Chapter One: Sailing to Vung Tau
The soldiers reported one by one and in loose bunches, straggling into Fort Lewis from late April to the end of May 1967, all carrying orders to join a unit called C Packet. Not brigade, battalion, or company, but packet. No one at the military base in Washington State had heard of C Packet until then. It was a phantom designation conceived by military planners to meet the anxious demands of war.
The early arrivals were billeted on the far northern rim of the army base in a rotting wooden barracks with flimsy walls known derisively as "the pit." Many of them checked in at night after long flights and...