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Platoon Leader: A Memoir of Command in Combat

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A remarkable memoir of small-unit leadership and the coming of age of a young soldier in combat in Vietnam.' "Using a lean style and a sense of pacing drawn from the tautest of novels, McDonough has produced a gripping account of his first command, a U.S. platoon taking part in the 'strategic hamlet' program. . . . Rather than present a potpourri of combat yarns. . . McDono A remarkable memoir of small-unit leadership and the coming of age of a young soldier in combat in Vietnam.' "Using a lean style and a sense of pacing drawn from the tautest of novels, McDonough has produced a gripping account of his first command, a U.S. platoon taking part in the 'strategic hamlet' program. . . . Rather than present a potpourri of combat yarns. . . McDonough has focused a seasoned storyteller's eye on the details, people, and incidents that best communicate a visceral feel of command under fire. . . . For the author's honesty and literary craftsmanship, Platoon Leader seems destined to be read for a long time by second lieutenants trying to prepare for the future, veterans trying to remember the past, and civilians trying to understand what the profession of arms is all about."-Army Times


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A remarkable memoir of small-unit leadership and the coming of age of a young soldier in combat in Vietnam.' "Using a lean style and a sense of pacing drawn from the tautest of novels, McDonough has produced a gripping account of his first command, a U.S. platoon taking part in the 'strategic hamlet' program. . . . Rather than present a potpourri of combat yarns. . . McDono A remarkable memoir of small-unit leadership and the coming of age of a young soldier in combat in Vietnam.' "Using a lean style and a sense of pacing drawn from the tautest of novels, McDonough has produced a gripping account of his first command, a U.S. platoon taking part in the 'strategic hamlet' program. . . . Rather than present a potpourri of combat yarns. . . McDonough has focused a seasoned storyteller's eye on the details, people, and incidents that best communicate a visceral feel of command under fire. . . . For the author's honesty and literary craftsmanship, Platoon Leader seems destined to be read for a long time by second lieutenants trying to prepare for the future, veterans trying to remember the past, and civilians trying to understand what the profession of arms is all about."-Army Times

30 review for Platoon Leader: A Memoir of Command in Combat

  1. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    Platoon Leader was a book my dad gave to me saying, "Here. This is a great book I had to read in college." I looked at the cover with mixed feelings at first, apprehensive about reading it. Then I started to read it and eventually I couldn't put it down! I definitely would rate this book a 10 out of 10. It starts out the story by talking about his leaving Vietnam and then him at home later in his life and flashing back to his experiences leading up to West Point, and then his deployment. It then Platoon Leader was a book my dad gave to me saying, "Here. This is a great book I had to read in college." I looked at the cover with mixed feelings at first, apprehensive about reading it. Then I started to read it and eventually I couldn't put it down! I definitely would rate this book a 10 out of 10. It starts out the story by talking about his leaving Vietnam and then him at home later in his life and flashing back to his experiences leading up to West Point, and then his deployment. It then traced his entire tour up to the final battle in which he lost the village he was told to defend at all costs. The story was very enticing and was based on this man's actual story from serving in Vietnam. That was one of the reasons I enjoyed it as well as didn't enjoy it. As I read the book there were many gruesome descriptions of injuries and other forms of violence that reflect the horrors of Vietnam. That is why that is a reason I both enjoyed it as well as didn't enjoy it. I enjoyed the fact that it wasn't some random person trying to make war seem glorious. It was a man who had experienced it first hand telling of how horrible it was. Another reason I would rate it as such and recommend it to other people is because it is written almost like a novel and the characters are so real because they were real people. It is not a boring book on tactics and how they work in theory. It was a man trying to do his best to lead men in combat. The final reason I would recommend this book is mainly for those interested in a military career. It explains very well how to be a leader and how to lead men in a place where even angels fear to tread. To conclude my review I would encourage people of all ages and people of all interests to read this book. Especially those who may have to face such violence as in Vietnam. Never forget the sacrifices made so that we can live as we do.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marty

    Colonel McDonough was my commander many years ago... He was a fine leader, and so was his son who I also has the pleasure of working for for a short period of time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hans

