Book Cover Image

More than fifty years after the Vietnam War, Bartlett’s vivid combat experiences are brought to light in a fast-moving, well-written, first-person narrative expressing the horror, fear, anguish, and sometimes illogical humor of that war.

Helicopter Combat Assaults
(Charlie Alpha)

The cover photo shows the platoon leader’s view of a helicopter combat assault (commonly referred to as Charlie Alpha). It is a view I encountered more than 60 times during my tour, sometimes twice a day, except when I rode in the first chopper. I always rode in the first bird when it was my platoon’s turn to lead the assault. The first helicopter and the men in it were the most vulnerable despite an intense five-minute artillery prep, Cobra helicopters working the perimeter firing rockets and miniguns, and door gunners blasting away at the edges before landing.

The men aboard the first helicopter would often ride on the skids as it came in for a landing. They wanted off and to get to cover as quickly as possible. A premature jump often resulted in falls and injuries. Pilots of that first bird also wanted to pull pitch and get out of harm’s way and back to the safety of the sky. A hot LZ was the worst possible scenario for pilots, soldiers, helicopter, and crew – sometimes resulting in death and tragedy.

Delve into this first-hand account of Robin Bartlett’s extraordinary  combat experience as a 22-year-old 1st Lieutenant in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) deploying on helicopter assaults into hot landing zones in I Corps at the height of the Vietnam War. It’s a story that will stay with you long past the last page.

"Welcome Home"

These are the code words all Vietnam Veterans use in greetings. My Vietnam veteran brothers have a deep understanding of these words. They are so meaningful to us. They will bring tears to our eyes and lumps to our throats.

Watch the two videos below to better understand my book and my tour as a combat infantry platoon leader and staff officer with the 1st Cav Division (Airmobile) from 1968-1969.

 Reviews

Robin Bartlett has written one of the most honest and searing personal memoirs of the Vietnam War yet published. He served with distinction as a 22-year-old infantry platoon leader during the brutal combat of 1968. Twice wounded and decorated for valor, he returned like many veterans feeling betrayed by US political and senior military leadership. Although dogged by PTSD, he created a successful life. ‘Welcome Home’ brave soldier.”

Barry McCaffrey, Gen USA Ret. (Four combat tours and three Purple Hearts)

This is an incredible book. Objective and hard hitting. Robin was in the thick of it -- fighting in Vietnam as an Infantry combatant. The author put young Americans in body bags and carried them through the jungle. We were soldiers once. What were we fighting for again? We need a book like this to help us make sense of a determined enemy in a surreal, mysterious place called Vietnam.”

Jan Craig Scruggs, Chair, National Selective Service Appeals Board and Founder, Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC

“Robin Bartlett’s superb memoir gives readers an understanding of the human dimension of the Vietnam War and the profound and sometimes searing experiences of the American soldiers who fought it. Veterans, like Robin, who did their duty deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. Younger generations should read this book to gain an appreciation for the sacrifices they made and the service they rendered to our nation and one another.”

H.R. McMaster, General USA Ret. Former National Security Advisor of the United States, author of Battlegrounds and Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam

Many times, during my own Vietnam combat experiences I found myself looking up longingly at U.S. Army helicopters that blackened the sky. As a footsore Marine, I often wondered who those guys were and how they survived so many of the combat air assaults we heard about. The answers are all in Robin Bartlett’s masterful recounting of his time as a platoon leader with the vaunted 1st Air Cav during the most rugged years of the war. In his factual recounting Bartlett tells it all as he saw it from a grunt leader’s perspective. Strong stuff and full of detail and emotional insights.”

Capt. Dale A. Dye, USMC (Ret), Vietnam veteran, actor, filmmaker, and author of Korean Odyssey, A Novel of a Marine Company in the Forgotten War

Robin Bartlett has a gift of writing. Not everyone has it. This book graphically describes his experience as an American soldier on the battlefields of Vietnam. We should all read his story. We should all heed his words and learn and share his lessons. We should never forget. We owe this to our Vietnam veterans. We should always tell them, ‘Welcome home,’ brother. We owe them that much and more.”

