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Lee Basnar

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Major Lee Basnar, USA (ret.) “military career took him to Germany, France, Vietnam, Alaska, and several assignments in the continental United States. He rose through the enlisted ranks to Sergeant First Class E-7, received a direct commission, and retired as a Major.


His enlisted duties included infantry squad leader and platoon sergeant, company first sergeant, and battalion operations sergeant. As an officer, he commanded a basic training company in South Carolina, an infantry company in Vietnam, and an area recruiting command in California, as well as serving in staff assignments as an inspector general, assistant secretary of the general staff, S-3 and G-3 operations officer, and advisor to the Alaska National Guard, among other duties. Major Lee Basnar is the author of Vietnam Vignettes: Tales of an Infantryman and Northern Lights & Shadows: Sixteen Years in the Alaska Bush.

According to the book description of Vietnam Vignettes: Tales of an Infantryman, “From searching for missing soldiers upon taking command of Charlie Company to leading his troops in a night combat air assault that reinforced a beleaguered platoon, the author of Vietnam Vignettes immerses the reader in each scene. He explains why a top-secret operation in North Vietnam drowned four of his soldiers. He skillfully conveys tension, fear, and courage as his infantrymen engage in a series of firefights across the coastal plain and in the jungled mountains to the west of Chu Lai.

This collection of tales goes far beyond the mines, booby traps, snipers, and spider holes that his soldiers encountered almost daily. The author decries the unreasonable rules of engagement regarding the use of indirect fire when enemy bullets smacked around his warriors in open rice paddies. He voices his thoughts about a staff officer who tragically diverted helicopters to the wrong landing zone—helicopters that transported Charlie Company during one of its many combat air assaults.

He describes flying with an air force forward air controller on a combat mission. When the pilot dived the OV-10 Bronco spotter plane and fired a white phosphorous rocket to mark the enemy base camp as a target for an Australian bomber crew, the enemy responded.

While a convoy that he commanded delivered artillery pieces to the isolated Tra Bong firebase, Captain Lee Basnar rode above the column in a helicopter. When rocket-propelled grenades slammed into the convoy during the return trip to Chu Lai, the infantry officer and his pilot each earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for evacuating wounded soldiers while under intense enemy fire.

The author tells of the war’s impact on the children who greeted his infantry company during some of its operations in villages near LZ Stinson. He portrays the beauty and the ugliness of Vietnam, the monsoons, the heat, the endless nights, the rattle of machine guns, the tracers stabbing the darkness, the misery and the humor, and the tough life of an infantryman in Charlie Company. The author’s respect and admiration for his soldiers who fought well despite the lack of backing from many citizens at home is evident throughout Vietnam Vignettes.”

Vietnam Vignettes: Tales of an Infantryman
Lee Basnar  More Info

Northern Lights and Shadows: Sixteen Years in the Alaska Bush
Lee Basnar  More Info

According to the book description of Northern Lights & Shadows: Sixteen Years in the Alaska Bush, “Lee and his wife, Joan, lived in the vicinity of Denali (Mt. McKinley), North America's highest peak. The book describes how they built their cabin and lived a rustic life. Lee runs a trapline, learns to fly a plane, and wanders through wilderness. The Basnars subsist on wild game and berries, and they smoke and preserve fish caught in nearby streams.

No matter their situation—flying in a small plane, breaking trail on snowshoes, driving snowmachines through blizzards, skiing under the northern lights, or confronting bears and wolves—the couple’s respect for Alaska’s stunning natural world is unmistakable.

Swans, loons, foxes, and other wildlife are their neighbors, and the Basnars share in nature's drama. Caribou trigger a landslide that buries part of the herd. Grizzlies attack and kill moose. Wolves howl under wintry skies. The author describes coping with the many challenges of their lifestyle. His appreciation for wilderness and the animals that depend on it grows throughout the book, and he realizes that trapping animals is something he and the furbearers can live without. He recognizes how greed and carelessness can threaten wilderness, and the book explains his conversion from hunter and trapper to conservationist.

After becoming a pilot, Lee roams Alaska’s skies in his ski plane in winter and floatplane in summer. He lands on remote lakes and fishes for arctic grayling or rainbow trout. Miles from the nearest human, he sets up camp and explores the wilderness alone. He survives some terrifying experiences when wind and rain blast his small plane, forcing emergency landings.

The pain of frostbite, the agony of spring breakup, and the tough labor of backpacking the meat from a 1,000-pound moose are offset by the joy of watching sunrise transform Denali into something surreal. Northern Lights and Shadows describes real people living in a setting that surpasses most imaginations.”

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