    One of the things that has always intrigued me about Vietnam War stories is the attempts to make sense of the pure senselessness. A world without rules, mercy and pure ruthless reality. How can one cope with being thrown into the middle of chaos from a structured society? I can't imagine the unbelievable psychological pain that American Veterans went through. When you grow up in a world where things at least on the surface seem to make sense and at least follow some rules, one might be tempted t One of the things that has always intrigued me about Vietnam War stories is the attempts to make sense of the pure senselessness. A world without rules, mercy and pure ruthless reality. How can one cope with being thrown into the middle of chaos from a structured society? I can't imagine the unbelievable psychological pain that American Veterans went through. When you grow up in a world where things at least on the surface seem to make sense and at least follow some rules, one might be tempted to assume that life should and is that way. Only to have the world and all its pretenses ripped apart the second you hold a man dying from violence in your arms.

  4. 4 out of 5

    William Bahr

    Follow Me! I bought, read, and got this outstanding book autographed by the author, my West Point classmate, many years ago. While you can read other reviews that describe various intriguing aspects of the book, this review is more about the author. Granted, he tells you in his first chapters that he went to West Point and was a boxing champion, but not much beyond that, and you only come to learn about him through his Vietnam experience. Here, I’d like to give you a little more about him, “follo Follow Me! I bought, read, and got this outstanding book autographed by the author, my West Point classmate, many years ago. While you can read other reviews that describe various intriguing aspects of the book, this review is more about the author. Granted, he tells you in his first chapters that he went to West Point and was a boxing champion, but not much beyond that, and you only come to learn about him through his Vietnam experience. Here, I’d like to give you a little more about him, “following” his career, so that you can better appreciate the brilliant mind that crafted this book, a military classic that is required reading at West Point and ROTC. Jim graduated with honors (number 26 out of 800 graduates; around the top 3%) at the United States Military Academy Class of 1969. After graduation, he attended the Airborne, Ranger, and Jungle Warfare schools before his deployment to South Vietnam with the storied 173d Airborne Infantry Brigade, the first major USA ground unit deployed in Vietnam, with Jim arriving at his newly assigned platoon’s base camp on 1 August 1971. His job, as detailed in “Platoon Leader,” was to have his platoon protect the hotly contested strategic hamlet in Binh Dinh Province. I should say here that, contrary to what one may conjure up in their imagination as to what his area looked like, it was not a jungle, as the book’s movie version suggests. It was a coastal plain located on the map just after the Vietnamese shoreline starts bending southward. While Jim’s book includes much advice weaved into his gripping story, I thought I’d share with you some advice he would give to platoon leaders today: “1. Master map reading; you always need to know where you are and where everything else that is important as well, especially the enemy, where you have to go, and how to get there; 2. Understand small unit tactics and how to apply them under quickly changing conditions that invariably mean the difference between life and death; 3. Check everything and maintain standards; avoid easing up to lighten the load on your soldiers only to end up killing them with kindness; 4. Be introspective, learn from your mistakes, consider what impact you are having on others, and try to do better.” Both at small unit level and at the level of operational doctrine, he believes that “defense is important, but you can never win without offense.” Interestingly and as suggested by the book, the principles Jim learned as a champion collegiate boxer carried over directly to his military experience. He believes that a soldier does well to remember to “move, hit, and protect” in various combinations. “Sometimes you move to hit and/or protect; sometimes you hit so you can move and protect; and sometimes you protect as you stage to move and hit.” Jim has followed these principles throughout the rest of his sterling career, with command at every level from platoon through brigade. Notable assignments later in Jim’s career included leading seminars at the Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) at Ft. Leavenworth, after which he published another outstanding book and military classic, “The Defense of Hill 781,” about a battalion commander going through a grueling testing rotation at the Army’s National Training Center. Subsequently, after an assignment as Senior Military Assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Jim returned to SAMS as its Director, where he and his team drafted the Army’s keystone operational doctrine in 1993 (then known as field Manual 100-5). While I just a little humorously call Jim’s (James R. McDonough’s) edition the “King James” version, it was truly a significant advancement from prior manuals (with its inclusion of non-war operations) and the seminal foundation from which later versions only slightly deviate. Recall that doctrine is the ultimate integration and conceptualization of what a nation’s soldiers should think about, know, and train for to best fight and win its wars. Jim’s final military assignment was as the brigade commander responsible for quick reaction contingency missions in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, most of Africa (less the Horn), and parts of the Middle East. His unit deployed to Rwanda in the closing weeks of the 1994 genocide and was ready to deploy to rescue UN peacekeepers held hostage by the Serbs in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995. The mission was called off at the last moment, as the peacekeepers’ release was negotiated (but the event ended in the massacre of over 8000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys). Upon ending his military career, McDonough became Director of Strategy for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, then Director of the Florida Office of Drug Control. Finally, before his retirement, he became Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections. Not to forget, I should mention that Jim wrote the book “Limits of Glory: A Novel of Waterloo” in 1991. With this information, you now have some background, actually some “futureground” (future accomplishments) of the man who wrote “Platoon Leader.” What you’ll read in this and his other books you’ll hopefully realize is from the gifted pen of a highly-qualified scholar-athlete described as a by-the-book military intellectual who, as a voracious reader, immerses himself in all tasks he undertakes. I believe you’ll find he definitely proves it in “Platoon Leader.” Bottom-line: I highly recommend this outstanding book! Of possible interest: Strategy Pure and Simple: Essential Moves for Winning in Competition and Cooperation and George Washington's Liberty Key: Mount Vernon's Bastille Key - the Mystery and Magic of Its Body, Mind, and Soul, a best-seller at Mount Vernon. “Character is Key for Liberty!”

  5. 4 out of 5

    "Cyril' (David

    What a shitty ending!!! (I won't give it away). That is not really a critique of the book, actually the shitty ending was a fitting end to the mess that the Vietnam War became. But wow! If anyone can read this book and not feel utter gratefulness for our vets... especially our combat vets... and especially our Vietnam War combat vets... well then that person would be truly blind. God bless our men and women who serve to protect our freedoms. What a shitty ending!!! (I won't give it away). That is not really a critique of the book, actually the shitty ending was a fitting end to the mess that the Vietnam War became. But wow! If anyone can read this book and not feel utter gratefulness for our vets... especially our combat vets... and especially our Vietnam War combat vets... well then that person would be truly blind. God bless our men and women who serve to protect our freedoms.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    I am thinking about giving this 1985 book, Platoon Leader, five stars. I don’t give out five stars lightly. And this is for a book that kicks the anti-war person when he's down. But this book has given me the best idea of what it was like to be the leader of a platoon in Vietnam. It is the most personal and graphic book about Vietnam among several that I have read. Those include: Fields of Fire: A Novel by James Webb, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, Dispatches, and The Things They Carri I am thinking about giving this 1985 book, Platoon Leader, five stars. I don’t give out five stars lightly. And this is for a book that kicks the anti-war person when he's down. But this book has given me the best idea of what it was like to be the leader of a platoon in Vietnam. It is the most personal and graphic book about Vietnam among several that I have read. Those include: Fields of Fire: A Novel by James Webb, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, Dispatches, and The Things They Carried by Michael Herr. I often didn’t much like what was being described in Platoon Leader. I thought it was real and an indictment of war, but I was also glad someone had the courage to write down the thoughts and words and deeds so everyone could experience war. Was it a criminal or Catholic confession? I would have to plead insanity and do a zillion Hail Marys. Author James McDonough graduated from West Point in 1969. That makes him one year younger than me. A pair of draft deferments kept me out of the war and out of the military. While I did not become a student or a parent to obtain a deferment, I accepted them thankfully, just barely avoiding the draft lottery. McDonough was quick to point out that his experience was not typical. He claims that every war situation in Vietnam was unique. He even claimed that others had a much worse experience than his. Somehow he portrays himself as a soldier who tried to go by the book but I saw him look the other way at atrocities while agonizing about what he is doing. McDonough went on to be a military man as a career, moving up to the upper echelon. After he retired from the Army he went on to a career in government as the Director of the Florida Office of Drug Control and then the Secretary (director) of the Florida Department of Corrections. Biography of James R. McDonough online: http://www.preventioninflorida.org/Co... If you take McDonough at his word, this book is a fairly accurate portrayal of his life in Vietnam. It is sprinkled generously with gruesome images and experiences and is never humorous. It reveals a man who wanted to be moral in a war that was filled with immoral acts. For six months he was in a very active war zone in an outpost abutting the village of Truong Lam, Vietnam. He was fresh out of West Point and Ranger training when he arrived in 1970. As the lieutenant in command of a rifle platoon, he witnessed some of those immoral acts and participated in others. He confronts the issue of morality and humanity, justifying it all apparently even when he acknowledges his complicity in war crimes. It is not possible for me to hate him but he did some most horrible things. But he wrote it down and he