Xin Loi, Viet Nam: Thirty-one Months Of War: A Soldier's Memoir by Al Sever

Xin Loi, Viet Nam: Thirty-one Months Of War: A Soldier's Memoir

byAl Sever

Mass Market Paperback | March 1, 2005

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No one in Vietnam had to tell door gunner and gunship crew chief Al Sever that the odds didn’t look good. He volunteered for the job well aware that hanging out of slow-moving choppers over hot LZs blazing with enemy fire was not conducive to a long life. But that wasn’t going to stop Specialist Sever.

From Da Nang to Cu Chi and the Mekong Delta, Sever spent thirty-one months in Vietnam, fighting in eleven of the war’s sixteen campaigns. Every morning when his gunship lifted off, often to the clacking and muzzle flashes of AK-47s hidden in the dawn fog, Sever knew he might not return. This raw, gritty, gut-wrenching firsthand account of American boys fighting and dying in Vietnam captures all the hell, horror, and heroism of that tragic war.
AL SEVER, a crew member on various types of helicopters, served in Vietnam from the heavy combat days of 1968 to the moral and physical disintegration of our forces in 1972. From the Delta to the DMZ, he observed the varied facets of the war as the opposing armies clashed and maneuvered throughout the country. He lives in Montoursville...
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Title:Xin Loi, Viet Nam: Thirty-one Months Of War: A Soldier's MemoirFormat:Mass Market PaperbackProduct dimensions:336 pages, 6.85 X 4.19 X 0.7 inShipping dimensions:336 pages, 6.85 X 4.19 X 0.7 inPublished:March 1, 2005Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0891418563

