"The strength of this book lies in the way that Coan weaves his own combat experience and the official unit documents and histories together with... personal combat narratives to form a cohesive whole. He gives a realistic portrayal of miserable living conditions, the monsoons, the heat during the dry seasons, and finally the futility of the fighting over the same pieces of terrain in the eastern DMZ...It is ironic perhaps apt that the measure of the war in Vietnam was not the capture of terrain, but body count." -- Jack Shulimson, author of Phase Line Green: The Battle for Hue, 1968
"...Mr. Coan combines the where,
when and how of some of the most vicious battles of the war in Vietnam
with personal insights of the men who fought them... presented
in a way that kept me from putting it down. Dramatic personal accounts
compliment Mr. Coan's in-depth research resulting in a book both moving
and informative..." -- North Carolina (Amazon.com Reviews)
Throughout much of 1967, a remote U.S. Marine firebase only two miles away from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North from South Vietnam captured the attention of the world's news media. Portrayed as a beleaguered, artillery-scarred outpost overlooking the fiercely-contested DMZ, Con Thien was the scene of numerous bloody encounters between the U.S. Marines and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).
Military maps of the area indicated a prominent terrain feature 158 meters in elevation labeled Nui Con Thien, which in English means "a small mountain with heavenly beings." Early French missionaries believed there was something angelic about the hill. Years later, battle-hardened young Marines came up with their own names for the place -- "meat grinder," "hell-hole," and "Dodge City." And they joked that DMZ meant "Dead Marine Zone."
In some circles, Con Thien came to symbolize America's failed military strategy of waging a high-tech war of attrition. Cynically labeled "McNamara's Wall," far-removed Washington whiz-kids and Pentagon planners devised a barrier of firebase strong-points connected by a clear swath of land sewn with barbed wire, mines, and anti-filtration devices. This "Maginot Line" concept was supposed to deter Ho Chi Minh's Army from moving across the DMZ into South Vietnam. Con Thien was a key component of that much-maligned barrier plan and a lynch pin in the defense of the entire northern border region.
Con Thien also came to represent the U.S. Marine Corps' resolve to persevere, to stand resolute against a dedicated, well-armed and highly trained enemy. The Marines never wavered in fulfilling their mission to hold that piece of high ground at all costs. But, the price was high. Official records list 1,419 U.S. Marines and Navy Corpsmen as having been killed in action, and 9,266 wounded in action, all at or near Con Thien from 1966 through 1969. Thus, the scope of the book covers those war years.