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Book Review: The American War by Don Meyer

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Don Meyer captures the realities, the nuances, and the futility of war as well as the strategy and nightmare of battle in The American War. The story parallels the details of the 101st Airborne’s return to the Shau Valley in South Vietnam in the summer of 1969 and the march into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia by General Ricketts and his men of the Third Division in the summer of 1864. These battles both are said to have marked the turning point in each war.

Meyers skillfully describes the daily life-threatening struggles faced by fatigued, battle weary troops. Engaging dialog between Sam Kensington, his buddy Harold (Big Stick) Wilson and his XO Lieutenant Orville Smith move a complex plot forward. Although distracted by repeated descriptive actions and overuse of profanity common in military jargon, I am impressed with Meyer’s writing style combining a creative imagination and gift for storytelling. These are strengthened by Meyer’s own background as a Vietnam veteran.

Sam Kensington’s vivid dreams of precise incidents from the battle of Shenandoah Valley are related to his XO Lieutenant Orville Smith who has a fervent interest in the history of the Civil War. The dreams are so real that Kensington becomes fixated on determining an underlying cause.

Don Meyer brilliantly writes of the frustrations and terrors of the conflict experienced in the front lines of battle. The Civil War segments are well researched. The American War is a story that will be acclaimed by fans of military history, Civil War buffs, and especially by Vietnam veterans.

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About Richard R. Blake