This post has a review of the book Good Afternoon Vietnam: A Civilian in the Vietnam War by Gary L. Wilhelm, as well as a free discussion guide for secondary teachers. The book is a first-person account of an engineer working with the Marines at MAG 11 in DaNang, Vietnam, from 1968-1969. The author is my husband. He has been telling family and friends the stories for many years and has finally written them down. He self-published his eBook and paperback on Amazon last fall. I have been thinking of making a discussion guide and now it is ready. The discussion guide is free.
The “look inside” feature on Amazon shows several pages, and the first story in the book may be viewed free at the MNVietnam.org story wall. The MNVietnam story wall is a PBS Minnesota Initiative and has categories for military, civilian, family, refugee, and activist stories. There are a wide variety of stories from different perspectives. It is a very interesting site. We recently watched the The Vietnam War television series by Ken Burns, and maybe you did as well. As it is 50 years later, there has been a renewed interest in the topic.
Good Afternoon Vietnam book has a much different perspective on the Vietnam War as it is told through the eyes of a civilian living and working with the Marines both in the United States and in DaNang, Vietnam. The stories are not typical war stories but an honest eye-view of daily life and events at a Marine base, MAG 11. Who else but an engineer would see and tell about the physics of a bomb dump explosion? Yes, he saw physics in action. Gary is the Frugal Engineer, and he tends to see physics, science, and math all around. He has been interviewed about this topic by students writing research papers, and thought he should just write a book.
Some people feel the stories are similar to M*A*S*H as some are quite humorous. It is a quick read as it is about one hundred pages in length. There are no battle scenes or fighting descriptions, although of course the area was quite dangerous. When the work contract was up, the company my husband was working for would not respond for his requests to return home, and so he stayed longer than anticipated. I actually met him after he returned from the experience.
Castleview Academy wrote a book review about the book at this link. She dislikes war stories but found this book to have a different perspective. There are additional reviews on the book’s Amazon page.
Secondary teachers, you may download your free discussion guide at the next link. It is a free instant download. I hope some people will find it helpful.
There is a Venn diagram to compare and contrast being a civilian in a war zone with being a soldier there.
There is a crossword puzzle and answer key, as well. The discussion questions could be used by any book club, really.
And there are single point discussion pages that could be pulled separately for small groups, or for rotating groups.
Good Afternoon Vietnam: A Civilian in the Vietnam War
This is the story of a civilian technology engineer working with the Marines in DaNang, Vietnam, in 1968 and 1969. Wilhelm arrived in a blue suit and tie from a military chartered plane and finally found his back way to the USA for a company that resisted ending his work term and allowing him to come home.
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 who had previously gone to Vietnam was available 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 zone, whereas a civilian he was not 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.
Also, you might like to learn how I was able to publish this book for my husband. In our sign-up area there is an option to take the course I created. Read the blog post at this link.