Lieutenant Dangerous Cover

Lieutenant Dangerous

A Vietnam War Memoir

Jeff Danziger

Steerforth Press, Lebanon, New Hampshire, 2021, 208 pages

Book Review published on: December 10, 2021

Jeff Danziger shares one of the most pragmatic yet humorous accounts of Vietnam in Lieutenant Dangerous: A Vietnam War Memoir. The book’s cover art is thought-provoking and serves as a warning of what a reader will find in within its text. Danziger’s writing style and illustration will appeal to a large audience from veterans who will appreciate its relatability to anyone in the general population with an interest in Vietnam. Danziger vividly expounds on the internal and external conflicts he observed and experienced in his service to the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971. Over this time frame, with brutal honesty and bold statements, he walks the reader through the draft, initial entry training, deployment to Vietnam, and deep reflective thoughts for the reader to consider.

Danziger sets the stage with a quick glimpse into his personal life and the draft process. He introduces the reader to his emotions and observations of how the draft was administered and how it evolved. Readers will likely find this either reminiscent, enlightening, or frightening, based on their personal frame of reference.

The memoir quickly transitions to his observations of basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where the reader learns of misaligned training objectives, under resourced facilities, and the environment of the Army in 1969. Danziger clearly expresses his intent as a draftee to delay service in Vietnam by volunteering for training and qualifying himself for responsibilities entailing the least risk in a war zone. Danziger sets a catch-22 tone as he describes his Army Language School experience to learn Vietnamese at Fort Bliss, Texas, and ultimately his acceptance of a direct commission. Despite his language skills, Danziger is commissioned as an ordnance officer, serves as a capability developer at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and receives orders with just enough service obligation to fulfill a one-year tour to Vietnam.

The reader is quickly introduced to key organizations in Vietnam and Danziger’s first assignment with 1st Cavalry Division leading a platoon changing gun tubes. A letter to a senator in Vermont ultimately realigns him to assignments that better match his language skills. Danziger uses his Vietnam experience to expose the reader to the realities of Vietnam and inspires reflection or awareness in many areas. Some of the areas introduced include fielded military materiel solutions that do not meet the needs of the operational environment, overreliance on strategic bombing without synchronized joint effects or maneuver, inequities in the military award systems, ability of the military to execute a Win Hearts and Minds operation, inability to achieve a desirable end state in a country that did not buy in to that end state, and the secondary effects of policy.

Danziger closes out his memoir with reflective questions for the reader as he completes his tour to Vietnam and returns to his family intact. Danziger uses this memoir covering the life cycle of his military service to raise myriad key points worthy of awareness and study. This book is done in an entertaining style, with a personable feeling one may get from talking to a friendly veteran, passing along wisdom in a well-illustrated and developed storyline.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Joseph C. Zabaldano, U.S. Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas