Author(s): Tony Howell
The New Zealand Government ordered the deployment of combat forces to Vietnam in 1965 to join Australia and other Allies engaged in that War. Victor 2 Rifle Company arrived in Vietnam on 12 November 1967 and left on 13 May 1968. Major Brian Worsnop was the commander, and the author, Lieutenant Tony Howell, was one of the Platoon Commanders. Jungle Green Shadows is a very important historical record of Victor 2 Company's participation in New Zealand's most unpopular war. What is fascinating is how Tony has managed to weave the thoughts and experiences of so many surviving Company soldiers into this factual account. As a result it reads more like an educational novel than a history book. There is one chapter that deals with a typical day in the life of a Lead Scout, a tense and thought-provoking look at how these young men cared for themselves and each other. The reader may find the Scout's contact with two Viet Cong too graphically described - but it is indicative of what these young men were asked to do. The Company was deployed to Vietnam during the most violent period of the Vietnam War - the Tet Offensive. If you had any questions about how this Rifle Company became a legend, this book will provide the answers. The defining hours for Victor 2 Company were when they were attacked and surrounded by a Battalion of Viet Cong on 7 February 1968. For several hours the Company fought off the attackers, initially without artillery or air support. The book is not all combat action, however, although there is enough of that there. Tony deals thoroughly with the battlefield stress and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) issues that arose from being constantly in the front line. He is very sympathetic in the way he covers these stress issues and their effects on families and, in turn, their children. Tony brings to light the brutality of the Hanoi regime and the huge toll they inflicted on their own people, both during the War and after the Allies withdrew from Vietnam in 1972. It is not pleasant reading of assassination squads and 're-education camps' but that was the reality behind the bamboo curtain. He even follows the re-education fate of three key Phuoc Tuy Province officials who were in office during the time Victor 2 Company was in Vietnam. The real value of this book is that, while it may have been written for the families of the Victor 2 Company soldiers, the author's easy flowing style will appeal to all New Zealanders. This book is well-researched and the sources are all identified. Jungle Green Shadows is a must for Vietnam Veterans, families, schools, stress counsellors, amateur or professional military historians and researchers on the Vietnam War.