May 10, 2012

Book Review: The Old Man’s Trail

Cpl. Laura Cardoso
Desert Warrior Staff

The Old Man’s Tail was a very informative and engrossing read. A.U.S. Vietnam veteran, Tom Campbell, presents the war from his enemy’s perspective: a platoon of 15-year-old boys ordered to carry a ton of cargo 650 miles along a primitive network of trails. Campbell, a Marine veteran of 29 years and several tours in Vietnam, steps into the shoes of North Vietnamese soldiers in this traumatic tale of a deadly trek through the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Campbell begins by describing the events that led up to the world-famous footage of a Vietnamese officer executing an apparently innocent man in the middle of the street. Although the novel sometimes reads like a nonfiction account, Campbell successfully brings to life, life under duress, producing an emotional tale that has the reader rooting for the boys to survive each new hardship the jungle heaves at them. I thought the book was extremely well written and the narrative unfolded quickly, bringing the reader into the mysterious maze of the Viet Cong supply route that belied the powerful bombing capacities of the U.S. military. Because it is written from the eyes of the teenagers recruited into military duty, beginning with their grueling boot camp and their seasoned drill instructor, the reader can truly get to know the characters. Scenes of the trail are very well presented, and readers will find themselves caught up in the suspense of the outcome. The book is not overly sympathetic to either side, but quite professional in presenting the nitty-gritty daily decisions soldiers from both sides were forced to make. The story is an incredibly moving account of a terrible human sacrifice on both sides.

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