Peter Clark's year in Vietnam began in July 1966, when he was shipped out with hundreds of other young recruits, as a replacement in the 1st Infantry Division. Clark was assigned to the Alpha Company. Clark gives a visceral, vivid and immediate account of life in the platoon, as he progresses from green recruit to seasoned soldier over the course of a year in the complexities of the Vietnamese conflict.
Clark gradually learns the techniques developed by US troops to cope with the daily horrors they encountered, the technical skills needed to fight and survive, and how to deal with the awful reality of civilian casualties. Fighting aside, it rained almost every day and insect bites constantly plagued the soldiers as they moved through dense jungle, muddy rice paddy and sandy roads. From the food they ate (largely canned meatballs, beans and potatoes) to the inventive ways they managed to shower, every aspect of the platoon's lives is explored in this revealing book. The troops even managed to fit in some R&Rwhilst off-duty in the bars of Tokyo.
Alpha One Sixteen follows Clark as he discovers how to cope with the vagaries of the enemy and the daily confusion the troops faced in distinguishing combatants from civilians. The Viet Cong were a largely unseen enemy who fought a guerrilla war, setting traps and landmines everywhere. Clark's vigilance develops as he gets used to 'living in mortal terror,' which a brush with death in a particularly terrifying fire fight does nothing to dispel. As he continues his journey, he chronicles those less fortunate; the heavy toll being taken all round him is powerfully described at the end of each chapter.