Moving through the jungle near the Cambodian border on May 18, 1967, a company of American infantry observed three North Vietnamese Army regulars, AK-47s slung over their shoulders, walking down a well-worn trail in the rugged Central Highlands. Startled by shouts of “Lai day, lai day” (“Come here, come here”), the three men dropped their packs and fled. The company commander, a young lieutenant, sent a platoon down the trail to investigate. Those few men soon found themselves outnumbered, surrounded, and fighting for their lives. Their first desperate moments marked the beginning of a series of bloody battles that lasted more than a week, one that survivors would later call “the nine days in May border battles.”
Nine Days in May is the first full account of these bitterly contested battles. Part of Operation Francis Marion, they took place in the Ia Tchar Valley and the remote jungle west of Pleiku. Fought between three American battalions and two North Vietnamese Army regiments, this prolonged, deadly encounter was one of the largest, most savage actions seen by elements of the storied 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam. Drawing on interviews with the participants, Warren K. Wilkins recreates the vicious fighting in gripping detail.
This is a story of extraordinary courage and sacrifice displayed in a series of battles that were fought and won within the context of a broader, intractable strategic stalemate. When the guns finally fell silent, an unheralded American brigade received a Presidential Unit Citation and earned three of the twelve Medals of Honor awarded to soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam.
“Offering stunning insight into a largely unknown campaign, Warren K. Wilkins transports us into the foxholes of exhausted, dirty soldiers battling for their lives in a strange land. Nine Days in May should be added to the short list of books that illuminate the enduring strength and incredible bravery of the American fighting man in Vietnam.”—George J. Veith, author of Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973–1975
“Warren Wilkins adds to the storied history of the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division, offering a superb chronicle of the challenges American combat soldiers faced on the most grueling of battlefields. This is the best military history has to offer—linking larger strategic issues to harrowing stories of courage and sacrifice at the tactical level. Nine Days in May is a magnificent addition to our understanding of the American war in Vietnam.”—Gregory A. Daddis, author of Westmoreland’s War: Reassessing American Strategy in Vietnam
“In this compelling new history, Warren K. Wilkins offers an intimate portrait of American soldiers caught up in the white heat of battle. Focusing on the ultimate reality of the Vietnam War, the nameless small unit battles that defined the American Search and Destroy policy, Wilkins tells the stories of his soldiers well and with deep empathy.”—Andrew Wiest, author of The Boys of ’67: Charlie Company’s War in Vietnam
“Warren Wilkins has painted a vivid picture of stark infantry combat in the jungles of the central highlands of Vietnam over a nine-day period in May 1967. Day by day and blow by blow, Wilkins shows the courage, the teamwork, and the high price paid as these 4th Infantry Division draftees and ‘lifers’ slugged it out with the North Vietnamese Army. Showing the life of infantrymen in close combat, this work is a great addition to the history of the Vietnam War.”—Robert O. Babcock, President and Historian, National 4th Infantry Division Association
“Not only well written, but also well researched. Author Warren Wilkins has done a great service in writing about these battles. . .highly recommended to all as it is truly about time that our Vietnam veterans get their due.”—New York Journal of Books
“Making good use of interviews with American veterans, Wilkins delivers this little-known story admirably and it will appeal to those who appreciate carefully dissected analyses of battle action.”—Publishers Weekly