Magazine of the Marines – October 2018
Books Reviewed ~ Volume 101, Issue 10
TO THE SOUND OF THE GUNS: 1st Battalion, 27th Marines from Hawaii to Vietnam 1966-68. By Grady T. Birdsong. Published by BirdQuill LLC. 434 pages. Available on Amazon & Barnes & Noble.
“To the Sound of the Guns” is highly recommended for not only the Marines who served in 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, but also Marines everywhere interested in our Corps’ grand and illustrious battle history. This carefully researched book documents the battalion’s combat history in Vietnam.
The title of the book is taken from the battalion’s motto “To the Sound of the Guns.” The motto, etched on the battalion’s patch, reflects its outstanding combat record achieved during World War II’s Iwo Jima campaign.
The book is full of interesting anecdotes and remembrances of the battalion’s veterans. Although continuously undermanned, the battalion served as a maneuver force in the ever-expanding war following the Tet Offensive. After rigorous organization and training in Hawaii, the Marines of 1/27 were ordered to Vietnam in February 1968. The battalion was then attached to the 1st Marine Division.
Initially sent south of the huge military base at Da Nang, 1/27 was tasked with keeping “Liberty Road” safe and secure for travel and later participated in Operation Allen Brook. The operation lasted three and one-half months, resulting in more than 1,000 enemy combatants killed. The battalion also fought in a series of battles for the control of Go Noi Island, located south of Da Nang.
The author reported on his early experience with war wondering just what kind of madness a war might bring. The war, he concluded, would brutalize the Marines far beyond normal.
The battalion sustained extremely heavy casualties during its relatively short deployment in the Republic of Vietnam. One hundred twelve Marines and Navy corpsmen were killed. Additionally, 557 battalion members were wounded during the battalion’s 1968 combat tour.
This excellent military history volume is well-conceived and well-executed. The book contains many previously unpublished photos of the 1/27 Marines from their combat tour. Studded with well-conceived and reliable maps, the book also is a treasure trove of Vietnam War statics. The work includes an exceptionally helpful glossary of military terms, acronyms and an Honor Roll of the battalion’s war fighting casualties.
Marines of the Vietnam-era will enjoy the chapter, “Tools of the Trade,” where the author guides the reader through a review of the battle equipment used by Marines during the action-packed days of the 1960s. The reader gets a look at the battalion’s wheeled vehicles including the Mighty Mite jeep. This chapter also includes photos of the lifesaving support helicopters used during the Vietnam War. Additionally, photos of the weapons are also included and “old salts” will undoubtedly relish seeing photos of the antiquated 782 filled gear that they utilized during the war.
HM2 Bob Taugner recalled treating a severely wounded Marine: “He had been shot and the bullet had entered on the side of his face. It looked like the round had taken off the bottom lower jaw and half of his tongue … and most of his teeth in that area of his jaw.” Not trained for anything like this, the doc instantly packed the horrific wound. He then sat the Marine upright to stop him from choking and/or preventing him from swallowing his tongue. He continued: “He was a tough one … He never grabbed me or cried out. I will never forget him.”
Grady Birdsong, the author, was raised in Kansas and joined the Marines in 1966. He served two combat tours in northern I-Corps between 1968 and 1969. He has served as a veterans’ advocate and is now retired and living with his wife near Denver, Colo.
Well-researched, well-organized, and interesting to read, “To the Sound of the Guns,” may well become one of the definitive narratives of the Marine involvement in the Vietnam War.
Author’s bio: Readers will recognize Marine veteran “Red Bob” Loring as a frequent reviewer.