They Marched Into Sunlight

Is there anything better than a book you simply cannot put down?  They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967 written by Pulitzer Prize winner and best selling author David Maraniss is striking a cord with me. This story set on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and a battlefield named Ong Thanh, located 40 miles north of Saigon where American soldiers walked into an ambush.

they marched into sunlightThere are so many elements of this book that make you want to slowly digest each chapter. The early chapters introduce soldiers making their way towards Lai Khe including Lt. Terry Allen, Jr. He was the son of World War II hero Army General Terry Allen.  Soliders came from around the Midwest and were eager to serve our country.

Growing up in Ohio and today living in Milwaukee I was immediately drawn to the stories of those soldiers.

Chapter Six: “Madison Wisconsin” is just a wonderful overview to the student anti-war movement of the 1960s.  One of the students involved in Madison campus protests was Paul Solgin. He has been elected Mayor of Madison three times since 1973. After his first stint as Mayor he became a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.  Today he is the current Mayor, elected in April 2011.

The student newspaper The Daily Cardinal editor-in-chief was Jeff Greenfield, current CBS senior political analyst. And former Vice President Dick Chaney was finishing his master’s degree on the Madison campus in 1967.

PBS produced an American Experience segment titled “Two Days in October” about They Marched Into Sunlight.  The BBC re-aired the program renamed “How Vietnam was lost.”  Is it any surprise that Tom Hanks’ production company Playtone, is shooting a movie based upon this book?

Continue reading “They Marched Into Sunlight”

Latest read: Matterhorn

Tonight I have just finished reading Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War and have been just amazed at how this book has strengthened my understanding of the toll of war has on American soldiers.


There seems to be a strength in Matterhorn about the unique lives of soldiers facing death.  Author Karl Marlantes served honorably in Vietnam and it proves to be the difference.

This is a story in the footsteps of Eugene Sledge’s With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa and Robert Leckie: Helmet for My Pillow.  These two books were the basis for HBO’s The Pacific series. Matterhorn now sits with Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War and Michael Herr’s Dispatches as must-read books about Vietnam.

As I continue reading The Pentagon Papers I am reminded of casualty reports, focusing on body counts as a way to gauge of victory.  Marlantes brings this to life.  It was all a lie. The soldiers knew it all too well.

Marlantes deserves all recognition surrounding this work.  The riveting story of a US soldier stationed along an ambush line mauled to death by a tiger was just as appalling as the fragging of an officer in the final pages.