Skip Vaughn, author of Vietnam Revisited

"Vietnam veteran Bartlett debuts with a cathartic account of his 1968 tour of duty. Only 22 years old when he was promoted to platoon leader in the 1st Air Cavalry Division, Bartlett was careful not to get too close to his men, most of whom were younger: “I always had to recognize that I might be giving an order to one of my men... that would end up getting the soldier wounded or killed.” Interspersed in the narrative are letters Bartlett wrote to his friends and family in the U.S., in which he matter-of-factly recounts combat missions and more mundane aspects of warfare. In the narrative itself, Bartlett’s prose is more vivid, especially when he describes using his combat knife to kill a teenage Vietnamese soldier during an ambush. When his seven months as an officer in the field were over, Bartlett was transferred to division headquarters and a job compiling after-action reports. After the war, he found work as a textbook salesman and tried to push his memories of stabbing the soldier and other “horrific experiences” to the back of his mind; they eventually resurfaced, and he learned with the help of a psychiatrist how to “deal with the unwelcome thoughts.” Poignant and personal, this is an intimate account of one man’s war." (March Reviews)

Publishers Weekly Magazine

Robin Bartlett’s book brought to life Vietnam events in vivid detail that I had forgotten. I found it hard to put down and finished reading it in two days.”

Dan “Doc” Cleary, Medic, A 1/5 Air Cav

Vietnam Combat gives an excellent description of the areas where we patrolled, our living conditions and combat episodes. I felt like he was telling my story! If one wishes to understand the unvarnished experiences of a combat soldier in 1968, this book is a must-read!”

Arthur Kuhner, RTO, A 1/5 Air Cav
Book Cover
  • 288 pages | 6×9
  • 90 full-color photographs & illustrations
  • ISBN: 978-1-63624-242-2 hard cover
  • Autographed copies available for pre-order. Advance orders ship January 2023. Price: $25

Vietnam Combat: Firefights and Writing History is also available at independent bookstores as well as the online bookstores below. Shipping  February 2023.

 The book

The year 1968 was arguably the most significant year of the war. It was the height of the American involvement, and because officer casualties had been so great after the Tet Offensive of January 1968, all prior officer assignments were cancelled.

1st Lieutenant Robin Bartlett, originally on orders to the 101st Airborne Division, suddenly found himself at the “repo-depo” in Bien Hoa reassigned to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). The unit had more helicopter support than any other unit in Vietnam. The soldiers carried lighter packs, more ammo and water because of the availability of rapid helicopter resupply. Immediate support from artillery, helicopter gunships and ARA (aerial rocket artillery) was only minutes away to support a firefight. Wounded troops could be medevaced even in dense jungle using “jungle penetrators.” It also meant that Bartlett’s platoon could deploy through helicopter combat assaults into hot LZs (landing zones) at a moment’s notice if an enemy force had been spotted. And they did.

It was with extreme anxiety that Bartlett made his way to join his battalion and company – it was the worst of times to be a platoon leader in Vietnam, let alone a grunt serving in a combat unit. Bartlett also had to cope with personal issues of commitment to a war that was rapidly losing support not only back home but among the soldiers he was leading through the jungles along the DMZ. 

Includes timeline, glossary of military terms, bibliography, resources, index.

 About the author

Promoted to 1st Lieutenant after only one year, Robin Bartlett at 22 assumed the leadership of the 1st Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Over the next seven months, he led a platoon on more than sixty helicopter combat assaults and search and destroy missions.

Bartlett grew up in a military family. His grandfather, father and brother all attended West Point, but after thirteen elementary and middle schools and four high schools, he decided he’d had enough of the military. But in college, as the Vietnam War escalated and eighteen-year-olds were drafted daily, Bartlett joined his college’s ROTC program and fell back into a familiar routine. Upon graduation as a Distinguished Military Graduate he volunteered for Infantry, Airborne, and Ranger training, and assignment to the 82d Airborne Division. He got everything he asked for…and more.

Bartlett holds a BA degree in Comparative Literature from Claremont McKenna College in California and a master’s degree in Media from Pace University in NYC. He has written numerous business publications and a  professional book published by Dun & Bradstreet.

He is the President of the NY/NJ Chapter of the 1st Cavalry Division Association, and a proud member of the 82d Airborne Division Association. He and his wife live in Norwood, New Jersey, and have three sons, none of whom have pursued military careers.

Robin Bartlett, Author, Vietnam Combat, Firefights and Writing History

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