on 14 July 2010
I followed the usual way of rotary wing Vietnam fans, Chickenhawk onwards...Eventually I branched out into something else, snipers in Vietnam. But, finally I stumbled on this incredible book.
The pathfinders directed the slicks into LZs, whether the lead was flying or not, frequently the former. Now, that takes some guts. If you've read all about the ominous ticking noises as bullets fly through the skin of a Huey, then this tale is all about the chap stood out in the open, directing the lead chopper to the right place. Chickenhawk through the wind-shield.
This book begins with an autobiographical description of the multiple training streams Burns traversed on his way to the front (infantry, para, pathfinder), before he unleashes the tales of his gut wrenchingly brutal tour. The perfect combination, the classic combination told well.
Burns packs the pages with detail (and I mean packs, the pages are dense with text), pathos, humour, respect for his enemy, love for his fellow soldier and wraps it all in an absorbing and hypnotic writing style. I frequently started reading at bedtime and only fell asleep as the sun rose outside, it's a cliché but...I couldn't put the book down without wanting to know "what happens next?"
I cannot recommend this book enough, it will fill in one of the blanks of your vicarious Vietnam experience.
As always, I salute Burns and those like him for what they did in difficult circumstances.
on 6 April 2016
A really enjoyable book.
Having read 15+ Viet Nam books, most of which covered 'choppers, LRRP's or SF's, this was a nice intro to the Pathfinders and how they fitted in with (and worked very closely with) the other teams. It actually linked up well and was written around the same time as some of the other books so you get to see the same events from a different perspective.
Honest, gritty, gripping and quite humorous in places. No heirs and graces - just told it how it was. The Pathfinders had very tough jobs and did it without complaining.
Burns gives a good account of himself and his buddies, mixed with the usual dose of dismay for REMF's and elements of the command chain. You really felt you were there and shared a lot of the pain and suffering (Burns was quite happy to admit that he was scared witless a lot of the time).
Very enjoyable and once I could easily read again.
on 2 April 2013
I was in my early teens in New Zealand when the Vietnam war was happening and I worked with some guys who were there - my cousin was almost drafted too - it was happening in my back yard.
I've got renewed interest in the experiences of those guys who went and put their lives on the line in such a raw and visceral manner. This first hand account relates very vividly the experiences they had and how they coped with them. Or not, in some cases.
The book was enjoyable to read and well written. I've read others that are a bit clunky yet this was smooth and engaging from the start. I found it gripping.
on 7 December 2014
'Surprisingly good' in terms of the writing style which appears a little immature to begin with. I don't know the author's age at the time of writing but it felt to me as though it was written either during his tour of duty or immediately upon his safe return.
Nevertheless, it reads as an open and forthright account of the author's experience, lacking in any obvious embellishments; if anything, slightly understated. I salute him.
on 12 March 2016
What a powerful book. And what a decent man Richard Burns must have been. In both the madness of war and in the uncertainty of peace this world needs a cadre of men and women with courage, dedication, and integrity, at all times, and in all circumstances. This author had these qualities in spades. I'm glad this narrative was published, and shared. A privilege to read.
on 17 June 2015
Pathfinder starts out in a somewhat boring folksy way. However, as the narrator recounts the ever more challenging aspects of his tour, the tempo builds. Towards the end, I was genuinely engaged in the story and probably stayed up a bit too late on several nights as I read "just one more chapter". All in all, a good true tale.
on 10 June 2013
Having read over a dozen books on the war in Vietnam, mainly about LRRP's, SOG etc this has to be one of the best that I have read. Very detailed and easy to read, it gives a great insight to the daily life of a Pathfinder. One of the only books that i could quite easily read again and again.
on 14 March 2014
A great read,covering a year as a Pathfinder (hence the title) in Nam.Wasn't too sure at first,but once it got going,I really enjoyed it. It covered a wide variety of different missions,working with different units.It's a shame a few more Pathfinders don't put their stories down in print.