Phil Gioia grew up an army brat during the decades after World War II. Drawn to the military, he attended the Virginia Military Institute, then was commissioned in the U.S. Army, where he completed Jump School and Ranger School. Not even a year after college graduation, he landed in Vietnam in early 1968—in the first weeks of the Tet offensive, which marked a major escalation of the war. Leading a platoon in the 82nd Airborne Division, Gioia took his paratroopers into the lifting of the siege of Hué—where death was always just around the corner—and the grisly discovery of mass graves of those executed by the Vietcong, during their occupation of the city. Wounded, he was sent home in April. Released from hospital, he commanded a paratroop company in the 82nd Airborne in 1968, returning to Vietnam with the hard-hitting First Air Cavalry Division a year later, this time leading a rucksack company of light infantry. Inserted into far-flung landing zones, Gioia and his men patrolled the jungles and rubber plantations along the Cambodian border, looking for a furtive enemy who preferred ambushes to set-piece battles and nighttime raids to daylight attacks.
Danger Close! recounts the Vietnam War from the unique boots-on-the-ground perspective of a young officer who served two tours in two different divisions. He tells his story thoughtfully, straightforwardly, and always vividly, from the raw emotions of unearthing massacred human beings to the terrors of fighting in the dark, with red and green tracers slicing the air. Hard to put down and hard to forget, Danger Close! will remind readers of the best Vietnam memoirs, like Guns Up! and Baptism.
Phil Gioia served two combat tours in Vietnam between 1968 and 1970 and was awarded two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts. A graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, he went on to earn a master’s in foreign service from Georgetown and an MBA from Stanford. He has lectured at West Point and Annapolis, published articles in the Journal of Military History, World War II, and Armchair General, and appeared in History Channel programs and in Ken Burns’ Vietnam War documentary. He lives in Corte Madera, California.
Nearly three million Americans served in the Vietnam War. Each had his or her own take on what happened and why and many have tried to commit their war to paper. Phil Gioia has helped our understanding by detailing his days in-country and his informed perspectives in the midst of a fascinating, candid and brave memoir of a life of service. Bravo.
At a time when Americans are better connected to one another than ever electronically, but more distant from one another emotionally and psychologically, Phil Gioia gives us a story about a living community committed to service and to one another. Danger Close! is a compelling and elegantly written memoir.
Phil Gioia has written a splendid account of his life and times, from growing up as an army brat to military school to the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Excellent storytelling, that kept me riveted to the pages from start to finish.