did not mince words: the events, the horror, the justifications, and how the soldiers moved on to the next day to do it again. The peasants were the families of the Viet Cong. They had been hardened by years of war. They resented the American presence which threatened them. But they were men and women with basic rights of human beings and the requisite needs for security and justice. The fact that some of them might kill you or your soldiers was no reason to hate them or abuse them. This was war, this Vietnam involvement, and in war things tend to happen. But the commander was the link to order and civility, and he had to be humane. At the same time he had to be uncompromising to protect the lives of all. The job was not easy. Then there is that other word, ‘legal.’ I knew that killing him would have been neither illegal nor immoral. It would have been “regrettable,” but nothing more. In an instant the insanity of war was revealed to me: people die or people live without rhyme or reason. As Nail had said when Flicker died, “That’s all there is to it.” Phil Barrigan, a Jesuit peace activist, once said, “When they drop the nuclear bomb, you can be sure it will be legal.” Ghouls in the night – young boys, really, from places like Valdosta, San Diego, Boulder, Madison, Portland, out to kill Asian boys who are out to kill them. The gears of war grind together unrelentingly, mechanisms in motion that will catch up human flesh as they mesh. Societies clash, politicians deal, diplomats debate, young men struggle to the death. Tomorrow or the next day, mothers will receive the news and cry. But nothing will stop the morning’s killing. In the midst of killing, the soldiers became best buddies. We touched in the darkness, peering into each other’s face: King, the man who had once fired at me, and I, the man who had held a rifle to his head. We were overjoyed to see each other. And what of the notorious acts of the war? McDonough describes two incidents of fragging, once directed at him. Killing women and children? Sometimes they had to. “We evacuated the little girl with the hole in her chest. She never returned, dying in the hospital.” Drugs? Notably absent from the book. John Wayne heroes? Plenty of them dying for each other. Becoming animals? “Sir, you’re killing him. You can’t do that” … A shiver ran down my spine, and I fought hard to control my voice as I gave the order to tie up our prisoner and to wake the men for the night attack I anticipated. I was once again the military leader, not a kill-crazed animal, although the realization how close the two can be was chilling. Then there is the medic who McDonough discovered had assassinated two of the enemy with minor wounds with a bullet to the brain at close range. What did our patrol leader do? Three days later I transferred Shives to the Ranger Company. We both concluded that he would do better as a ranger than as a medic. He was no longer fit to be a medic. He had become even more vicious of a killer than the rest of us, and for him it was unforgiveable. The war was bad enough. I could not tolerate it getting any worse. Our hero! Seems the same as sending the pedophile priest off to the next parish. Platoon Leader is a 25 year old book about a war that finally ended in 1975 becoming the longest American war in history. (Afghanistan has now surpassed Vietnam as the longest.) But if you want to see if war has gotten any more honorable in the ensuing years, read [title: War by Sebastian Junger]. I think not. Almost every page has some stunning (to me) words about humans at war. McDonough would want me to say specific humans at a specific time in a specific place. Can’t draw any conclusions about the big picture? Could you draw me any clearer a picture? I will give it five stars. This book has guts – several times hanging out of some soldier’s abdomen. War criminals? Sometimes it is our guys who fit that label. Platoon Leader dispels any fear of a cover up. It is {Exhibit 1} at the war crimes trial. McDonough ends the book with this sentence: “I was proud to have served with them.” Is this something about which to be proud?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hofstetter Patrick

