Acquisition No.: 2012-01
Title: Book; "The First Casualty: A Vietnam Memoir," Karl Orndorff, 2012
Item History:

Beyond the media hype and far removed from the gung ho warriors searching for fame written in enemy blood, lie the realities of life for the average military individual during the Vietnam War. Just beyond that dwell the stories of a few persons whose bizarre war experiences reached far outside the norms of average military personnel. The life of any soldier during war time comprises the extremes of boredom punctuated by split second decisions that could make the difference between life and death. Heaven and Hell, love and hate, murder, illicit drugs, hunger, rescue, association with the enemy, falsification of official records and cultural gaps that dwarfed the depth and breadth of the Grand Canyon comprised the experiences documented herein. The unimaginable determination of a Communist enemy waging an ambiguous war without a front was the foundation of an interesting series of events that are accurately portrayed here, just as they played out during the war. By luck, fate, destiny or blessing, one incredibly unlikely end result was the author's survival. With brutal honesty (but a lack of the colorful language that was a normal part of military vocabulary), this book tells the story of a United States Marine assigned to 7th Separate Bulk Fuel Company in Vietnam, from 1967-1969. Danang, Hoi An, An Hoa, Hill Ten, Liberty Bridge and remote villages, rice paddies and bamboo thickets in between, were the settings. The cast was huge. Vietcong, NVA, The Tiger Division of the Korean Marine Corps, a few Australians, various unnamed F4 Phantom pilots, PFC Darryl Jensen and the author are the primary characters. Forty years would pass before a pen was grasped to write these accounts that at one time were desperately wished forgotten. The events in this work are documented as the author experienced them. Each event is recalled as clearly as if the four decades were four days. Every unconventional account is verifiable.

Various book review quotes follow:

"Somehow manning a fueling station in Vietnam doesn't sound exceptional. Karl Orndorff's The First Casualty: A Vietnam Memoir makes that seemingly boring and repetitious function come alive with interest and excitement. For starters, what better target for enemy mortars and 122mm rockets than a 10,000 gallon bladder full of gasoline? That's the environment where the author worked and lived for two and a half years in Vietnam."

"Through a fast pace, easily understood, creative writing style one can smell the fumes, experience the frustrations, enjoy the humor, and respect the ingenuity of a teenage corporal left to his own wits within a war zone with little oversight or leadership from his parent unit."

"When Orndorff decided to write about his experiences nearly 40 years after leaving the military, he visited the Alfred M. Gray Marine Corps Research Center in Quantico, Virginia to review the records of his unit, the 7th Separate Bulk Fuel Company, during the time that he served three different tours in country. Shocked that the 'official records' did not agree with the reality that he experienced and verified, he chose the book's title from a quote by tragedian Aeschylus: "Truth is the first casualty of war."

"After growing up in a poor rural Pennsylvania family with an abusive and alcoholic father, Orndorff joined the Marines Corps at age 17, right out of high school. His harsh childhood experiences prepared him for the rigors of boot camp which he felt was much easier than most young recruits. He volunteered for Vietnam and was assigned as a team leader with one other young Marine to man a standalone field fueling station supporting Korean Marines whose culture and language he couldn't understand and whose tactics he found appalling."

"In a well written narrative of his experiences, he tells of being isolated with no contact by his company's leaders or any resupply of fuel or food for four months after the Tet offensive. He describes the horror of mortar and rocket attacks on his fuel dump; about him and his assistant running through rice paddies with no support to provide security for a Marine pilot whose F4 jet crashed near their camp; and with no guidance or expertise, of trying to build under hostile fire a pipeline across a large river. These and other activities that he witnessed, the author alleges, are contrary to the 'official records' written back in the secure base camps. However, he states that he has documented his versions of the incidents in a book sprinkled throughout with photos of burning fuel dumps, destroyed fuel tankers, and other scenes from Vietnam."

"With each succeeding tour, the author became more cynical and critical of the American war policy and the lack of leadership from his unit's senior NCOs and officers. While he took pride in doing his job and the Corps, he also drifted into drug and alcohol abuse during his final tour. Fortunately, he shook early addiction and went on after his four-year enlistment to become a successful industrial engineer."

Author's Proof Copy, 383 pages, paperback.

Available at Amazon.com.

Location: Case V
Acq. Date: 2012
Acquired from: Karl Orndorff
Type: accession
Curator: ckrc