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Book Review – The Gunner and the Grunt


The Gunner and the Grunt
Kelley and Burbank, Casemate, ISBN: 978-1-63624-243-6, Hardback, 196pp, 6×9”, RRP: £32.95

This is the story of two Boston guys who both enlisted in the U.S. Army, and met up in Vietnam. The story details their separate stories in different chapters, on their growing up, and very different reasons for enlistment. For Michael Kelley, the plan was to get a trade as a helicopter mechanic, then get posted to Germany for the frauleins and beer…. That did not go as planned! The Army does not always allow career paths to come to fruition, and he ended up in Vietnam. There, casualties meant that he went from mechanic to crew chief manning a door gun on a Huey.
While Pete Burbank was keen to become a combat paratrooper, did all the training, but could not get into a combat. He ended up resigning then re-applying to get into the !st Air Cavalry. This book not only describes life for a soldier in that era, both stateside and in Vietnam, but also records the social history of the time. The comparatively ‘liberal’ minded Michael was very surprised to encounter the racial segregation encountered in the Southern states, although the army had de-segregated several years earlier.
The names of the operations ‘in country’ are noted, but the descriptions are from the author’s point of view. Thrown in at the deep end, both men describe their experiences, their introduction to life in the field, and their fellow soldiers. Michael also got the opportunity to see what life was like in the base areas, and for officers when he visited his sister a commissioned nurse.
As important as the telling of their time in ‘Nam, is their stories after coming home. Both men suffered PTSD, but of course, it was not recognised at the time. They both managed to have successful careers, and both joined the National Guard. Michael also got involved in helping his fellow veterans, including his friend from Vietnam, Pete.
A terrific read, for anyone, but with a lot of interest to the historian, wargamer or model-maker.
Highly recommended.
Review copy kindly supplied by www.casematepublishers.co.uk

Paul Middleton MAFVA 1528


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