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Nam-Sense: Surviving Vietnam with the 101st Airborne

Written by: Arthur Wiknik Jr.
Narrated by: Todd McLaren
Length: 11 hrs and 53 mins
5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An honest tour of the Vietnam War from the soldier's eye view... 

Nam-Sense is the brilliantly written story of a combat squad leader in the 101st Airborne Division. Arthur Wiknik was a 19-year-old kid from New England when he was drafted into the US Army in 1968. After completing various NCO training programs, he was promoted to sergeant "without ever setting foot in a combat zone" and sent to Vietnam in early 1969. Shortly after his arrival on the far side of the world, Wiknik was assigned to Camp Evans, a mixed-unit base camp near the Northern village of Phong Dien, only 30 miles from Laos and North Vietnam. 

On his first jungle patrol, his squad killed a female Viet Cong who turned out to have been the local prostitute. It was the first dead person he had ever seen. Wiknik's account of life and death in Vietnam includes everything from heavy combat to faking insanity to get some R&R. He was the first man in his unit to reach the top of Hamburger Hill during one of the last offensives launched by US forces, and later discovered a weapons cache that prevented an attack on his advance fire support base. 

Between the sporadic episodes of combat he mingled with the locals, tricked unwitting US suppliers into providing his platoon with a year of hard-to-get food, defied a superior and was punished with a dangerous mission, and struggled with himself and his fellow soldiers as the anti-war movement began to affect his ability to wage victorious war. Nam-Sense offers a perfect blend of candor, sarcasm, and humor, and it spares nothing and no one in its attempt to accurately convey what really transpired for the combat soldier during this unpopular war. 

Nam-Sense is not about heroism or glory, mental breakdowns, haunting flashbacks, or wallowing in self-pity. The soldiers Wiknik lived and fought with during his yearlong tour did not rape, murder, or burn villages, were not strung out on drugs, and did not enjoy killing. They were there to do their duty as they were trained, support their comrades, and get home alive. 

"The soldiers I knew," explains the author, "demonstrated courage, principle, kindness, and friendship, all the elements found in other wars Americans have proudly fought in." Wiknik has produced a gripping and complete record of life and death in Vietnam, and he has done so with a style and flair few others will ever achieve.

©2005 Arthur Wiknik, Jr. (P)2018 Tantor

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  • Frank B. Smith
  • 2019-07-16

A very good view of the war from a grunt's view.

Sgt Wiknik was in the same Brigade as I was, and was in country much of the time I was, so much of this book is full of memories for me. It may not be the same for others. Familiar locations are mentioned like the Fire Support Bases we worked out of, as we spent most of the time in the woods, as well as the A Shau. It's a very human story about the clash between the men and their officers, who were not all very good. That is not to say most were, but the ones that kept trying to get us killed for their own promotion chances did exist. Twice we had other platoons walk into us, once with casualties due to the platoon leaders not listening to their far more experienced sergeants. In Wiknik I feel a kindred spirit, albeit, my training was nowhere near his, but then medics like me, who didn't carry a weapon, also received no training in tactics, and a cursory day learning map reading (I didn't figure it out- and can have a terrible sense of direction anyway). If you want a feel for what it was like, I recommend this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-06-08

a good one

One of the better books I've heard in some cases hilarious and he does keep you intrigued and keep you in like you're part of the group

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2018-09-26

Great Book!

Very well written and performed. I was amazed to learn that a distant relative was referred to in this book many times. Made it even more special for me to listen to! If you are interested in the Vietnam War, particularly from a marine grunts first person perspective this is a great book to read!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • 2018-05-25

What an awful soldier

Guy is too honest or an a-bird; spends the book complaining. He’s a whiny brat who talks mostly about having relations with boom boom girls, avoiding patrols with self inflicted wounds, and complaining that when he was right he didn’t get put up for a medal. Really???

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • William R. Todd-Mancillas (Name includes hyphen and camptalized M)
  • 2019-11-21

Another Excellent Vietnam Memoir

Narration: Clear and well paced.

Story: Compelling memoir written by veteran as a young sergeant won the respect and affection of his men by intelligent planning and execution in contrast with stupid, craven careerist officer and a different, sycophantic sergeant. Author also draws a much needed distinction between grunts who actually saw combat and support staff who often describe themselves and Vietnam veterans, conveying the impression they were in the thick of it. Phony, fraudulent, disrespectful men--every one of them.

When you meet someone who identifies themselves as a Vietnam veteran pay close attention to whether they identify themselves as support staff or grunts. Those that don't are disingenuous imposters and should be called out for their dishonesty. Don't let them tell you that the Vietnam war was a different kind of war, that there was no front line. Nonsense. Occasionally support staff saw combat but they can hardly be likened to the grunts who for weeks at a time patrolled in the field.

I actually met one such imposter. He was on the job equally as selective in his description of childhood and work dynamics as he was in recounting dishonestly his Vietnam experiences.

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  • Jeffery Brian Rieves
  • 2019-07-12

Unpatriotic cowardly shirker

I can't believe this guy wrote a book about how he shirked his duties, accumulated ghost time screwing off and constantly disobeyed orders (even if he disagreed). Coward!

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  • Christopher Croft
  • 2019-06-24

Not a terrible Listen

Narrator was a little over the top with his voices. Overall it was an okay listen.

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  • Shaun Doty
  • 2019-06-15

Don’t, just don’t.

Looking for inspired stories featuring the good, bad and ugly on the Vietnam conflict. Wiknik’s story is loaded with his hypocrisy and petty dramas. A hero in his own mind, Wiknik’s story is your classic “do as I say not as I do”. The narrator unintentionally offers up the author’s shrill howling to perceived slights about how he’s a “boonie rat and the remf’s” have no clue what he’s been though. All the while he’s hiding his troop to avoid patrols or intentionally allowing a foot infection to take him out of the game.

It’s understandable that one would not want to be there however author cannot have it both ways.


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  • Jason Barum
  • 2019-03-30

Nam-Sense is a must read

Very very powerful stuff that will leave you teary eyed at the end. Thanks for your Service Sargent Wiknik.

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  • Michael
  • 2018-08-09

Great!

Written from a unique perspective. Humorous and incredibly enjoyable. One of my favourite military books.