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Good Afternoon Vietnam
A Civilian in the Vietnam War
Read by Gary L. Wilhelm

December 12, 2017 / ISBN 9780999347232
Memoir / War, Vietnam and Civilians

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

A Vietnam Memoir with a Twist

Good Afternoon Vietnam gives us a perspective quite different from other books—indeed other media—about the Vietnam war. The author, Gary L. Wilhelm, is an engineer and was an engineer called to “duty” by his firm, Univac. Readers will find his viewpoint sometimes tinged with satire, more often will a gentle humor marked with disbelief. After all, how can a civilian employee be prepared for the likes of Vietnam when so often even those with military training weren’t.

There is a reality about the prose—a reality that goes unconfirmed—that much of this book is from actual notes or a journal written on-the-spot. The same goes for the structure which, though told as if it unfolds with a real-time projection—also seems to be punctuated by whatever oddity (the one and a half page description of the Vietnamese laundry woman who washed the authors’ clothes in metal cans and swept the sand from his sleeping quarters) happens to come to mind. Sort of a Viet-style stream of consciousness. And the story is all the more believable for it.

Good Afternoon Vietnam includes a couple suggestions for further reading. One on the copyright page , is a free discussion guide for the book that may be handy for the needs of secondary education units at The other, the last chapter titled “Conclusions” at the end of the book rarely seen in a memoir, is an integral part of the memoir. Indeed the book, though personal and first person, is often more of a teaching tool than a memoir. I consider it cross-genre. The need to share, the connection with biography, the personal aspect of the book only served to intensify the usefulness of it as a teaching tool in terms career and life planning as well as the far-reaching and unexpected effects of war.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, multi award-winning author of The Frugal Book Promoter, now in its third edition and other books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers.
Reviewed 2020