Finalist, 2021 Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Awards
Courage Under Fire is the first book published about Operation Lamar Plain. After 50 years, the story of the renowned 101st Airborne’s major offensive near Tam Ky, South Vietnam remains largely unknown. Fighting at Tam Ky by the 1st Brigade began 15 May 1969 while the 101st’s 3rd Brigade battled on Hamburger Hill. The political consequences of Hamburger Hill’s high casualties caused Lamar Plain and its high casualties to remain classified and undisclosed. Decades later, the fighting at Tam Ky is mostly forgotten except by those who fought there.
Sherwood’s superb research of now declassified records uncovers how such a large battle could remain hidden and undisclosed. But that is not the heart of his story. His focus is on the courage and commitment of the young infantry soldiers who fought. Many were sons of WWII and Korean War veterans. They had a legacy to uphold—to honor their families, the 101st Airborne, and their nation. Most of all in the crux of battle, they would not let their fellow soldiers down.
Courage Under Fire uses actual battle records and eyewitness accounts to follow “Never Quit” Delta Company and its sister companies through 28 days of continuous combat at Tam Ky. Delta Company’s young infantry soldiers live up to their motto despite increasing casualties, a tough enemy, harsh battlefield conditions, and loss of leaders. For all who fought at Tam Ky, their bravery and devotion to duty in an increasingly unpopular war is worthy to be remembered. With veterans of Tam Ky now growing older and fewer in number, it is past time to tell their story.
The Infantryman’s Creed
Introduction: Into the Fray
Part 1 Combat Operations Before Tam Ky, 1 March–15 May 1969
Chapter 1 Hue and Beyond, 1 March–11 April
Chapter 2 The A Shau Valley, 12 April–15 May
Part 2 Initial Combat Operations at Tam Ky, 15 May–2 June 1969
Chapter 3 Arrival and First Combat Assault, 15–16 May
Chapter 4 Finding the Enemy, 17–20 May
Chapter 5 A Brutal Day-Long Engagement, 21 May
Chapter 6 Recovery and Review, 21–22 May
Chapter 7 Follow-on Operations, 23–30 May
Chapter 8 A Broken Cease Fire, 31 May
Chapter 9 Change of Command, 1–2 June
Part 3 The Decisive Battle at Tam Ky, 3–12 June 1969
Chapter 10 Hill 376: The Final Challenge
Chapter 11 Combat Assault and First Contact, 3–4 June
Chapter 12 Trouble on the Hill, 5 June
Chapter 13 The Move to the Top, 6 June
Chapter 14 Nearing the Top, 7 June
Chapter 15 Unexpected Setbacks, 8 June
Chapter 16 Turning Point, 9 June
Chapter 17 Aftermath, 10 June
Chapter 18 Coming Off the Hill, 11 June
Chapter 19 Extraction, 12 June
Chapter 20 Final Thoughts on Hill 376 and Tam Ky
Epilogue Looking Back Over 50 Years Later
Appendix 1 Operation Lamar Plain: A Hidden and Almost Forgotten Battle
Appendix 2 The Enemy at Tam Ky
Appendix 3 Organization for Combat at Tam Ky
Appendix 4 Delta Company Soldiers
Appendix 5 Delta Soldiers Killed in Action, 1 March–15 August 1969
Appendix 6 1-501st Medics Killed in Action, 1 March–15 August 1969
Appendix 7 PTSD and Agent Orange
Appendix 8 Life After Vietnam
Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations
"...faithfully conveys the day-to-day life of American soldiers in combat." ~The New York Times
"Written and presented like a series of after-action reports, Courage Under Fire provides readers a thorough examination of Operation Lamar Plain from the point of view of the soldiers on the ground, particularly those of Sherwood's company. The author provides great detail on all aspects of the fighting." ~ARMY Magazine
“The National Infantry Association proudly recommends adding this book to your leadership reading list.…Undaunted personal courage, the never-quit attitude that enabled young soldiers to overcome miserable conditions, giving everything for your family—your team in combat, and charging into hell are the focus of LTC (R) Ed Sherwood’s new book, Courage under Fire. Ed relives the Delta Company, 1-501st close combat fighting from a junior officer perspective. He tells the unknown story of the decisive battle of Operation Lamar Plain. Through photos, eyewitness accounts, date-time-grid location accuracy, he reveals the heroics and valor of those wounded and killed. It is a memorable tribute to those that fought there …We know that this is a book about infantrymen, for future infantrymen, by an infantryman!” ~Colonel (Retired) Robert E. Choppa, President of the National Infantry Association
"Courage Under Fire tells the untold story of the grunts of Delta Company, 1-501st infantry. In May 1969, as Operation Lamar Plain began at Tam Ky, the 1-501st was the tip of the spear of the 101st Airborne Division’s powerful new airmobile capability. Ed Sherwood, a former Delta Company platoon leader, writes as one who knows the ethos of “the brotherhood of the close fight”. He clearly captures the bravery and tenacity of the men who defeated a determined enemy. It is well time their story is told." ~Dr. John O’Brien, US Army Historian, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
“Sherwood has written one of the best, most comprehensive accounts of Vietnam War combat published to date. He masterfully places the fighting within that post-Tet ’68 stage of the war’s strategic, operational, and tactical frameworks with the knowledge and skill of a soldier-participant (and Purple Heart recipient) … a compelling narrative that readers will find engrossing from beginning to end.” ~MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History
"...ably addresses a long-neglected gap in the storied history of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam." ~Vietnam Magazine
"A fine bit of hidden history about the 101st Airborne's Battle at Tam Ky. I recommend it highly!” ~Joe Galloway, co-author with Hal Moore, "We Were Soldiers Once and Young", and co-author with Marvin J. Wolf of "They Were Soldiers"
“Those who fought, and especially those who died at Tam Ky, were never recognized—until now!” ~From The Foreword, Richard Kolb, Editor And Contributing Author Of "Brutal Battles Of Vietnam: America’s Deadliest Days, 1965–1972"
