A Tiger Among Us
Written By: Bennie G. Adkins and Katie Lamar Jackson
Published By: Da Capo Press
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I’m a history buff and often enjoy a good book about the past, believing that understanding the history of the world is not only a good way to understand its people in general, but it is also a great way to learn from our mistakes. I have a special interest in the Civil War and the Vietnam War and have read many books on the subjects. So, when I saw a book by an individual who distinguished himself with bravery and honor in Vietnam and had been recently presented with the Medal of Honor, I decided I really wanted to read this book.
A Tiger Among Us by Bennie G. Adkins and Katie Lamar Jackson takes us back in time to the moments when a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force attacked and invaded Camp A Shau, a small training and reconnaissance camp located next to the Ho Chi Minh Trail. But he doesn’t just take us there – he takes us on the journey that got him there, describing how he ended up in the Army, how he decided on becoming a member of Special Forces, what it means to be a member of the Green Berets and more. He gives us background information regarding the operation at A Shau and what it was like to work with the indigenous population. Then he takes us into the days just before the attack, the signs that an attack was imminent and what was done to fortify the camp as a result.
And then we are there, observing the attack through the eyes of Sergeant First Class Bennie G. Adkins and some of the surviving members of the camp. Chaos and frustration abound as the members of the camp are forced to defend themselves from the enemy outside the perimeter and those within – those within the 141st battalion of South Vietnamese soldiers who defected and started attacking camp members as well. The description of the battle is so detailed as to put the reader right inside the action. You experience every moment with Adkins as he attempts to achieve the impossible – survival under 10 to 1 odds.
But he doesn’t just stop there – he continues the journey after the four-day battle with his recovery from injuries, the notification of his family that he was Missing in Action and eventually that he was found and recovering from injuries, his third tour in Vietnam and his life after the Army all the way until he received the call from the President in 2014 regarding the Medal of Honor. Happily, he also updates us on the lives of the other Green Berets who provided accounts of the battle, so we know what happened to them afterwards.
Throughout this book, you marvel at Adkins’ fierce will to survive the attack on A Shau and you eventually realize just how humble his account of his actions there really is, especially after reading the Medal of Honor citation which goes into detail about Adkins’ heroic actions. A Tiger Among Us doesn’t just tell us the story of a hero among soldiers, but it also gives us some insight into why the United States failed to win the war. Through Adkins’ own account of the issues at hand, we learn that it was very hard to tell who was a friend and who was an enemy in Vietnam; not enough was known about the people, the language, the terrain; recon was often discarded by the higher ups despite being solid and on-point.
I was engrossed in A Tiger Among Us from page one. The book is well-written and descriptive, allowing us to see what it was like for one Green Beret who risked it all in battle to take out countless enemies and save lives amongst his fellow soldiers. It’s a fast and captivating read that I would definitely recommend to any history aficionado with particular interest in the Vietnam War.