Good Afternoon Vietnam

Good Afternoon Vietnam

A Civilian in the Vietnam War

Book - 2017
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"This is the story of a civilian technology engineer working with the Marines in DaNang, Vietnam, from 1968 to 1969. Wilhelm arrived in a blue suit and tie from a military plane and finally found his back way to the USA for a company who would not agree to end his work term long after it was over. A Civilian Working in a War Zone: The position was working with the computer technology of the time and the US Marine Corp. No one else from his company had previously gone to Vietnam to tell him what he could expect. No one was there to meet his plane! Working with the Marines: The memories include the night sky being alive with planes circling the base, listening to a bamboo band play American military songs, learning first-hand how difficult holidays are in a war, and not being allowed to carry a weapon. His volunteer position as a substitute English teacher for the South Vietnamese was protected by Marines with shotguns and side-arms. Life Learning: This is a story of survival and the life perspective war can bring. Gary Wilhelm worked with the Marines and using the computer technology of the time. As an engineer, Wilhelm viewed rocket attacks as physics lessons which he describes in one story. He never knew when he might have to travel to another country to phone the United States, so at a moment's notice, he had many unplanned adventures. He planned his own travel to finally leave Vietnam when his company kept ignoring his requests to return home a year longer than his assignment"
Publisher: Maple Grove, MN : Gary L Wilhelm, [2017]
Edition: 1st ed
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780692999905
Characteristics: ix, 97 pages : color illustrations ; 22 cm


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Jun 16, 2018

The free discussion guide for secondary students is at this link


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Jun 18, 2018

carmwilh thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


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Jun 16, 2018

I’m going to start off by saying that I am NOT a fan of war stories….BUT this book is DIFFERENT! Good Afternoon Vietnam: A Civilian in the Vietnam War is not a story about war, nor is it a story of a soldier. This is a story about a young man in a blue suit, white shirt, and tie who has left academia and is beginning his venture into the real world as an engineer; and little did he know how real that world would become. An initial request to transfer to Iceland (which was turned down) led him to two years in the heart of Vietnam.

Wilhelm’s descriptions tell the tale well…the heat, the humidity, the smell, as he departed the plane into a land unknown. Being surrounded by armed military men while he was neither military nor armed. He uses the vernacular where appropriate, but explains what the terminology means.

This is a story not particularly violent (except for an unseen bar fight), but rather of adventure; making the best of what you have to improve life, of dull days at work, and watching love bloom between others.

Wilhelm was overwhelmed at the war life when he arrived in Vietnam and didn’t take a photo for months as he didn’t want to remember what he was seeing. However, I’m glad that he finally did take some photos, as they are sprinkled throughout this book so that we can catch a small glimpse of tin shacks covered in styrofoam and just picture in our minds some of the hi-jinx he and his friends managed…after all, Wilhelm was an engineer so what else would he do in his downtime other than find ways to install unapproved air conditioning?

Ways of communicating with friends and bosses were less than ideal in times before encrypted sat phones and the internet. Just imagine having to fly out of the country to make a phone call! Alcohol was used as currency, and even going to buy toothpaste could involve danger. Yes, this was a whole other world in another time, and one that I know little of, but am now more curious to learn more about.

As I mentioned earlier, this book is written for adults, but if your children are learning about either war or Vietnam’s history, you could read these stories together, or choose relevant chapters, and youngsters could learn about the way people live during times of war and then use these stories as a way to discuss world events and how they affect those who aren’t directly involved in the conflict themselves. What would they do if they could be in danger just going to the shop for soap, never mind the latest trading cards or magazine.


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