"With Courage Under Fire, Ed Sherwood fills in a long-missing chapter in the history of the Vietnam War: the twenty-eight days of bloody fighting near Tam Ky in May 1969 that came in the immediate wake of 'Hamburger Hill.' The Nixon administration, fearful of adding fuel to the anti-war fires raging in the United States, managed to keep Tam Ky out of the headlines back home. But now, some 50 years later, Sherwood brings us a blow-by-blow account of this decisive and largely unknown battle." ~Bill Hogan, Editor, "MHQ: The Quarterly Journal Of Military History"
“As one of LT Sherwood’s guys in Vietnam at Tam Ky, without a doubt, this book gives me closure and a peace that I have been wrestling with for over 50 years.” ~John Meade, Disabled Veteran, Former Member 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 1-501st, 101st Airborne Division
"We are forever grateful Courage Under Fire captures what Dad and his fellow soldiers endured during the battle at Tam Ky. Because Dad was in Vietnam before we were born, the book is priceless in telling stories he and others kept quiet for so long. Dad was passionate about the book. As his close friendship developed with Ed Sherwood, the author and his former platoon leader, he began to open up. Like a storyteller, Dad shared his memories of the war he did not want forgotten after he died. We are glad he and Ed were so close during the three years before he died." ~Jen, Jamie, And Will. Adult Children of Former SGT Jim Littleton, 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 1-501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.
Courage Under Fire is a story that should have been told in 1969 but was not for a variety of political and military reasons. The brave soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division and other Vietnam veterans had a profound impact on my own military career that spanned from 1970-1996. The Vietnam War changed the way the American people look at war, media, and politics. The Vietnam war changed the military for the better. Courage Under Fire tells the story of the courage and bravery of the Vietnam soldier in a compelling fashion fit for audiences of all generations; As a retired Army Infantry officer, retired U.S. history teacher, and a proudly still serving veteran, I highly recommend Courage Under Fire. ~LTC (R) Dale Barnett, Former National Commander, The American Legion 2015-16.
"As a former 101st Airborne platoon leader in 1969 with the 2-502nd Infantry battalion in Vietnam and a 101st battalion commander of the 1/327th (1986-1988), I am impressed that Courage Under Fire is a true account of the sacrifices, values, and determination of the brave soldiers who fought with distinction at Tam Ky. Sherwood gives careful attention to battle details using historical combat records and personal soldier accounts. His book is highly readable and an appealing testament to the courage of all Vietnam combat veterans. It should be read by today’s young officers and non-commissioned officers serving or those preparing to serve." ~Colonel (Ret.) John S. Haluski (US Army, Retired)
“If I could choose one book about infantry fighting in Vietnam to recommend to others, Sherwood’s Courage Under Fire: the 101st Airborne’s Hidden Battle at Tam Ky, would be it.” ~Cpt (R) David Gibson, Former Commander Of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 501st Infantry (Geronimo), 101st Airborne Division In 1969 At Tam Ky.
“Courage Under Fire is the most solid book written thus far about a ground combat unit in the Vietnam War. Sherwood’s research and documentation is the best I have seen concerning that era of our history.... A must read for aspiring ground combat leaders!” ~COL (R) Walt Chrietzberg led two platoons and an infantry company in the 101st Airborne 1969–1970. He later commanded three Special Mission Units and the Special Warfare Training (ABN), Ft Bragg, NC
"[The author's] intent in writing this account is to honor those who served and educate their families as to what their loved ones experienced. In this effort he has succeeded for the book is full of the small details of military life, field service and combat which mark an infantryman's experience." ~Military Heritage Magazine
"A highly organized researcher and writer with the reader constantly in mind, Ed Sherwood writes for the moment, as well as for posterity. His book provides a clear picture of what infantry fighting in the Vietnam War was really like." ~The VVA Veteran
"We all think we know about the Vietnam War—a doomed jungle war that sparked bitter controversies here in America. But there was more to it, a lot more. At the height of the war, the famed 101st Airborne Division fought a fierce battle in and around Tam Ky. Lieutenant Colonel Ed Sherwood was there. He knows. After you read Courage Under Fire, you’ll know, too." ~Daniel P. Bolger, Lieutenant General, U.S. Army, Retired, Author of "Our Year of War: Two Brothers, Vietnam, and a Nation Divided"
"For those with an interest in the Vietnam War, small unit actions, a forgotten era of combat or who wish to study human behaviour, this is a good read. The detail is excellent and will prove useful to both wargamers and historians. Highly recommended." ~Scale Military Modelling International Magazine
"...great insights about the nature of warfare at the tactical level make this book a ‘must read’ for those interested in understanding the outlooks of those and activities who engage in war fighting." ~Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International
"Absolutely, a must read." ~ARGunners.com
"...a carefully crafted Vietnam combat history that deserves as wide a readership as possible." ~Midwest Book Review
“This is a fantastic book and certainly one that is well researched and presented. It is clear that that author was passionate in getting the details right at all levels and it is a fitting tribute to the soldiers who fought and died in this battle. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Operation Lamar Plain or what it was like in an American infantry company fighting in the Vietnam War.” ~Aviation Enthusiast Book Club