25 September 2006
With his uniquely insightful new autobiographical book Prodigals, Colonel Richard Taylor has earned a place in the fraternity of great Vietnam veteran authors.
Aside from the unique aspects of Taylor's two tours of duty, what sets Prodigals apart from other Vietnam War memoirs is the intriguing detail it delivers on the less glamorous phases of the author's time In-Country.
For instance, though the book reveals that Taylor arrived in Vietnam in 1967 already knowing he was destined for the frontline as an advisor to an ARVN infantry battalion, it also provides a fascinating account of his time spent in Saigon waiting for his assignment.
One such anecdote comes from the chapter Sliders in which the author recalls that the best food available to him were barely edible local hamburgers, the consumption of which had to be endured three times a day! Such insights are often skipped over in other Vietnam War books and it is to the author's credit that he chosen to relay these events to the reader.
After surviving a friendly fire accident and the hell of the 1968 Tet offensive, Taylor returned home to Georgia for Ranger training and a new stateside command. Whilst undergoing training at Fort Benning he met his beautiful wife to be and they married just three weeks before his graduation from the officers course in July 1970.
The author candidly explains that almost immediately after graduation he was forced to leave his new wife behind and depart for his second tour in Vietnam with the Air Cav. He felt that he was better trained and changed by what he had experienced in his first tour, and though he relished the chance to complete some unfinished business in South East Asia he found that it had become a different war. Furthermore, the book also underlines the contrast in his mindset whilst patrolling the jungles as a married man with a child due, with that of his first tour as a bachelor. The author's description of R & R in Hawaii with his wife of only 3 weeks is particularly heartfelt.
Prodigals is unique piece of work and though some may find it lacks the ubiquity of combat action delivered by some of the Special Forces books, it is nonetheless one of the finer Vietnam War memoirs and a thoroughly entertaining read.
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