The Ghosts of Thua Thien

An American Soldier’s Memoir of Vietnam


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About the Book

Drafted in October 1968, John A. Nesser left behind his wife and young son to fight in the controversial Vietnam War. Like many in his generation, he was deeply at odds with himself over the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, instilled with a strong sense of duty to his country but uncertain about its mission and his role in it. Nesser was deployed to the Ashau Valley, site of some of the war’s heaviest fighting, and served eight months as an infantry rifleman before transferring to become a door gunner for a Chinook helicopter. In this stirring memoir, he recalls in detail the exhausting missions in the mountainous jungle, the terror of walking into an ambush, the dull-edged anxiety that filled quiet days, and the steady fear of being shot out of the sky. The accounts are richly illustrated with Nesser’s own photographs of the military firebases and aircraft, the landscapes, and the people he encountered.

About the Author(s)

John A. Nesser is a retired United States Forest Service soil scientist. He lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Bibliographic Details

John A. Nesser

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 207
Bibliographic Info: 35 photos, glossary, index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3324-7
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8134-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Introduction      1
Prologue      3

1. Drafted      9
2. Welcome to Vietnam      22
3. The Ashau Valley      33
4. The Jungle      48
5. Night Assault      59
6. Body Count      69
7. Firebase Bastogne      79
8. Sapper Attack      89
9. Walking Point      100
10. Camp Sally      110
11. The DMZ      119
12. The Bridge      131
13. Door Gunner      145
14. Getting Short      158
15. Welcome Home      166
16. Dreams and Illusions      175

Epilogue      183
Glossary      187
Index      193

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “I knew John Nesser for years, and never knew him. I read his book. Now I will never forget. He wrote many years after his Vietnam experience and he has forgotten much. But his heart has not. John’s story of adventure (for adventure it was) is as poignant now (in the days of the Iraq debacle and its aftermath) as it was the day he returned to the world. John was a soldier once. Part of him will never be anything else.”—Henry Shovic, author of When There’s Only You: Safe Living for Women