Leslie A. Chapman joined the Army in August of 1966 when he was eighteen years old. After Basic Training at Fort Ord and jump school at Fort Benning, he volunteered for Special Forces and went to Fort Bragg for Greet Beret training. “I took to the Army like a fish to water, ” Chapman says in his detailed, combat-heavy, well-written memoir, Secret Soldiers of the Second Army (AuthorHouse, 386 pp., $30, hardcover; $19.99, paperback).
Chapman put in four tours in Vietnam, the first with Company C, 5th Special Forces Group, and the following three with MACV’s Studies and Observations Group-Command and Control North (MACV-SOG-CCN) . He saw more than his share of action serving on deep-penetration recon missions and as a Forward Air Controller. Chapman received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, and five Bronze Stars, among other medals.
Les Chapman describes his war experiences evocatively. Here’s one passage, from Chapman’s first tour when he and his men mounted an assault on an NVA position after the enemy had been hit by napalm.
“It felt like we were moving within the reels of a black and white movie, ” Chapman writes. “We were right in the middle of a hornet’s nest. The mental stress was almost unbelievable. I looked over my left shoulder at our fourteen year old Baby-Son, the youngest member of our [ARVN group]. His eyes were filled with confusion and fear. Like the rest of us, he had no idea what he was facing.
“Catching his glance, I nodded my head up and down as a silent gesture of encouragement to him. Our eyes locked together. Just then, I heard the dreaded fizzing of a B-40 self-propelled rocket taking flight. Before we were able to dive to the ground, I was drenched in blood and pieces of flesh. I look for [the young ARVN soldier]; all that I could see was a cloud of gray smoke where he’d been.”