Bing West’s The Village is a book about the life of a small unit level squad of Marines during the Vietnam War. Accurately and meticulously portrayed the book covers over 17 months of the struggles the Combined Arms Platoon (CAP’s) of Marines had with the PF’s (Popular Forces) and villagers. On June 10, 1966 Twelve Marines had volunteered for this assignment to live among six-thousand Vietnamese in the Village of Binh Nghia, thinking it would serve as a break from the war itself, it was not what they had expected. For the first week or so was pretty quiet, during the day the Marines worked with the PF’S and villagers fortifying the village. No technology or modern defensive tactics were used on fortifying, like West said that it could have been fortified the same way a century earlier. At night the Marines would go on patrols, using the PF’s as point men, this is where they would constantly come into contact with the VC (Viet Cong.) By august the Marines had engaged in seventy firefights.
The majority of them taking place at night during the patrol only lasting a few seconds. The book emphasizes on how two different people overcome the levels of stress that come with living together for long period of time. The tactical, cultural and social level they experience in a combat environment. How the Marines trained the PF’s and local police and vise-versa. It tells a lot of the situations they had to work through to keep stability in Binh Nghia and secure the town. West was a member of the squad he describes so vividly throughout the book but doesn’t insert himself too much in the story. He just describes what happens in great detail especially during patrols. The detail he uses makes for a strong connection between the reader and the characters making it that much more tragic when they die in the book.
He does a great job describing how the Marines conducted their day to day joint patrols with the PF’s and how each learned from one another. When the Marines first got there the PF’s couldn’t shoot worth a damn but they were good at spotting VC at night. In October of 1967 it had been 2 and a half months without firefights or even any sign of VC. The training the PF’s received through the Marines eventually allowed them to be able to keep the village safe on their own. The Marines were no longer needed. Only seven of the original fifteen were left.
The Marines tried to win the hearts and minds of the local villagers and succeeded. This reminded me a lot of what we did in Iraq and are doing in Afghanista . Working with the people trying to protect them and train them, establish a democracy. The book portrays the sacrifice and brotherhood that is formed amongst the people in a time of war. What I liked the most was the way Bing West wrote the book and told the story in a non-biased stance. Not really giving much of his opinion on the matter but leaving it up to the reader to decide right from wrong. In conclusion I would definitely recommend this book.