Even as a boy growing up amid the green hills of rural
Pennsylvania, Robert W. Black knew he was destined to become a Ranger. With
their three-hundred-year history of peerless courage and independence of
spirit, Rangers are a uniquely American brand of soldier, one foot in the
military, one in the wilderness—and that is what fired Black’s imagination. In
this searing, inspiring memoir, Black recounts how he devoted himself, body and
soul, to his proud service as an elite U.S. Army Ranger in Korea and
Vietnam—and what those years have taught him about himself, his country, and
Born at the start of the Great Depression, Black grew up on
a farm at a time of great hardship but also tremendous national determination.
He was a kid who toughened up fast, who learned the hard way to rely on his
strength and his wits, who saw the country go to war with Germany and Japan and
wept because he was too young to serve. As soon as the army would take him,
Black enlisted. And as soon as he could muscle his way in, he became a Ranger.
As a private first class in the 82d Airborne Division
headquarters, Black withstood the humiliations of enlisted service in the
peacetime brown-shoe army. When the Korean War began, he volunteered and trained
to be an Airborne Ranger. In Korea, this young warrior, his mind and body
bursting with the lusts of adolescence, grew up fast, literally in the line of
fire. In clean, vivid prose, Black describes the hell of giving his all for a
country that lacked the political resolve to give its all to a war against the
North Koreans and the Chinese.
If Korea was frustrating, Vietnam was maddening. The heart
of this book is devoted to the years of action that Black saw in Long An
Province starting in 1967. Black writes of the perplexity of collaborating with
South Vietnamese officers whose culture and motives he never fully understood;
he conjures up the sudden shock of the Tet Offensive and the daily horror of
seeing fellow soldiers and innocent civilians slaughtered—sometimes by stray
bullets, often by carelessness or treachery. Vietnam challenged everything
Black had come to believe in and left him totally unprepared for the hostility
he would face when he returned to a war-weary America.
Written with extraordinary candor and passion, A Ranger Born
is the memoir of a man who dedicated the best of his life to everything that is
great and enduring about America. At once intimate in its revelations and
universal in its themes, it is a book with profound relevance to our own
troubled time in history.
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