The Odyssey - Doug Stanton

The Odyssey of Echo Company:
The 1968 Tet Offensive and the Epic Battle to Survive the Vietnam War

Scribner | 336 pages | September 2017


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On a single night, January 31, 1968, as many as 100,000 soldiers in the North Vietnamese Army attacked thirty-six cities throughout South Vietnam, hoping to topple the government and dislodge American forces. Forty young American soldiers of an army reconnaissance platoon (Echo Company, 1/501) of the 101st Airborne Division and hailing from small farms, beach towns, and such big cities as Chicago and Los Angeles are suddenly thrust into savage combat, having been in-country only a few weeks. Their battles against both North Vietnamese Army soldiers and toughened Viet Cong guerillas are relentless, often hand-to-hand, and waged night and day across landing zones, rice paddies, hamlets, and dense jungle. The exhausting day-to-day existence, which involves ambushes on both sides, grueling gun battles, and heroic rescues of wounded comrades, forges the group into a lifelong brotherhood. The Odyssey of Echo Company is about the young men who survived this epic span, and centers on the searing experiences of one of them, Stanley Parker, who is wounded three times during the fighting.

When the young men come home, some encounter a country that doesn’t understand what they have suffered and survived. Many of them fall silent, knowing that few of their countrymen want to hear the remarkable story they have lived to tell—until now. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews, dozens of personal letters written in the combat zone, Pentagon after-action reports, and travel to the battle sites with some of the soldiers (who meet their Vietnamese counterpart), and augmented by detailed maps and remarkable combat zone photographs, The Odyssey of Echo Company breaks through the wall of time to recount ordinary young American men in an extraordinary time in America and confirms Doug Stanton’s prominence as an unparalleled storyteller of our age.

Reviews

“Doug Stanton, one of our most artful practitioners of literary non-fiction, has long had a knack for finding stories that put a human face on war. Here is raw combat captured in all its pathos, exhilaration, terror, and sense of brotherhood. Novelistic in detail and compulsively readable, Stanton's searing tale of war and homecoming will soon find its place on a rarefied shelf alongside MatterhornA Bright Shining Lie, The Things They Carried, and We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young—which is to say, among the classics of the Vietnam War.”
Hampton Sides

“Doug Stanton is a superb nonfiction writer who grabs you and holds you from first page to last. Readers who follow him on this Odyssey through Vietnam and the American psyche will never forget it.”
—David Maraniss, author of They Marched into Sunlight

“Although the characters in Doug Stanton's newest book are ordinary Americans from unexceptional backgrounds, "Odyssey" is the right word to describe their harrowing experiences in the Vietnam War. There was a Homeric quality in their battle to survive the Tet Offensive, as well as in their homecoming, when they found themselves strangers in their own land. In this tale of men at war, Stanton once again proves himself to be both a superb journalist and a master storyteller.”
—Philip Caputo, author of A Rumor of War and Some Rise By Sin

“The history of the Vietnam War hovers over America’s conscience like a ghost, haunting those who took part in it, challenging those who try to find meaning and possibly redemption in it. The individual histories of the men and women who fought in that brutal, ugly conflict are painful. Gathered in this book are the stories of a few soldiers in one reconnaissance platoon in one company who were in the worst of the fighting in 1967-68. Doug Stanton has captured the horror, the tragedy, the extreme courage and devoted brotherhood of these men in exceptional and sensitive detail. They are not stories for the faint-hearted. But they are emotionally rewarding for a reader to experience.”
—John Laurence, author of The Cat from Hue: a Vietnam War Story

"We are finally ready to learn about Vietnam, and no books tells the story better than this one."
—Library Journal (starred review)

The Odyssey of Echo Company is a majestic, masterful book. I couldn’t put it down, even in its most aching, tearful moments. War has such a dark heart, and Doug Stanton doesn’t shy away from that, but he also shows us the better hearts of human beings, and that’s what makes this book so profoundly moving and unforgettable.”
—David Finkel, author of Thank You For Your Service and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist

“Doug Stanton has done it again. In The Odyssey of Echo Company we go to war in Vietnam, up close and personal with patriotic young, working class Americans who take us through their daily lives of brutal, face to face combat and how it changed them forever. This is a book for all Americans to read for the enduring lessons of what happens when we commit our precious young to the ravages of combat. It is a civic duty to read The Odyssey of Echo Company.
—Tom Brokaw

“No one in the world does this kind of thing better than Doug Stanton.  He's a meticulous reporter, a fluent, propulsive storyteller, and this account of tragedy and triumph is an instant go-to text for those who want to know what their fathers and brothers—and America—were doing fifty years ago.”
Lee Child

"Doug Stanton has crafted a compelling portrait of the men of Echo Company, innocent and vulnerable young Americans who faced brutal fighting during the Tet Offensive. Against the broad tableau of the Vietnam War, Stanton has masterfully reported the lives and losses of this small reconnaissance platoon and the rawness of combat they endured. It is one of the most intimate war stories of our time.”
—Robert Giles, Curator (ret.), Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard University 

"From harrowing scene of battle to those of heart-rending tenderness, I felt I'd joined the young paratroopers of Echo Company in their journey through the Tet Offensive of 1968. Doug Stanton writes about the personal for the millions. It's an amazing story about a group of young men who lived history."
—Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn

"Talent was never an issue for Doug Stanton."
—The Detroit Free Press