on Nov. 9, 2018 :
John Podlaski's Vietnam War novel, "Cherries," is well-written from someone who's been in the trenches in Vietnam. His writing style is engaging, and it's obvious he's seen things no one should ever have to see, done things no one should ever have to do, and has to live with those memories. While time may help heal wounds, the ones that hurt the most are the loss of your buddies in battle.
John takes the reader through the initiation into Vietnam, the "baptism of fire", the multiple battles and endless patrols, and helps the reader understand the atrocities of war as if the reader was there first hand.
"Cherries" is a good read and should be high on anybody's list of books to read about firsthand experience in country.
Well done, John. And, Welcome Home!
Andy Adkins, Author of:
"You Can't Get Much Closer Than This: Combat with Company H, 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Division"
"Three Years, Eleven Months, 29 Days-But Who's Counting"
(reviewed 29 days after purchase)
on July 23, 2018 :
A hugely accurate accounting of so many courageous young men. Hats of too you John for having the vision and foresight to document what so many lived through. Thanks for your help in preserving these events. A really fantastic read.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on July 19, 2018 :
Just finished reading this book and it is a great read for anyone interested in what Vietnam was like. As a Vietnam vet (1969), I have read many books on the war and found this one to be one of the best. As a truck driver My experiences were a little different but we still shared many of the same experiences, being the new guy, discovering our stateside Vietnam training did not work in country, getting somewhat comfortable with the situation and then worrying if we would make home when our tour was almost done. (But then hating to spend our last days in a base camp because of the BS.) John does a great job of bringing the emotions of combat to life without over using military jargon so its understandable to those who have not had the military experience.
(reviewed 29 days after purchase)
L. Carey Rowland
on July 10, 2018 :
John Podlaski’s novel about a brand-new American soldier in Vietnam strikes at the heart of the matter— just what the hell were our soldiers over there supposed to be doing?
Them brave boys were putting their asses on the line, stalking communist enemies in strange jungles on the other side of the world, when all the while their survival instinct was demanding them to just hunker down, lay low, and get through their year-long sentence of jungle warfare in one living, still-breathing piece.
And All for what?
Because we sent them to do a job—kill communists, and run the ones we couldn’t kill back to the North.
Now we all know it didn’t work out that way, but we learned some lessons—and the world did too—in the process.
The problem our guys had over there was: how could we know, in a SE Asian village scenario, which villagers were helping the NVA, and which ones were on our side? As if these rice-cultivating peasants knew the difference between Karl Marx and George Washington!
After reading this book, Cherries, it seems to me that, in the midst of the terrible gun battles, every soldier’s internal war must have been a constant conflict between these two missions: to kill enemies and thus keep the brass-mandated “body count” on an upward curve, or to stay alive!
Which would you choose?!
In most cases, it seems it came down to protecting yourself and your squad buddies, while treading fearfully through the booby-trapped minefield of two opposing international ideologies whose political strategies had turned absolutely, militarily lethal.
That project required real men—brave soldiers who could bite the bullet— who could launch out and give it a shot while death and danger stalked them at every turn along the path.
This was a terrible, terrible ordeal that our nation put these guys through! We need to talk about it.We need to acknowledge their incredible bravery. We need to ask: Just what the hell happened back then and there in Vietnam?—in that war that so many of us managed to evade. Whether you were for the war of against it— reading John Podlaski’s “Cherries” is a provocative way to begin the assessment— an evaluation that needs to take place, for the sake of our nation’s future security.
Read the book, because this quasi-autobiographical story gives a close-up, day-to-day, boots-on-the-ground account of what our guys were doing over there in Vietnam, while we were trying to figure it all out here, stateside— here, safe in the home of the free, while the brave were answering the terrible call that our government had imposed on them. They endured that jungular hell-pit so that we, as a nation, could, in spite of defeat, pass successfully through the 20th-century burden of Cold War paranoia.
