USM history professor releases newest book
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 00:09
Andrew Wiest, a history professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, recently released “The Boys of ‘67: Charlie Company’s War in Vietnam.”
The book focuses on interviews with members of Charlie Company and their families. According to Wiest, it “follows a single company of men from before their drafting, through their training and service and through today.” These men were all part of the 9th Infantry Division, the only division drafted and trained specifically for Vietnam.
Putting away the story-like entities, Wiest focuses on the hard, cold facts of the war.
“It is very much the human story of war, of conflict and its effects on families,” Wiest said.
Published by Osprey Press, “The Boys of ’67” took several years to organize.
“I first came to the story of Charlie Company in 1997 when I met a veteran of the company named John Young, who lives in Picayune,” Wiest said. From that day he knew that he needed to write a book about this extraordinary group of men. He did not know if he was up for the task until 15 years later he finally was able to say that he had collected enough data. Wiest attended his first reunion of Charlie Company in 2006, when his “real” work began.
“From that date, I started to gather interviews with the soldiers and their families (eventually at 70 interviews) and went to various archives to find the records of the company,” he said. In other words, Wiest has devoted six years to this project.
John Young was the initial inspiration for the book. He was the only enlistee in Charlie Company; the rest were drafted.
“He was and is so eloquent,” Wiest said. “His stories of his friends and comrades were so compelling. I knew that he had a special story about a unique group of men -- a story that had to be told.”
Young devoted time, driving from Picayune to help Wiest teach his Vietnam War class.
“He devoted himself,” Wiest said. “He accompanied USM students to Vietnam on six occasions. He was and is something special.”
This is a story of real men and their families who were involved in real war - one that causes pain and loss. One central thing that books often miss is that soldiers were people with hopes and dreams before they ever became soldiers. Most books on war also end with the peace treaty. But for soldiers, things are not that simple. Wiest hopes to bring a true sense of what the war was like for the people who were involved.
“The war is still a central part of who they are and who they became,” Wiest said. “So this book is about men and women who happened also to get locked into a brutal war - men and women with complete stories, complete lives.”
It is the story of men who returned and of their families. It is the story of men who did not return and the families who still have to deal with that fact.
“The book is very much a war story,” Wiest said. “It chronicles a great many battles. But more importantly, it is a story about the souls of soldiers and their families.”
‘‘Boys of Charlie Company” received critical acclaim before its official launch. Brigadier Genera H.R. McMaster said the book is a “well-researched and well-told story of courage, comradeship, tribulation and perseverance.”
Wiest wants the story of these veterans to be shared so that they may receive praise for their accomplishments.