Con Thien is a memoir/history of a much-beleaguered Marine outpost of the DMZ
Throughout much of 1967, a remote United States Marine firebase only two miles from the demilitarized zone (DMZ) captured the attention of the world’s media. That artillery-scarred outpost was the linchpin of the so-called McNamara Line intended to deter incursions into South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army. As such, the fighting along this territory was particularly intense and bloody, and the body count rose daily.
Con Thien combines James P. Coan’s personal experiences with information taken from archives, interviews with battle participants, and official documents to construct a powerful story of the daily life and combat on the red clay bulls-eye known as "The Hill of Angels." As a tank platoon leader in Alpha Company, 3d Tank Battalion, 3d Marine Division, Coan was stationed at Con Thien for eight months during his 1967-68 service in Vietnam and witnessed much of the carnage.
Con Thien was heavily bombarded by enemy artillery with impunity because it was located in politically sensitive territory and the U.S. government would not permit direct armed response from Marine tanks. Coan, like many other soldiers, began to feel as though the government was as much the enemy as the NVA, yet he continued to fight for his country with all that he had. In his riveting memoir, Coan depicts the hardships of life in the DMZ and the ineffectiveness of much of the U.S. military effort in Vietnam.
James P. Coan is a former Marine Corps captain who was awarded a Purple Heart for his injuries at Con Thien.
“The strength of this book lies in the way that Coan weaves his own combat experience and the official unit documents and histories together with . . . personal combat narratives to form a cohesive whole. He gives a realistic portrayal of the miserable living conditions, the monsoons, the heat during the dry seasons, and finally the futility of the fighting over the same pieces of terrain in the eastern DMZ. . . . It is ironic but perhaps apt that the measure of the war in Vietnam was not the capture of terrain, but body count.” --Jack Shulimson, author of U.S. Marines in Vietnam
“[Coan] makes an important contribution by detailing what occurred at Con Thien from the moment the Marines arrived there in 1966 until the day they left almost three years later. Indeed, some of the battle accounts are superb, conveying a powerful sense of what combat along the DMZ was like.” —Peter Maslowski, author of Armed with Cameras: The American Military Photographers of World War II