    This book is both a historical insight into the Vietnam War from the perspective of the American infantry and a veritable lesson on leadership. As an instructor for the Swiss Armed Forces in the 21st century, I was initially quite critical when this book was recommended to me as particularly suitable reading for my officer cadets. I took the test and inserted a keyword and a bookmarker at every point where a lesson is to be drawn for a twenty-year-old Swiss infantry second lieutenant - a total o This book is both a historical insight into the Vietnam War from the perspective of the American infantry and a veritable lesson on leadership. As an instructor for the Swiss Armed Forces in the 21st century, I was initially quite critical when this book was recommended to me as particularly suitable reading for my officer cadets. I took the test and inserted a keyword and a bookmarker at every point where a lesson is to be drawn for a twenty-year-old Swiss infantry second lieutenant - a total of well over 100 posts came out. Since then, the book, with its handsome feather decoration of bookmarks, has been my favorite example of showing my classes how timeless literature is and how recurring the challenges for leaders are.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brent Van Middendorp

    I received the book from my commander as I was transferring to a new unit to start as a platoon leader. Timely gift, and a daunting reminder of the demands and responsibilities of a platoon leader.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Travis Brand

    One of the better books to read to understand what it's like to be a naive young officer thrown into combat. New small unit leaders will find it extraordinarily compelling and relevant. It should be required reading for leaders of all types. Most combat books focus on enlisted men. Officers are responsible for the majority of mistakes (as well as the successes) and often don't have anyone to share the stress with. In small units (platoon or lower), the officers face the same dangers as the enlist One of the better books to read to understand what it's like to be a naive young officer thrown into combat. New small unit leaders will find it extraordinarily compelling and relevant. It should be required reading for leaders of all types. Most combat books focus on enlisted men. Officers are responsible for the majority of mistakes (as well as the successes) and often don't have anyone to share the stress with. In small units (platoon or lower), the officers face the same dangers as the enlisted. This book also carefully and thoughtfully discusses some of the misconceptions that many people have regarding the Vietnam War.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gabe

    Timeless leadership lessons. Inspect what you expect. Move to the point of friction. There is always room for improvement. In combat, predictability spells death. In combat, indecision spells death. Often the right thing to do is the hard thing to do. Positivity and optimism are required. You are the moral compass for your unit.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wachlin007 Hotmail

    This book was written by an army 2nd Lieutenant on his experiences as a platoon commander in Vietnam. It was very entertaining. It closely resembled Fields of Fire by James Webb. Both were great reads.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lindz

    I'm reading this book for my husband who is an officer in the Army getting ready to deploy to Iraq. Her told me he thought it would be a good read for me to get an understanding of what life is going to be like. I'm reading this book for my husband who is an officer in the Army getting ready to deploy to Iraq. Her told me he thought it would be a good read for me to get an understanding of what life is going to be like.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Kidd

    I read this book while sitting in the Saudi Arabian Desert in Sept. 1990. The book was far better than the movie, which I had seen prior to reading the book. Though written from an officers perspective it was very beneficial to me as a mid-level (SSG / E6). Very insightful.

  14. 5 out of 5

    R.

    One of the better books of this Vietnam Infantry genre. He doesn't make himself out to sound like the ultimate warrior bent on death and destruction like a ton of these guys do. One of the better books of this Vietnam Infantry genre. He doesn't make himself out to sound like the ultimate warrior bent on death and destruction like a ton of these guys do.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Art

    It wasn't what I was looking for. Had it confused at first w/the Book Company Commander; Charles B. McDonald, WWII. So I was comparing this book to the one about WWII and no comparison. It wasn't what I was looking for. Had it confused at first w/the Book Company Commander; Charles B. McDonald, WWII. So I was comparing this book to the one about WWII and no comparison.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tat Wei

