Lieutenant Dangerous: A Vietnam War Memoir

By Jeff Danziger. (Steerforth Press, 208 pages, $14.95.)

There are moments of wry humor in "Lieutenant Dangerous," a memoir by political cartoonist Jeff Danziger, but mostly his recounting of serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War is told straight, shot through with an undercurrent of calm, controlled fury.

Danziger was in Vietnam in 1970. The war was falling apart, thousands were dying, and, as Danziger notes repeatedly, nobody thought the Americans were going to win. And yet, he writes, with something like disbelief, the war continued for another five years.

In "Lieutenant Dangerous" he recounts the ineptitude of the U.S. Army, the futility of pretty much everything war-related, and the enormous waste of money, resources and, not incidentally, human life.

The Army, he decides, is not just inept, it's one big sham. "It pretended that things were better than they appeared. It pretended that its training was effective when it wasn't. It pretended that orders were obeyed when they weren't. … And it continued to pretend that the Army itself was convinced of the rightness of the mission in Southeast Asia, at the very same time the highest ranks were riddled with doubt."

"Lieutenant Dangerous" is, the author notes, a "sad story, full of waste and loss." It's powerful. Put it next to Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" on your bookshelf.