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Robert Tonsetic

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Colonel Robert Tonsetic, USA (ret.) “grew up in the Pittsburgh area. After completing the University of Pittsburgh in 1964, he was commissioned as an infantry lieutenant. He served as a company commander for 6 months during the Tet and May Offensives in 1968. He later served as an advisor to the Vietnamese Ranger and Airborne units. He retired from the Army in 1991 with the rank of colonel. He subsequently received a doctorate in education and taught for four years at the University of Central Florida. While in Vietnam, Colonel Robert Tonsetic received the Distinguished Service Cross for his service. Colonel Robert Tonsetic is the author of Warriors: An Infantryman Memoir of Vietnam and Days of Valor: An Inside Account of the Bloodiest Six Months of the Vietnam War.


According to the book description of Days of Valor: An Inside Account of the Bloodiest Six Months of the Vietnam War, “A nonstop maelstrom of combat action, leaving the reader nearly breathless by the end. The human courage and carnage described in these pages resonates through the centuries, from Borodino to the Bulge, but the focus here is on the Vietnam War, and a unique unit formed to take part at its height.


The 199th Light Infantry Brigade was created from three U.S. infantry battalions of long lineage, as a fast reaction force for the U.S. to place in Indochina. As the book begins, in December 1967, the brigade has been in Vietnam for a year, and many of its battered 12-month men are returning home. This is timely, as the Communists seem to be in a lull, and the brigade commander, in order to whet his new soldiers to combat, requests a transfer to a more active sector, just above Saigon. Through January the battalions scour the sector, finding increasing enemy strength, NVA personnel now mixed within Viet Cong units. But the enemy is lying low, and a truce has even been declared for the Vietnamese New Year, the holiday called Tet.


On January 30, 1968, the storm breaks loose, as Saigon and nearly every provincial capital in the country is overrun by VC and NVA, bursting in unexpected strength from their base camps. In these battles we learn the most intimate details of combat, as the Communists fight with rockets, mortars, Chinese claymores, mines, machine guns and AK-47s. The battles evolve into an enemy favoring the cloak of night, the jungle-both urban and natural-and subterranean fortifications, against U.S. forces favoring direct confrontational battle supported by air and artillery. When the lines are only 25 yards apart, however, there is little way to distinguish between the firepower or courage of the assailants and the defenders, or even who is who at any given moment, as both sides have the other in direct sight. Many of the vividly described figures in this book do not make it to the end. The narrative is jarring, because even though the author was a company commander during these battles, he has based this work upon objective research including countless interviews with other soldiers of the 199th LIB. The result is that everything we once heard about Vietnam is laid bare in this book through actual experience, as U.S. troops go head-to-head at close-range against their counterparts, perhaps the most stubborn foe in our history.


Days of Valor covers the height of the Vietnam War, from the nervous period just before Tet, through the defeat of that offensive, to the highly underwritten yet equally bloody NVA counteroffensive launched in May 1968.


The book ends with a brief note about the 199th LIB being deactivated in spring 1970, furling its colors after suffering 753 dead and some 5,000 wounded. The brigade had only been a temporary creation, designed for one purpose. Though its heroism is now a matter of history, it should remain a source of pride for all Americans. This fascinating book will help to remind us”.


According to the book description of Warriors: An Infantryman Memoir of Vietnam, “On the ground, in the air, and behind the lines, grunts made life-and-death decisions every day—and endured the worst stress of their young lives.


It was the tumultuous year 1968, and Robert Tonsetic was Rifle Company commander of the 4th Battalion, 12th Infantry in Vietnam. He took over a group of grunts demoralized by defeat but determined to get even. Through the legendary Tet and May Offensives, he led, trained, and risked his life with these brave men, and this is the thrilling, brutal, and honest story of his tour of duty. Tonsetic tells of leading a seriously undermanned ready-reaction force into a fierce, three-day battle with a ruthless enemy battalion; conducting surreal night airmobile assaults and treks through fetid, pitch-black jungles; and relieving combat stress by fishing with hand grenades and taking secret joyrides in Hueys.


During that fateful year, as unrest erupted at home and politicians groped for a way out of the war, Tonsetic and his men did their job as soldiers and earned the title “Warriors.”

FORSAKEN WARRIORS: The Story of an American Advisor who Fought with the South Vietnamese Rangers and Airborne
Robert Tonsetic  More Info

Warriors: An Infantryman's Memoir of Vietnam
Robert Tonsetic  More Info

DAYS OF VALOR: An Inside Account of the Bloodiest Six Months of the Vietnam War
Robert Tonsetic  More Info

According to the book description of FORSAKEN WARRIORS: The Story of an American Advisor who Fought with the South Vietnamese Rangers and Airborne, ďAn inside account of the South Vietnamese elites who strove to carry on the war against the Communists during the U.S. Army's withdrawal. The book is a personal memoir of the author's service as a US Army advisor during the end-stages of America's involvement in Vietnam. During the period 1970-71, the US was beginning to draw down its combat forces, and the new watchword was Vietnamization. It was the period when the will of the US to prosecute the war had slipped, and transferring responsibility to the South Vietnamese was the only remaining hope for victory.

The author served as a US Army advisor to South Vietnamese Ranger and Airborne units during this critical period. The units that the author advised spearheaded several campaigns in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, as the US combat units withdrew. Often outnumbered and outgunned, the elite ranger and airborne units fought Viet Cong and North Vietnamese units in some of the most difficult terrain in Southeast Asia, ranging from the legendary U Minh forest and Mo So mountains in the Mekong Delta, to the rugged hills of southern Laos.

The role of the small US advisory teams is fully explained in the narrative. With little support from higher headquarters, these teams accompanied the Vietnamese units on highly dangerous combat operations over which they had no command or control authority. When US advisors were restricted from accompanying South Vietnamese forces on cross-border operations in Cambodia and especially Laos, the South Vietnamese forces were badly mauled, raising concerns about their readiness and training, and their ability to operate without their US advisors. As a result, a major effort was placed on training these forces while the clock continued to run on the US withdrawal.  Having served with a US infantry battalion during the peak years of the US involvement in Vietnam, Robert Tonsetic-the acclaimed author of Days of Valor-is able to view the war through two different prisms and offer criticisms and an awareness of why the South Vietnamese armed forces were ultimately defeated.

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