Shake ’n Bake Sergeant

I’m between books for review. I just submitted my review of Pete Earley’s No Human Contact (Citadel Press, 2023), and I haven’t yet received a new book for review. So I resumed reading Jerry S. Horton’s The Shake ’n Bake Sergeant: True Story of Infantry Sergeants in Vietnam (2006) labelled “Edition: September 2018.” The copy I have shows no publisher. My best guess is that Horton self-published the book. The copy is also autographed, but I have no memory of ever having met Horton. Nor do I remember how I came to have a copy of the book.

The text of The Shake ’n Bake Sergeant is filled with small editing errors, everything from words left out to peculiar spacing (e.g., two spaces after each period) and misspellings. It tells the story of Horton’s army tour of duty in Vietnam’s western highlands in 1969. Assigned to the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, he operated in an area very familiar to me from my time there during the battle of Dak To in 1967. His descriptions of the places he was assigned bring back sharp memories of the area, except that I was a civilian under cover as military assigned to assist the 4th Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade with signals intelligence of North Vietnamese forces. I repeatedly warned both units that several North Vietnamese divisions were concealed in the hills to our west preparing to attack us. I wasn’t believed. The end result was one of the bloodiest battles during the Vietnam war. At the end, despite huge casualties, no territory had changed hands.

I can’t say I’m enjoying Horton’s book, but I am learning from it. Horton details endless marches from place to place (he calls it “humping”). At about halfway through the book, I haven’t yet read of Horton’s combat experience, but I know from the preview in chapter one that he was severely wounded. I had thought that my time in the highlands was grueling, but his—and that of other infantry soldiers—was far worse.

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