Days of Valor by Robert Tonsetic is a spell-binding account of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade’s actions surrounding the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The author was a captain in one of the Brigade’s battalions during the majority of the fighting covered in the book. At 262 pages, the book is an excellent memorial to the exploits of this fighting unit.
Tonsetic’s style is to bring the reader into the trenches with the infantrymen and the officers who led them. His blood and guts descriptions of the many battles that the 199th fought in are wonderfully written and provide the reader with a glimpse of what it was like to hump the jungle-encrusted hills and the open rice paddies of South Vietnam. He draws upon first-hand accounts of the participants and meshes them together into a wonderful web of writing.
I think that the book is a good balance of the time period covered. Tonsetic provides enough background on the December and January battles that lead up to the Tet Offensive and then thoroughly discusses the battles the 199th participated in during the 1968 May Offensive. For example, Tonsetic’s narrative of the events surrounding Fire Support Base Nashua in December of 1967 provides a good example of the caliber of men who fought for the 199th. The men did not hesitate to start a battle and once the battle was started, they charged the enemy with courage and determination. In fact, during this time period, the 4/12th Infantry basically made an equivalent sized enemy unit combat ineffective.
The only note of criticism I have about the book is the poor editing. There were numerous typographical errors that broke up the flow of the text. This seems minor, but it can disrupt an author’s point.
This book is yet another example of why we should thank Vietnam War veterans for serving their country with such distinction.