    This memoir details McDonough's experience leading a platoon of about twenty men, charged with defending a key village as part of the US' Strategic Hamlet Program. It is, at its core, a recount of leadership on the ground. Written in clear, economic prose, McDonough takes us through an entire rotation on duty, sketching for us the physical and moral challenges of fighting a war on the ground. His voice quivers in moments when we, too, flinch at the horror of the war. When men we've found empathy This memoir details McDonough's experience leading a platoon of about twenty men, charged with defending a key village as part of the US' Strategic Hamlet Program. It is, at its core, a recount of leadership on the ground. Written in clear, economic prose, McDonough takes us through an entire rotation on duty, sketching for us the physical and moral challenges of fighting a war on the ground. His voice quivers in moments when we, too, flinch at the horror of the war. When men we've found empathy with abruptly die; when women and children are killed by both sides. This is helpful reading for anyone interested in America's involvement in the Vietnam War on a tactical, microscopic level – of the men on the ground charged with fighting a never-ending war, with ill-defined objectives. This could also serve as a primer to thinking about leadership: of what to do and what not to do in crisis. For its nature as a memoir, McDonough doesn't sanitize his own faults too much (although one may always question if every situation that presents him in such a great light was truly genuine): he speaks of moments of folly where he needlessly sent men to their death; of moments of weakness where he almost commits barbaric acts. He speaks of moments of doubt, where he is barely able to bridge the gap between duty and the pointless orders laid out for them. McDonough doesn't attempt to rationalize or justify the war efforts – in fact, much of the book itself shows him grappling with the seeming pointlessness of it all. Of fighting against an enemy and protecting a people who were both indistinct, undefined, and who were swapping faces at any moment. He doesn't shy away from revealing the hate that the soldiers feel against the Viet Cong, even as he shares in sporadic moments the empathy he feels towards the fellow duty-bound. Both sides – at least, for the men on the ground; international politics aside – are fighting for just causes: for loyalty, for survival, for camaraderie, for honor. This book shows us the messiness of such a war. At the end of it, he defends the valor and bravery of the men with whom he had served: the book ends most poignantly, regretting the country's own abandonment of the soldiers who had died and suffered for them. He eschews the political discourse so often talked about when discussing the Vietnam War – instead, he invites us to attempt to empathize with the strange, contradictory, terrifying world of war that an average soldier steps into.

  17. 5 out of 5

    James Cogbill

    I first read Platoon Leader as a young Cadet in Georgetown University’s Army ROTC “Hoya Battalion.” In fact, then-retired Colonel James R. McDonough was the officer who swore me in as a second lieutenant at my commissioning in May 1997. I re-read Platoon Leader in order to consider whether to assign it to my senior Cadets at Virginia Tech where I’m now serving as Army ROTC Professor of Military Science. In the autobiography, McDonough relates his experience as the leader of a platoon in combat i I first read Platoon Leader as a young Cadet in Georgetown University’s Army ROTC “Hoya Battalion.” In fact, then-retired Colonel James R. McDonough was the officer who swore me in as a second lieutenant at my commissioning in May 1997. I re-read Platoon Leader in order to consider whether to assign it to my senior Cadets at Virginia Tech where I’m now serving as Army ROTC Professor of Military Science. In the autobiography, McDonough relates his experience as the leader of a platoon in combat in Vietnam from August 1970 to January 1971. While noting that he does not claim to have had a unique or exceptional experience, clearly he saw a significant amount of action. He was wounded himself, and lost numerous members of his platoon to the cruel fate of war in the jungles and rice paddies surrounding his small patrol base. McDonough demonstrated his devotion to duty, not content to remain on the defensive, hidden behind the concertina wire of his base. He committed early on to aggressive patrolling, while consistently leading from the front. While reading, I recognized that his devotion to duty and tactical and technical competence, earned through hard experience, would indeed make for good reading for future lieutenants. McDonough does not attempt to gloss over or sugarcoat some problematic decisions he made, involving scenarios dealing with ethics, the law of war, non-combatants, and the challenges of counterinsurgency. Nonetheless, by reading and reflecting on these experiences, future platoon leaders can learn how one combat leader dealt with these problems and consider how they might react, saving them from having to make such decisions for the first time in the unforgiving crucible of combat. I look forward to assigning this book to our Cadets and the discussions that will follow.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vic

    A portrait of the platoon commander I should be and desire to be, James McDonough's gritty and honest recollection of his Platoon Leader tour has inspired me to hone my own skills, reexamine my heart with brutal honesty, and reflect consistently on my intentions, outcomes and mistakes (that should not be repeated). Indeed, in both wartime and peacetime, an army commander watches over the lives of those under his charge, hence it is our immense but honourable responsibility to be competent and ca A portrait of the platoon commander I should be and desire to be, James McDonough's gritty and honest recollection of his Platoon Leader tour has inspired me to hone my own skills, reexamine my heart with brutal honesty, and reflect consistently on my intentions, outcomes and mistakes (that should not be repeated). Indeed, in both wartime and peacetime, an army commander watches over the lives of those under his charge, hence it is our immense but honourable responsibility to be competent and caring for our men. I've learnt about: - The importance of technical and tactical proficiency in decision-making - Critical and independent thinking as a commander - Robust planning and knowing the enemy - Gaining the respect of my men through being good at my job and not necessarily getting too close to them - The rapid maturation of a platoon commander tour undergirded my consistent reflection and learning - That it is better not to learn from mistakes that come at the expense of my men and my image - That mistakes will be made, but I have to snap out of self-pity, fear and despair and move on for the sake of my men and the mission, soaking up the lessons learnt - The honour of leading a platoon, and the priceless opportunity of small-unit leadership, especially this once-in-a-lifetime platoon leadership - The ownership I have to take over the platoon, and sacrifices that have to be made to certain bad soldiers' morale for the sake of the larger platoon of good soldiers - And so much more Truly a gem of a little book, which I hope will act as a point of reference for myself and my journey as a platoon commander the next one year. Highly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lucas

    Whoa, this was heavy. A lot of sad stories about killing and dying in ambushes and battles but the one story that stuck out the most, the one that still haunts me, is when Lt. McDonough sees that there's a beach nearby one of their positions so he decides to send a small squad of six men to go check out the beach, so that they could get some light R&R and swim and enjoy the sun. Four men said yes, but two had to be talked into it. One guy said, "I don't need no tan I need some sleep." The other Whoa, this was heavy. A lot of sad stories about killing and dying in ambushes and battles but the one story that stuck out the most, the one that still haunts me, is when Lt. McDonough sees that there's a beach nearby one of their positions so he decides to send a small squad of six men to go check out the beach, so that they could get some light R&R and swim and enjoy the sun. Four men said yes, but two had to be talked into it. One guy said, "I don't need no tan I need some sleep." The other guy said, "I'm from Tennessee and I swim better in pools." Alas, Lt. McDonough talked them into going. So they hiked out to the beach, radio back to base saying it's all clear, they go into the water, and 10min later one of the guys radios back that two of them were swept out to sea and drowned. The two men that didn't want to go.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mike Smith

    Wow, this book is a must read for anyone within the military. I fortunately was given this book by a mentor of mine and the leadership lessons given throughout the 243 pages are insurmountable. Col. McDonough gives a first hand account of his personal experience being a platoon commander in the Vietnam War. Oftentimes we hear/study the Vietnam War only from news outlets from the time or documentaries that occurred during that time frame; however, very seldom do we hear from those who were actual Wow, this book is a must read for anyone within the military. I fortunately was given this book by a mentor of mine and the leadership lessons given throughout the 243 pages are insurmountable. Col. McDonough gives a first hand account of his personal experience being a platoon commander in the Vietnam War. Oftentimes we hear/study the Vietnam War only from news outlets from the time or documentaries that occurred during that time frame; however, very seldom do we hear from those who were actually in it. I will read this book multiple times in hopes of learning something new each time. Col. McDonough, thank you.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Cain

    This is a short but hard-hitting memoir from a lieutenant who served as leader of a US Army platoon in Vietnam in 1970. More than any other book I've read about the Vietnam War, I really gained a sense of what life on the ground would be like as well as an understanding of what the job of an infantry officer entails in terms of tactical and operational decision making. McDonough doesn't shy away from criticizing himself and others, so his retelling of events shows the good as well as the questio This is a short but hard-hitting memoir from a lieutenant who served as leader of a US Army platoon in Vietnam in 1970. More than any other book I've read about the Vietnam War, I really gained a sense of what life on the ground would be like as well as an understanding of what the job of an infantry officer entails in terms of tactical and operational decision making. McDonough doesn't shy away from criticizing himself and others, so his retelling of events shows the good as well as the questionable actions that he experienced. This work feels more genuine and relatable than many other better-known classics in the genre.

  22. 5 out of 5

    William

    This is a brutally honest self assessment of one infantry officer’s performance as a platoon leader in Vietnam. That integrity alone makes this book unique. It is an eye-opening description of the reality of combat and its devastating impact on the participants. It is also a significant commentary on the conduct of the war in Vietnam at all levels and war in general. The writing is as riveting as Ernst Juenger’s and its lessons just as valuable for any combat leader, especially young lieutenants This is a brutally honest self assessment of one infantry officer’s performance as a platoon leader in Vietnam. That integrity alone makes this book unique. It is an eye-opening description of the reality of combat and its devastating impact on the participants. It is also a significant commentary on the conduct of the war in Vietnam at all levels and war in general. The writing is as riveting as Ernst Juenger’s and its lessons just as valuable for any combat leader, especially young lieutenants.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bernie DeCastro

    This book is excellent: The author brought me along with him to the LZ's (landing zones) in the Viet Nam war. Even though I never served in the military, this book helped me have a much better understanding of the brutality of war and and the courage and bravery of our fighting men and women. This book helped me have a much better understanding of our soldiers and a greater appreciation of their sacrifices. This book is excellent: The author brought me along with him to the LZ's (landing zones) in the Viet Nam war. Even though I never served in the military, this book helped me have a much better understanding of the brutality of war and and the courage and bravery of our fighting men and women. This book helped me have a much better understanding of our soldiers and a greater appreciation of their sacrifices.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shubham

    A very nice account of a new lieutenant with no experience in battle fd and how he takes on his tasks. Very informative and interactive in the way author has choosen small incidents to bring out leadership traits and how he managed and lead his platoon where every other day there was a casualty . How he keeps his men motivated when there is no motivation and reason to fight for other than policies of politicians. The story of an uncomparable bonding and life by james... A must read book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris Bohl

    Exceptional Perspective Well Written This book presented a leaders travail. The pointless war. The trapped indigenous people along with the gore and horror of war. The author invites the reader to be part of his men seeing their unique attributes and sometimes quick end of life or permanent disfigurement. This is a thoughtful book of a platoon leaders time in Vietnam.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Peter Brickwood

    Without personal experience of combat to judge against, I found this to be an authentic description of life in combat. The honesty with which moral and morale issues are addressed in real and unflinching detail. Recommend this book for non-combatant baby boomers who want to have some understanding of what we were spared.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hannah D

    Platoon Leader was a great book to give you a concise glimpse into the reality of one young Army leader in Vietnam. Colonel James R. McDonough (Retired) is an impecable example for future (and current) young lieutenants that are preparing to take command of their first platoons.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gary Boland

    interesting for its critique on the strategic hamlet program and the effects both physical and psychological of the booby traps deployed in vietnam. interesting to see a micro view after the macro of hackworth

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael Friess

    This is a great read. It has none of the cliches of typical Vietnam accounts. It’s much simpler and it is told from the perspective of a young officer holding 20+ lives in his hands under the most difficult of situations. Great read, and very easy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    RS Rawat

    This book will tranship you to jungle and rice fields of Vietnam. Transition of greenhorn to seasoned war ridden. This book gives a point blank lesson “there is fine line between rational man and kill-crazed animal in savagery of war”.

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