A Tiger among Us
A Story of Valor in Vietnam’s A Shau Valley
Bennie G. Adkins and Katie Lamar Jackson
Da Capo Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2018, 224 pages
Book Review published on: July 27, 2018
Although the Vietnam War continues to fade from the memory of most Americans, the service, valor, and sacrifices of those persons who served to defend our freedom and way of life deserve to be honored and remembered. Like many veterans of our Nation’s wars, Bennie G. Adkins put his experiences in Vietnam and his twenty-two-year Army career behind him and moved on with life; however, this all changed in 2014, when President Barack Obama presented him the Nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the Battle of A Shau in 1966.
A Tiger among Us: A Story of Valor in Vietnam’s A Shau Valley is a memoir written as “a tribute to the 17 Special Forces soldiers who fought in the Battle of A Shau and to honor the 2.7 million Americans who fought in Vietnam, especially the more than fifty-eight thousand who died there, twelve hundred of which never came home.” Easy to read and organized chronologically, this book is more than just a story about the Battle of A Shau; it also provides the historical context of the Special Forces training and operations in Vietnam, as well as insight into the indomitable spirit, character, and humility of an extraordinary man and warrior.
Skillfully balancing the use of personal interviews with surviving veterans of the battle, historical records, and after action reports, Adkins and coauthor Katie Lamar Jackson take you to the “tip of the spear” in Vietnam with members of Operational Detachment Alpha (A-102), 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces operating from a base camp adjacent to the Ho Chi Minh Trail near the border of Laos and within the I Corps’ Tactical Zone. The detailed first-hand account of fighting the enemy “inside and outside the wire” and the vicious four-day battle puts you in the middle of the close-combat environment where comradeship, bravery, and self-sacrifice were common. The last two chapters, perhaps the most poignant and valuable, provide insight into the resilience, spirit, and integrity of a man (a hero among heroes) who survived the unspeakable brutality of war but refused to let it define the rest of his life. Adkins’s candor regarding his guilt about leaving men behind in Vietnam and the politics of war will touch you to the core.
I highly recommend A Tiger among Us: A Story of Valor in Vietnam’s A Shau Valley. It will draw you in and keep you until you finish. Adkins and Jackson compliment their narrative with sixteen pages of images including a map of the A Shau base camp that aid in visualizing the battle. This is a must read for all soldiers, leaders, and anyone who has doubts about why men and women serve our country. The value of reading this book lays in its lessons for the current generation of those serving: the lessons of professionalism, selfless service, and resilience.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Edward D. Jennings, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas