The best books about the Vietnam War from an infantryman who served there

Who am I?

I served as an infantryman in Vietnam with both the 25th ID and the 101st Airborne. Curiosity about what other units did during the war drove me to read about their exploits and learn about what else took place outside of my little part of the war. I am also the admin of a website dedicated to the Vietnam War and its Warriors. My intent over the last eleven years is to educate the public and continue our legacy.  

I wrote...

Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel

By John Podlaski,

Book cover of Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel

What is my book about?

In 1970, John Kowalski is one of many young, naive teenage soldiers sent to Vietnam to fight in an unpopular war. Dubbed “Cherries” by their more seasoned peers, these newbies suddenly found themselves thrust into the middle of a terrible nightmare. On-the-job training is intense, however, most of these teenagers were hardly ready to absorb the harsh mental, emotional, and physical stress of war. When coming under enemy fire and witnessing death first-hand, a life-changing transition that can't be reversed.

The author is an excellent storyteller, readers testify that they're right there with the characters, and joining them in their quest for survival; sharing the fear, awe, drama, and sorrow, witnessing bravery, and sometimes, even laughing at their humor. Cherries tells it like it is and when finished, readers will have a much better understanding of what these young men had to endure for an entire year. It's a story that is hard to put down.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Why did I love this book?

Karl did a wonderful job in writing Matterhorn. As a Vietnam infantry vet myself, it was easy for me to relate to many of the hardships experienced by the Marines in this story. I also remember those constant never-ending humps through the jungle – at times for days on end and sometimes without sufficient food or water. The story moved easily and I found myself reading way late into the night because I wasn’t able to put my Kindle down. Karl developed his characters and brought the reader into his platoon; I was extremely saddened when many were lost. 

By Karl Marlantes,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Matterhorn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fire Support Base Matterhorn: a fortress carved out of the grey-green mountain jungle. Cold monsoon clouds wreath its mile-high summit, concealing a battery of 105-mm howitzers surrounded by deep bunkers, carefully constructed fields of fire and the 180 marines of Bravo Company. Just three kilometres from Laos and two from North Vietnam, there is no more isolated outpost of America's increasingly desperate war in Vietnam.

Second Lieutenant Waino Mellas, 21 years old and just a few days into his 13-month tour, has barely arrived at Matterhorn before Bravo Company is ordered to abandon their mountain and sent deep in-country in…

Book cover of Last Stand at Khe Sanh: The U.S. Marines' Finest Hour in Vietnam

Why did I love this book?

The Last Stand at Khe Sanh was an intriguing read that documented the 77-day siege of the Marine basecamp. It seems like the author took the after-action reports about the events and then humanized the report and breaking it down to squad-level action to make it more readable. I especially like how he listed names of personnel and followed them through the battle where they either portrayed valor or shows how they died. My close friend, Doc Cecala was wounded during an ambush while on a patrol with B 1/26; most of his platoon was killed and at least half of the second which came to reinforce them. Shot in the shoulder and legs, he managed to crawl back to the gates of the firebase and be rescued.

The book also does justice to the hill fights surrounding the base, showing how they worked through their difficulties: ground attacks, incoming, lack of water, food, and ammunition.

By Gregg Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last Stand at Khe Sanh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Last Stand at Khe Sanh is a vivid, fast-paced account of the dramatic 1968 confrontation, when 6,000 US Marines held off 30,000 North Vietnamese Army regulars at a remote mountain stronghold. Based on extensive archival research and more than 100 interviews with participants, author Gregg Jones captures the courage and camaraderie of the defenders and delivers the fullest account yet of this epic battle.

Book cover of Legend: The Incredible Story of Green Beret Sergeant Roy Benavidez's Heroic Mission to Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Beh

Why did I love this book?

Tells the story of a Special Forces group inserted into Cambodia who unknowingly landed on the fringes of an NVA Division basecamp. They are compromised and fight to survive. Meanwhile, other units are trying to rescue the beleaguered troops and Americans are dying in their attempt. Sgt. Benevidez repels to the ground, treating wounded soldiers, organizing their retreat, and battling the enemy – severely wounded and left for dead. His actions warranted the Medal Of Honor. An uplifting story about a special soldier who actually survived the ordeal.

By Eric Blehm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Legend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The true story of the U.S. Army’s 240th Assault Helicopter Company and a Green Beret Staff Sergeant's heroic mission to rescue a Special Forces team trapped behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War, from New York Times bestselling author Eric Blehm. 

On May 2, 1968, a twelve-man Special Forces team covertly infiltrated a small clearing in the jungles of neutral Cambodia—where U.S. forces were forbidden to operate. Their objective, just miles over the Vietnam border, was to collect evidence that proved the North Vietnamese Army was using the Cambodian sanctuary as a major conduit for supplying troops and materiel to…

Book cover of Marble Mountain: A Vietnam Memoir

Why did I love this book?

Bud Willis does a wonderful job with this well-told story and offers the reader an in-depth look at the everyday life of these helicopter flying Marine warriors, which isn’t, by the way, a nine to five job. The book follows “BOO” through training and then during his tour as a chopper pilot in Vietnam; his tour lasting 13 months from March, 1966 through April, 1967. The author also has a fantastic sense of humor and wit that sometimes catches me off-guard, making me laugh out loud. When I thought about the antics and games these officers orchestrated – I had to remind myself that even as officers, many of them were only 19 – 21 years old and still kids themselves. However, war steals that naivety and innocence, leaving in its place deep scars, both physically and mentally.

By Bud Willis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marble Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marble Mountain presents a personal account of a young man's 1966 combat tour as a Marine helicopter pilot. Of the many books I have read about Vietnam, Marble Mountain wins hand down for its raw honesty, youthful naiveté, and pure readability. Through riveting imagery, Bud Willis finally opens a window of understanding for readers of any age to experience the conflicting drama of one of the most challenging periods of American history. Gripping, heart-wrenching, and realistic, Bud's poignant memoir lingers with the reader well beyond the conclusion of the book with a powerful message that is as relevant today as…

Call Sign Dracula

By Joe Fair,

Book cover of Call Sign Dracula

Why did I love this book?

Readers will follow the author during his acclimation to war and witness his transition from a scared, naïve and inexperienced eighteen-year-old soldier into a skilled, savvy leader within the course of a year. The author shares his memories, both good and bad. I sometimes found myself laughing out loud at some of the antics he and his fellow soldiers pulled. Joe doesn’t pull any punches and tells it like it was…when friends die, it is very hard to keep a stiff upper lip and continue to function as if nothing happened. He also shows us that the military has both good and bad leaders within its ranks, errors in judgment often resulted in the death of many innocent people.

The life of a grunt is difficult, indeed, Call Sign Dracula will educate civilians – infantry veterans will relate.

By Joe Fair,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Call Sign Dracula as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Call Sign Dracula" provides an outstanding, valuable and worthy in-depth look into the life of a US Army Infantry soldier serving with the famed 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) in Vietnam. It is a genuine, firsthand account of a one-year tour that shows how a soldier grew and matured from an awkward, bewildered, inexperienced, eighteen-year-old country “bumpkin” from Kentucky, to a tough, battle hardened, fighting soldier.You will laugh, cry, and stand in awe at the true-life experiences shared in this memoir. The awfulness of battle, fear beyond description, the sorrow and anguish of losing friends, extreme weariness, dealing…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Vietnam War, war, and Cambodia?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Vietnam War, war, and Cambodia.

The Vietnam War Explore 212 books about the Vietnam War
War Explore 1,746 books about war
Cambodia Explore 21 books about Cambodia