ISBN - 13:9780891418566

Appropriate for ages: All ages

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Anthracite coal country, hard coal and hard times, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, is where I''m from. Not a prosperous place during my youth, it still isn''t. Energy competition from fuel oil and natural gas had made most coal mines in the county uneconomical after World War II and Schuylkill County, instead of joining the country''s postwar boom, slipped back toward the Depression. Growing up, it was rare to see neighbors buy new cars, eat in restaurants or take a vacation. Our families seemed to just barely get by. But, since everyone was in the same economic boat, we young people felt the situation was probably the same everywhere. While television and movies indicated there was a prosperous life out there, we tended to regard such indications as fairy tales.   Our small town was a typical mining community, probably extinct in America today. It was a town of four thousand people with two movie theaters, two supermarkets, thirty-five bars and twenty-seven churches. Like other nearby mining towns, ours had a lot of bars because they were the social meeting places for neighborhoods. There were a lot of churches because no one would ever think of going to church with people of a different nationality. We might work together, go to school together and drink together, but, whether Catholic or Protestant, church was for those of your own ethnic group from the old country. We grew up hearing a dozen foreign languages spoken on our block, and being American kids, we learned none of them.   We didn''t have many diversions growing up and were left to find our own amusements. Society catered to adults then, not children. Like all teenagers we talked about what we were going to do and where we would go, and we were all sure that we would never stay in Saint Clair. Judging from our environment, life was going to be a struggle to get by, but we realized the struggle probably would be easier somewhere else. There were quite a few boys in my high school class who looked to the military as a way of escaping the reality of closed coal mines.   The older males we knew were strictly blue-collar workers whose biggest adventure in life was to have served in the Big War, WWII. We grew up hearing stories of our relatives and neighbors conquering the Japanese and Germans. They had marched through Burma; sailed the Pacific and North Atlantic; parachuted into France; blown up a bank and filled knapsacks with jewels in Belgium; lost their booty in German counterattacks; were the Bulge at Bastogne; drove the first tank into Manila.   After WWII stories, it seemed that every adult''s second favorite conversation was to complain about every level of government. Yet it was somehow understood that everyone was expected to back the government and its policies, no matter what their personal feelings might be about those policies. During the Viet Nam War years, adult discussions always generalized the conflict as a waste of time, money and lives, but there was never what would be called an anti-war mentality. Instead, conversations were slanted toward the stupidity of those in charge. It made no sense to our citizens that the government would expend such energy and funds on an unknown third world country like Viet Nam. Who cared if it went Communist? To those who had fought for continents, wasting years and men for rice paddies and jungle was incomprehensible. Where was the Paris to liberate? Where was the evil madman to destroy? Our television news programs showed American troops burning peasant homes and villages, not liberating them.   A stranger might have thought there was a lack of support in our country for the war in Viet Nam. Not true. In our communities, it was accepted that, if a young man was of military draft age, he should anticipate serving in the armed forces. There were very few draft dodgers in our county and no organized antiwar movement. If drafted, a young man was expected to serve honorably. There was no lack of support for the common soldier.   While the draft was accepted as part of our lives, it was also the local consensus that, while one might be drafted, no one would be so foolish as to actually join the U.S. Army. If you were going to volunteer, join the Navy, the Air Force or even the Marines. Any armed service but the Army. Most of the older men remembering World War II thought that the Army wasted its troops, using them as cannon fodder. In their opinion, the Army of World War II fought a war of attrition—the favorite tactic being a human wave attack. Joining the Navy or Air Force would at least mean a bed to sleep in and three hot meals a day. As for the Marines, our local veterans believed the Navy invented the Marines so that sailors wouldn''t have to march in parades. Since most of our local veterans had served in the Army during World War II, they always rooted for Navy in the annual Army-Navy football game and strongly suggested that young men consider enlistment in other branches of the armed forces.   For those of us in high school in the 1960s, there didn''t appear to be many choices for the future. I doubt if any of us really knew what we wanted to do with our lives; we had no awareness of choices available. The military seemed the only profession interested in us—they sent recruiters to the high school to talk to seniors. We were not the sons of doctors, lawyers or engineers and had no contact with people who were professionals. We were expected to find blue-collar work.   I think back on high school as a warehouse for teenagers rather than an educational institution. It''s surprising more of us didn''t quit school. Even though fighting was occurring in Viet Nam, most of us knew older boys in the military and knew that relatively few troops were sent to Viet Nam. Local boys were coming home on leave from Iceland, Spain, Germany, Korea and other countries, but I knew of only two local boys who had gone to Viet Nam in 1966. When I graduated in June 1966, approximately 25 percent of my senior class had enlisted in the military. I was the only one going into the Army.   Why did I join the Army? I viewed the military as an escape from small-town boredom and monotony. I wanted to experience adventure in capital letters. All through my senior year the news media were full of stories about the conflict in Viet Nam. I noticed most stories included helicopters. At eighteen, I wanted to experience war—and helicopters. The U.S. Army seemed to be the way to go. I couldn''t understand how other eighteen-year-old boys could consider joining the military to drive trucks, type, cook, et cetera. I picked helicopter training, not to learn a trade, but to ensure that I would get into combat.   I doubt if very many boys of my age enlisted to purposely serve in Viet Nam. Many young men were doing everything they could to avoid serving anywhere. Quite a few of them would regret not having served with those who went. But we didn''t really need them and they probably would have only slowed us down. I believe that Viet Nam was my generation''s chance to do something unusual, and I had no intention of not participating in history. I was one of those boys of fighting age who were afraid to miss the action.   Eight days following my graduation from high school, I raised my right hand and vowed to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Ten minutes later, I was boarding a bus headed south to Fort Gordon, Georgia, for basic training. Two hundred and thirty-nine young men and I were to spend eight weeks in Georgia under a hot summer sun learning the basic skills expected of every soldier in the U.S. Army. Here we would learn Close Order Drill (march in formation everywhere); military courtesy (everyone who outranked us should be considered a god); first aid (never use your battle dressing to bandage anyone else; save your clean battle dressing for your own wounds); the M-14 rifle (it''s heavy so that when we ran out of ammunition, we could use it to beat someone to death); bayonet drill (tai chi); squadtactics (the guy behind you is more likely to shoot you than the enemy).   We were welcomed to Fort Gordon by screaming drill sergeants who intimidated us before we even were out of our bus. Our first group activity was to march to the barber to get haircuts so that we would look alike. The military haircuts showed we had something in common—whether city boys or country, northern Yankees or southern rebels—scars on our heads from rock fights.   We were measured for clothes and boots and were soon issued our clean, bright olive drab fatigues and black combat boots. During the next two months we would turn our clothes white with salt deposits from our sweat, while our boots would shine like mirrors from constant “spit shining.” All civilian clothes worn on our trip to Georgia were either shipped home or thrown away. We would be wearing nothing except green for a long time.   My new home in Georgia would be an old two-story barracks built as a temporary building in World War II. Thirty men to one large room on each floor with no privacy whatsoever. We slept in bunk beds and soon learned why, if given a choice, a soldier always took a top bunk. No one sat on it to mess it up. Our clothes were hung on the wall behind the bunks in a prearranged order—no fancy wall lockers here. Our footlockers sat in the barracks'' center aisle and held small folded items like underwear and socks. The footlocker also held mandatory personal gear such as toothbrush and tooth powder (toothpaste was not allowed); shaving brush and shaving soap (no shaving cream allowed); a razor with five extra double-edge blades, no more, no less; comb (mandatory, even though we had no hair); cleaning items— shoe polish, br

Editorial Reviews

“A grunt’s-eye view of the Vietnam War by a good soldier.”
–DAVID HACKWORTH

Xin Loi, Viet Nam lays it all on the line. . . . A story that every reader who wants to feel part of the battles he fought should know.”
–WILLIAM R. PHILLIPS, author of Night of the Silver Stars: The Battle of Lang Vei