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Up-close and Personal


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An authentic and harsh look at the day-to-day life of a soldier in Vietnam.

Memoirs from Vietnam veterans tend to range from the literary to the battle-focused, leaving many people wondering just what it was like to be a soldier in this conflict. Enter Robert Bogison’s memoir, “Up-Close and Personal: In-Country, Chieu Hoi, Vietnam. 1969-1970.” Bogison, an MP, takes us on his journey from boot camp to his readjustment at home.

It is a strong narrative that does not center around firefights (Bogison was in just three), instead focusing on the day-to-day work of a soldier. While most people think of MPs as standing guard, Bogison was an infantryman and then led a patrol boat crew. While some memoirs paint a glorified picture of the writer, Bogison not only laughs at himself but even questions his own outlook on the people he was defending.

Although not assigned to Vietnam, Bogison made several attempts to end up there only to find himself working a security detail. After more pleading, he finally finds himself in an infantry unit crawling through the mud, burning leeches off his body, and waiting for the enemy to appear.

A central part of the memoir focuses on a time when Bogison leads his troops on the patrol boat to find bodies from a helicopter crash. As they find the bodies in the river they are bloated and coming apart as the soldiers try to pull them in. It is a harsh section that takes any beauty out of death in wartime. 

Bogison’s interactions with the Vietnamese people are rare and raw. He was not a fan of the Vietnamization of the war and found reasons to not trust South Vietnamese soldiers. At one point he is ready to kill a Vietnamese woman and finally, he nearly stops a family from taking their injured 4-year-old child onto a military helicopter because he thinks it might be a trap. Others intervene and he relents only to realize that there was no trap. The child dies while being transported in the helicopter.

“I was evolving into a brute who cared nothing for the child or the Vietnamese people. I had become what Army at war trains its soldiers to do. Win.”

Harsh, self-judgment assures us we are reading an authentic account of the author's 14-months as a solider. Those with an interest in what happens to people in war, and that should be everybody, should read this memoir.

Reviewed by

I'm a long-time reader and reviewer who has no pretension about being an author someday. My undergraduate work was in Philosophy, Religion, and English. My Master's degree is in Professional Writing (English). I've taught first-year English with college students and write three different blogs.

About the author

Robert Bogison served a 14 month tour of duty in Vietnam as a squad leader in an ambush & recon platoon and as a non-commissioned officer in-charge of three Patrol Boats (PBRs) conducting Riverine Operations. 26 years in law enforcement, 19 of which were spent investigating homicides. view profile

Published on June 10, 2019

Published by

130000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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