In January 1968, the 26th Marine Regiment was ordered to a place in the
far northwest corner of South Vietnam called Khe Sanh. John Corbett, an
untested replacement in a clean, green uniform, and his fellow leathernecks
were responsible for building and defending the combat base, and holding
positions on the strategic hills overlooking the Ho Chi Minh Trail as it
crossed into Laos and South Vietnam from nearby North Vietnam.
Only days after Corbett arrived at Khe Sanh, some twenty thousand North
Vietnamese soldiers surrounded the base, outnumbering the American Marines
seven to one. What followed over the next seventy-seven days became one of the
deadliest fights of the Vietnam War—and one of the greatest battles in military
Private First Class Corbett, an “ammo humper” in an 81mm mortar
section, made do with little or no sleep for days on end. The enemy bombarded
the base incessantly, and Corbett’s mortars returned the fire, day and night.
Extremes of heat, cold, and fog added to the misery, as did all manner of
wounds and injuries too minor to justify evacuation from frontline positions.
The emotional toll was tremendous as the Marines saw their friends suffer and
die every day of the siege. Corbett relates these experiences through the eyes
of an eighteen year old but with the mind and maturity of a man now in his
fifties. His story of life, death, and growing up on the front lines at Khe
Sanh speaks for all of the Marines caught up in the epic siege of the
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