firefights, and finally worked his way back to base camp, and a relatively cushy rear job. This all occurred in 1968 and 1969, when the 1 st Cav, Hoffmann’s outfit, left I Corps for III Corps—an important juncture in the war.

The historical background information Hoffmann includes in the book is accurate and impressive. His details are impressive, too, considering how much time has passed. He spent hours of research at the National Archives in Maryland to help reconstruct it all. His book is clearly a labor of love.

It’s well written, too, except for the occasional literary flourish (his lamentable try at dialogue in a Western). Hoffmann does settle a few grudges, and the reader could perhaps have done without his account of his R & R in Taipei.

Even Taipei, however, attests to Hoffmann’s scrupulous honesty. He’s written an honest, straightforward memoir.

—John Mort


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