I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm. From the New York Times to Newsweek, the accolades poured in. “Del Vecchio has constructed a classic war novel,” wrote the Chicago Sun-Times. I loaned my copy of The 13th Valley to several of my fellow vets and, for all I know it’s still making the rounds out there. It never came back to me.
As exhausted and overwrought I was from reading The 13th Valley, I was strangely upbeat. Finally, somebody had gotten it right — the language, danger, cadence, frustration, and racial tension were all how I’d remembered them, even if I wasn’t engaged in combat myself but rather reported on soldier’s exploits from the rear. I’d been there, damnit, and this is exactly what it felt like.
It wasn't the same, however, with us and our South Vietnamese allies. By that point in the Vietnam War, we were committed to the "Vietnamization" process, i.e., monthly withdrawing U.S. troops by the thousands and in the process handing over combat responsibilities to South Vietnamese Army units (ARVN). It was not a seamless transition, and tight spots like the 13th valley could only exasperate it.