Not a Gentleman's War

An Inside View of Junior Officers in the Vietnam War

By Ron Milam

256 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-3712-2
    Published: August 2012
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8289-9
    Published: October 2009
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9864-2
    Published: October 2009

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Wars are not fought by politicians and generals--they are fought by soldiers. Written by a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, Not a Gentleman's War is about such soldiers--a gritty, against-the-grain defense of the much-maligned junior officer.

Conventional wisdom holds that the junior officer in Vietnam was a no-talent, poorly trained, unmotivated soldier typified by Lt. William Calley of My Lai infamy. Drawing on oral histories, after-action reports, diaries, letters, and other archival sources, Ron Milam debunks this view, demonstrating that most of the lieutenants who served in combat performed their duties well and effectively, serving with great skill, dedication, and commitment to the men they led. Milam's narrative provides a vivid, on-the-ground portrait of what the platoon leader faced: training his men, keeping racial tensions at bay, and preventing alcohol and drug abuse, all in a war without fronts. Yet despite these obstacles, junior officers performed admirably, as documented by field reports and evaluations of their superior officers.

More than 5,000 junior officers died in Vietnam; all of them had volunteered to lead men in battle. Based on meticulous and wide-ranging research, this book provides a much-needed serious treatment of these men--the only such study in print--shedding new light on the longest war in American history.

About the Author

Ron Milam is associate professor of military history at Texas Tech University. He served as an infantry advisor to Montagnard forces in the Vietnam War.
For more information about Ron Milam, visit the Author Page.


"Contributes significantly to the historiography of the war and our understanding of the U.S. Army in the 1960s and early 1970s. . . . Highly recommend[ed] . . . to historians of the Vietnam War era."--The Journal of American History

“Primarily useful to military history insiders, Vietnam War veterans, and advanced scholars. . . . Recommended.”--Choice

"A useful corrective to those histories denigrating the contributions of junior officers in Vietnam and a solid contribution of collective biography."--Army History

Not a Gentleman’s War fills a void in the scholarship of the Vietnam War. Much has been written about generals and enlisted men, but this is the first study that looks at the junior officers’ war and the challenges they faced.” --On Point

"This book addresses an important topic and should become a standard work in the historiography of the war."--American Historical Review

"Useful in depicting the terrific pressure junior officers were under in Vietnam."--History Wire