John’s fictionalized personal story fleshes out the constant conflict between two soldierly inclinations: fulfilling military responsibility by driving up enemy “body counts,” vs. following the human instinct to just stay alive, and somehow make it through your one-year tour of duty without getting your ass killed.
Our American purpose there was unclear. No definite battlefield could be found; the war was waged wherever our boys happened to run into the Viet Cong or the North Vietnam Army, in a perpetual theater-game of deadly hide-and-seek. Our teens and twenties recruits and draftees were dropped into unfamiliar Asian jungles, then immersed immediately in extreme fear—fear like you would feel seeing two of your platoon-mates’ heads staked on bamboo poles.
Not in Kansas any more, Toto!
Khe Sahn. A Shau, Ah shit! What have we gotten ourselves into?!
Read John’s book to find out what perils our boys were trudging through while we stateside were trying to figure out the whys and the wherefores.
BTW, by the 1990’s it was plain to see that the free world, led by the USA, had prevailed in our struggle against both fascism and communism. In the big picture, our effort in Vietnam played an instructive role in that victory. The governance of nations has more to do with learning from your mistakes than fighting a lost cause to some idealized bitter end.
Thanks to you all you guys—Cherries, LongTimers and Lifers—who answered the call to service at that time. Oh yeah, and here’s another belated message: Welcome Home!
(reviewed 20 days after purchase)
on July 6, 2018 :
Grab your steel pot, your ruck and your boots because you’re back humping the boonies. If a ‘Nam Vet doesn’t see himself somewhere in this book, he isn’t looking very hard. Yup. It’s that good. It’s one of the best, if not THE best book about legs, grunts or ground pounders ever written.
(reviewed 16 days after purchase)
on July 5, 2018 :
I found John's book very enlightening and factual despite being a work of fiction. As an Aussie Vietnam Vet, I am most impressed. Welcome home m,y American Brother
(reviewed 2 years after purchase)
on June 26, 2018 :
"Cherries" by John Podlaski has to be read to appreciate what happened to our youth back in the 60's. Vietnam is still a mystery to all who were born after this war ended, but "Cherries" will help anyone understand exactly what happened to our soldiers and how the leadership made it impossible to win this war. Once you start reading, you'll have a very hard time putting it down. It's easily a 10/10.
(reviewed 7 days after purchase)
on June 22, 2018 :
Great book that you can't put down. You have to keep reading to find out what happens next!
Thanks for your service and sacrifices!
From a former 11C NCO
(reviewed 3 days after purchase)
R A Peters
on July 14, 2014 :
As a modern Iraq war vet, I usually can’t relate to these old Vietnam War stories. Until this book, that is. Wow! It’s not just the “smack the magazine on the helmet” attention to detail, but the timeless realism that roped me in. If it weren’t for the jungle and mosquitoes, you could be crawling around with soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq.
My only complaint is the story’s length. While there’s no apparent “filler,” cutting the less important details would really pick up the pace.
Since the war was before my time, I can’t speak to the accuracy of the novel… but that doesn’t matter. Fiction, memoir or a little of both, Cherries still makes my top 10 list of best war novels. Whether a veteran or civilian, this is one great adventure tale.
(reviewed 14 days after purchase)
on May 11, 2010 :
In his book, 'Cherries', John Podlaski takes you the reader, right into the battle with him and his platoon on their journey through the fields, rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam. From his arrival 'In Country' as a 'Cherry', to his return home, and the uneasy, brisk, return to civilian life, John offers an insiders account of the true horrors of war. However, he also lets the reader see and feel all the other emotions of battle and military life, as only someone who 'was there' can relay them. Your 'In Country' journey with John as you read his story is so fascinating and riveting that you won't be able to put it down once you start reading through it's pages. I know that I'm going to have to read it all over again to make sure that I didn't miss anything on my first journey through 'Cherries'. I feel this is a must read situation for anyone who wants to really know what it was like to be a soldier in the Vietnam War.
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)