Excerpt from They Marched Into Sunlight by David Maraniss, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

They Marched Into Sunlight

War and Peace Vietnam and America October 1967

by David Maraniss

They Marched Into Sunlight by David Maraniss
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2003, 592 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2004, 608 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Schroder returned to his bunk and packed his large green duffel bag -- four issues of khaki uniforms, still the stateside version, with heavier cotton than jungle fatigues, plus two pairs of boots, socks, and underwear. Then he walked to the post exchange with a pal to "get some personal items" he might need in Vietnam. After standing around while his buddy "called his 3 girl friends and took plenty of time to tell them good-bye," Jack phoned his parents. No one was home. He tried Eleanor. "But it seemed she wasn't home either, anyway no one answered, she and my son Lawrence Wayne probably went shopping in town." Mail call brought a letter from his mother urging him to be careful and have a "fast trip back to the States" at the end of twelve months.

That evening a posse of privates sat for haircuts, an outing described by Michael Taylor in a letter to his parents in Cordova, Alaska. "Everybody went haircut crazy....Some guys got mohawks, some had rings going around their heads, others got polka dots. One guy had his look like wings....Of course, we all have to have another haircut because the Old Man won't go for it." It was, if nothing else, another way for the young soldiers to express their conflicted feelings about the military before they departed for the unknown.

"Men are anxious to leave now," Schroder signed off his diary that night. "I don't blame them much." Officers included: at their own private going-away party, sixteen war-bound lieutenants emptied four cases of champagne.

The soldiers were mustered at one the next morning and ordered to turn in their bedding and clean the barracks before being divided into three groups for the bus ride to the air field. "It was a very cloudy rainy & dreary day plus cold," Schroder wrote. He talked to two stewardesses on the commercial flight to San Diego, but still it was "not a good trip," lasting "4 hours and some odd minutes." A charter bus brought them to the navy pier, where other replacement packets, some army aviators, and a vast contingent of marines waited to board the ship that would sail them all to Vietnam. It was the USNS General John Pope, an old bucket named for the Civil War general who was relieved of command by Lincoln after the second Battle of Bull Run.

The USNS Pope had made its first Pacific run in December 1943 carrying troops from San Francisco to New Caledonia and was pulled out of mothballs by the Military Sealift Command for Vietnam service. It was a General Class transport ship: 623 feet long, with a maximum speed of twenty-one knots and room for 5,289 men. When sunlight hit at certain angles, massive dents became visible in the hull. "Is this what the Reluctant looked like?" asked C Packet lieutenant Tom Grady, a graduate of Lasalle University in Philadelphia, when he caught sight of the creaky vessel. Grady was reminded of the hapless supply ship that Henry Fonda and Jack Lemmon were stuck on in the dark World War II comedy Mister Roberts.

The C Packet troops waited three hours before they were allowed aboard. They marched up the plank to the huzzahs of a brass band, but once they reached deck, there was another delay before chow, because twenty-seven hundred marines ate first. The next morning Schroder hustled to the breakfast line before the mob of marines. The ship was scheduled to leave port at one that afternoon, but the loading took several hours more, which seemed providential to the men. "All day there were young women & girls here at the dock trying to get the GIs to whistle and talk to them and they did," Schroder noted. "Some even missed chow because of the girls. I don't know what they are going to do when they get a leave in December for R.R. (Rest & Recuperation)."

Not long after they shoved off, there was an abandon-ship drill and another meal. The food was not bad, Schroder wrote touchingly, as if he had been living in domestic bliss for years, but "not anywhere near the cooking at home I get from my wife Eleanor." For Michael Taylor and Bill McGath, two C packet troops assigned KP duty, the comparison to home cooking was beyond imagining. One of their jobs was to help navy chefs prepare scrambled eggs for breakfast, which involved climbing up a metal ladder to crack 122 dozen eggs into a massive kettle. They staged contests to see who could crack the most eggs at once, with shell shards flying unappetizingly into the mix. McGath noticed from the crates that the eggs were not fresh but had been in cold storage for fourteen months. What struck Mike Troyer most about breakfast service was that meals awaited them on prestacked trays: eggs that were stuck to the bottom of one metal tray would be scraped onto the plate below.

Copyright © 2003 by David Maraniss

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Ghachar Ghochar
    by Vivek Shanbhag
    The Bengaluru (aka Bangalore) that has dominated economic news headlines over the past decade is the...
  • Book Jacket: Caught in the Revolution
    Caught in the Revolution
    by Helen Rappaport
    So taken were BookBrowse's First Impression reviewers by the inside look at the start of the Russian...
  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Lola
    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

A library is thought in cold storage

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -