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The American Combat Soldier in Vietnam


“Grunts: The American Combat Soldier in Vietnam” by the writer Kyle Longley is a story about the brutal and bloody events during the Vietnam War. It is a special, comprehensive set of knowledge and ideas about internal and external conflicts through the prism of the soldiers and military personnel. This is a paper where the everyday and eternally relevant questions are intertwined, historical and controversial questions, to which there is still no unambiguous answer. “Grunts” offers readers a completely new and different view of such phenomena as remnants of the past, military experience, and homecoming.

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The author of the work attempts to define the concepts of courage and heroism, as well as racial, ethnic, national, and social aspects. The book is a complex but at the same time emotional product of the author’s writing skills and talent. Kyle Longley’s book simultaneously synthesizes documentary-historical aspects and artistic inclusions, telling about the moral and ethical standards, tragic consequences of war, homesickness, fear for life, and cruelty on the battlefield and beyond.

The Thesis and the Purpose

The paper’s central thesis is the idea that war is not only an armed conflict between political forces but also human and material losses, bitter tears, death, and separation. “War” is a terrible word associated with fear and anger, pain, and suffering. The main purpose of this book is to shed light on forgotten events and destinies, to turn inside out the essence of those phenomena that most people have learned about only by hearsay. The author wanted to convey to people reliable information about what happened. According to the introduction, “major goal of this book is to spark more research about many of the topics” (Longley 2008, 22). Focusing the attention of scientists and researchers on the war in the 50-70s in Vietnam and stimulating more research on various issues regarding this issue is one of the significant goals.

Sorts of Sources

The author used the following sources of information in expressing his point of view. First of all, Kyle Longley is an outstanding professor and scientist in political and religious science, history, and philosophy. The historian competently and constructively applies the knowledge and skills acquired during training in educational institutions in his practical activities. In addition, based on Longley’s initial descriptions in “Grunts,” an attentive reader will learn that the writer was inspired by childhood memories of how he was told about the Vietnam War at school.

Secondly, in “Grunts: The American Combat Soldier in Vietnam,” the author used reliable information from verified historical sources, such as letters, notes, stories, chronicles, and memoirs of real personalities, veterans of the Vietnam War. Thirdly, he interviewed former Vietnamese soldiers without losing sight of the slightest detail. The veterans told their own stories about what it’s like to bear the brunt of the fighting.

How the Author Support Their Thesis

The authors support their thesis and claims in the work in the following ways. The writer says: “this book focuses primarily on the young men who became the combat soldiers in Vietnam, mainly Army and Marine infantrymen; as one veteran emphasized” (Longley 2008, 20). The book’s thesis is based on a narrative about the actions, lives, and destinies wrapped around the young military. Accordingly, to emphasize and prove the authenticity of the events against the background of the war, the author uses many dates and accurate descriptions of places and locations of hostilities in the narrative. The paper is convincing and reliable precisely because of the writer’s in-depth knowledge of phenomena that took place in the past.

The Main Themes and Ideas

The central themes and ideas of the work are the following concepts. The writer covers a fairly wide range of ideas about the experience experienced by soldiers, their thoughts and feelings, their actions on the territory of Vietnam in the 50-70s. Longley considers a deep understanding and broad views on violent events and phenomena. He looks at disasters and tragedies through the eyes of more than 800 thousand infantrymen who survived the war and the onslaught of enemy infantry.

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In addition, these soldiers are versatile individuals with unique personalities, sets of traits, character, temperament, and appearance. According to the writer, “the organizing principles of the book include important factors, such as masculinity, race, and class” (Longley 2008, 21). The author emphasizes the special importance of such versatility and multilateralism, focusing on the people belonging to a certain race, nation, country, and class.

The book research the experience of the military operations in the Vietnam War from the point of view of not just an outsider but as a participant in such cruel events. A distinctive feature of this narrative is a consistent description of growing up and becoming the personality of young soldiers who involuntarily found themselves in an unstable time for the country. In “Grunts,” Kyle Longley says: “this book seeks to recreate significant elements of the long struggle […] including the homesickness, the boredom, the terror of combat, the heroism, the brutality” (Longley 2008, 20). The writer looks at the Vietnam War from different angles and points of view, due to which the greatest effect of revealing the feelings and emotions of the heroes of the book is achieved. He emphasizes the importance of cultural identity and its essence, equality on the battlefield regardless of race, gender, age, appearance, and human stereotypes and prejudices.

Accessible, Meant for People and the Author’s Bias

“Grunts” consists of both a work of art for admirers of military motives and a historical guide for students, teachers, and interested parties. The work is available for review, study, and analysis to a fairly wide range of audiences. The book is not loaded with specific terminology and special turns of speech that could make it difficult for an ordinary reader. The author is quite familiar with secondary sources of information that clearly, plainly, and convincingly state the facts. Accordingly, the book is devoid of the author’s bias and subjectivity.


“Grunts: The American Combat Soldier in Vietnam” is a truly unique and inimitable phenomenon in the world of historical literature and art, cultural and spiritual heritage of humankind. In fact, the book describes the experience of the American military during the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, it is an actual and burning topic, an inexhaustible source of inspiration for new works and research. Moreover, Kyle Longley, as the author of the book, shows in the work all his creative talent and limitless potential. The writer reveals his inner world and soul, vision, and understanding of the events that have “charmed” and interested his nature.

In “Grunts,” Longley does not act as an impassive outsider observer or spectator of the war but as an eyewitness, witness, and participant in such an important event in world history. Additionally, the writer focuses on the versatility and dissimilarity of the soldiers’ personalities. He recreates a new understanding, ideas, and views on those aspects of life about which, in reality, there is little information and facts. Therefore, the book deserves enough universal attention and praise for its non-standard approach to the topic, expressive texts, and sharp words that do not cause doubts.


Longley, Kyle. Grunts: The American Combat Soldier in Vietnam. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2008.

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