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Publisher's Summary

Finalist for the National Book Award: a work that has served as a literary cornerstone for the Vietnam generation.

The 13th Valley follows the terrifying Vietnam combat experiences of James Chelini, a telephone-systems installer who finds himself an infantryman in territory controlled by the North Vietnamese army. Spiraling deeper and deeper into a world of conflict and darkness, this harrowing account of Chelini's plunge and immersion into jungle warfare traces his evolution from a semipacifist to an all-out combat-crazed soldier. The seminal novel on the Vietnam experience, The 13th Valley is a classic that illuminates the war in Southeast Asia like no other book. It is the first title in Del Vecchio's Vietnam War Trilogy, which also includes For the Sake of All Living Things, about the Cambodian holocaust, and Carry Me Home, which addresses the aftermath of war.

©2012 John M . Del Veccio (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

One of the classic novels of Vietnam

Any additional comments?

In "The 13th Valley" John del Vecchio has created a work that is captivating, engrossing, immersive, authentic and heartbreaking. It is an intense account of the members of a company in the 101st Airborne division during an operation in the Central Highlands of Vietnam in August 1970. You learn what the soldiers are thinking, feeling, and dreaming. It is also a disturbing book in many ways. And that is as it should be. One's stand for or against the Vietnam War is immaterial. The reality for the men who served in Vietnam was surviving 365 days and most counted each day assiduously.

The book is a detailed and authentic account in the sense that operational aspects of company level combat tactics are related in minute detail. Of course, there's a certain level of violence and gore. After all, it's war. But the author doesn't dwell on that. A lot of the book's realism lies in its exploration of the day-to-day struggles that are, and always have been, the lot of an infantryman in the field. That is, misery in the form of exhaustion, filth, mosquitoes, leaches, searing heat, dust, torrential rain, cold, mud, hunger, thirst, and sleep deprivation. And the seemingly endless hour of mind numbing boredom punctuated by minutes of sheer terror when contact is made.

I don't know how many times I've read "The 13th Valley" since it was first published. Probably every three or four years. Each time I read it I learn something new. Listening to the audio book was time well spent. The narrator was excellent. Being familiar with the book, I remembered the location of units at particular points in time, how they moved around, landmarks, etc. I'm also familiar with military-speak, equipment, weapons, etc. Unfortunately, Audible does not make available a supplement with the maps or the glossary found in the printed version. The maps are referenced at the end of chapters as a summary of daily activities and are necessary to get a clear picture of where units are or have been, and how those movements relate to the overall mission. Those not familiar with military jargon and nomenclature may be overwhelmed by the terms thrown around. Not having a downloadable pdf file containing the maps and glossary was disappointing and will cause frustration for some listeners. I have to give the overall rating 4/5 stars based on that shortcoming.

I think John del Vecchio's "The 13th Valley" is a classic novel of the Vietnam experience in the same way that Norman Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead" and James Jones's "The Thin Red Line" are classic fiction from World War II. There are other excellent Vietnam novels, such as "A Rumor of War," "Fields of Fire," or "Matterhorn," to name a few. I've read those and many more. I can't say that "The 13th Valley" is the best of the lot; it's just my favorite.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Describes a place and time, and a warrior class.

What did you love best about The 13th Valley?

The descriptions of the infantry way of life in the field during war.

Down to minute details, this book engaged me whenever what was taking place was in Vietnam. I liked how the units involved used tactics that conformed to the entire situation. I couldn't stop listening.

What about Sean Runnette’s performance did you like?

His voice transported me. Everything he said felt urgent and was driving toward the next action. Most of the time, I thought Sean Runnette disappeared into the story or merged into it.

Who was the most memorable character of The 13th Valley and why?

Cherry was probably the most memorable character for me, although there were others. Cherry had to adjust to the hardships, the ways that had already changed all the other men. I could feel how this experience changed him forever.

Any additional comments?

The parts of the story that occurred in the U.S. were conversations that often went over my head, I admit. But everything that took place in Vietnam grabbed me in full.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Could Have Been Brilliant

The first half of this book mesmerized me. The narrator, Sean Runnette, does a great job of pulling you in and making you feel like you were there, a young punk kid, in Vietnam in 1970. I couldn't wait for my work commutes. I wanted to get back to the story and see what happens next.

Then, my attention started to drift. It's a long book. It's over 27 hours. I found that the author, Del Vecchio, padded the text and became repetitive. He stocked the chapters with long dissertations about politics, the history of Vietnam, and philosophy. It took me away from the magic of the book that had hooked me in the first place. No longer was I living the life of a grunt in the Vietnam bush but now listening to the characters wax and wane about the meaning of war--this in a totally uncharacteristic style. I felt as if the author of the book was determined to get his politics across whether it hurt the story or not.

By about three quarters through the book, I found myself just hoping for the damn thing to end. I'd had enough.

What a journey that was, from being completely captured by the book to not caring if I finished it or not.

The book flat-out needs a good editor. I think, if the book was shrunk by 50%, and most of the political/philosophical stuff were minimized, then this could be one of the best novels ever written about Vietnam.

As it is, I'd give it a 3 Star rating.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Craig
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 02-17-17

Best, truest novel of Vietnam from the Grunt's POV

When I first read this novel decades ago I was amazed. It's the truest, most honest book about the Vietnam war, from the field soldier's point of view, I've ever read. None of the movies you may have seen about Vietnam, or the other novels, come even close to telling what it was really like. I was there in 1969 and I attest that what you'll read in the book is true. All of it.

If you want to know what Vietnam was like for the grunts in the field, the ones who actually fought the war and many of them died there, this is the book you want to read. It's also well written, but too long in parts. You'll end up skipping some of the less relevant parts. The author, Del Vecchio, was there with the 101st Airborne and knows what he's talking about.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Never had to fast forward through a story this much

I'll admit I like to read about combat. Not enough here to suit me. If you are excited about philosophy regarding Vietnam and war in general, this is your book. I had to fast forward through at least 1/3 of this story to get to the real story. Narration was very good, though.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Z
  • 03-12-18

Understanding the the war

John M Del Vecchio took all the pain, heroism,tragedy, & senseless violence on and off the never changing non-front of each battle and gave it straight to the memory of our lead character, “Cherry”. Cherry then directs us on this voyage.
Wasn’t great but worthy of your money, credits, and time.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The best!

This is the best war book I have heard, well done!
It’s touched me like no other...

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Painful<br />

There but for the Grace of God, my name could have been in that Roll Call.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • GY
  • 11-01-17

Detailed, thoughtful, and compelling.

This reader prefers the level of detail offered in this book about an Airborne company in the mountains of northern South Vietnam. There are lots of digressions and flashbacks, but they are well written and thoughtful - not your typical combat story stereotypical fare. I couldn't put it down, as it were. You come away having learned a lot about the nature of post-Tet operations and even the nature of war itself. Well done.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

good book, just drawn out in spots,,

liked book, but a little drawn out when talking about why men go to war.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lisa V
  • 03-17-17

Very good, a classic

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

quite long so not for a single sitting

Any additional comments?

the only parts of this story i didn't like were the multiple philosophical conversations between the troops which while i'm sure happened on occasion didn't really add to the story and just seemed out of place, the second was the speed at which Cherry turned to 'the dark side' just seemed too fast for me but apart from that it was great.