Granny and the Eskimo — Angels In Vietnam, By Jim Rowell

(Authorhouse, 2001; 144 pp., $14.95 — ISBN 0746847976).

Just looking at the cover of the book might bring two very different reactions from potential readers. The title may sound strange and the blurred Huey in front of the mountains of Alaska doesn’t seem to fit a book on Viet-Nam. However the cover illustration and title make a lot more sense after reading the book.

The author, Jim Rowell, served with B Company 2nd/8th Cavalry in Viet-Nam. He grew up in the backwoods of Louisiana in a relatively poor family, which typically for the economic conditions and traditions of the south in the 1940s and 50s was highly matriarchal with grandmothers strongly influencing a family’s destiny. He picked up a lot of values from her as well as valuable marksmanship lessons starting with a Red Ryder BB rifle.

In Viet-Nam he picked up another mentor who was referred to throughout most of the book simply as “The Eskimo.” From the Eskimo he learned additional woodcraft and tracking skills that he had not learned in his youth, as well as the combat skills that kept him alive.

Jim Rowell arrived in Viet-Nam in July of 1968, so he missed the battles of ’67 and TET ’68 and some earlier events which requires the reader to overlook a few errors due to Ravell’s lack of prior knowledge. An example is saying B/2/8 made the first night air assault of the war in September of 1968. In reality that first night air assault was back in 1965 when Captain Ted Danielsen’s A/Ist/8th Cavalry came to the aid of a 1st/9th Cavalry unit that had mistakenly initiated a fight in the darkness with a battalion of NVA. The 1st/9th unit was about to be overrun when Lt. Col. John B. Stockton sent in A/1/8. Such an operation was considered extremely reckless, but it worked.

Lacking an index, the book might not appeal to professional historians. As a personal narrative of going to Viet-Nam, serving with honor, and returning, the book is excellent. 1st Cavalry veterans in particular and Viet-Nam veterans in general will often find a smile of recognition crossing their faces as they read the book. Both males and females who have not been to Viet-Nam will also enjoy the book, which helps explain why it is in its third printing even though it was originally written to educate the author’s own family and friends about Viet-Nam and his experiences there.

The table of contents is well organized and the titles of the chapters give a pretty good idea of what you will find in them. The book also includes about 70 black and white photos of helicopters, aircraft, artillery, significant places, patrolling, village cordons and some general soldier life in Viet-Nam.

As a history, the book may have some shortcomings. However, the book reads easily and prompts some excellent questions from those who did not serve in Viet-Nam and may open dialog.