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Captain William Van Zanten was one of the “Magnificent Bastards” of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, in 1966–a year when any day could bring death or dismemberment from a Bouncing Betty or a punji stake, a firefight or a sniper bullet. He and his men faced B-52-sized mosquitoes, rain, heat, disease, and a determined and elusive enemy who kept the Marines off-balance, edgy, and sleepless.
Yet Van Zanten persevered with a soldierly professionalism built on rigorous training. Dedication and boot camp forged the volunteer Marines of the early war years, so when the stakes went through the roof in Vietnam, commitment of man to man and man to unit was total. They supported each other with a soldier’s intimacy and endured with a soldier’s humor–and together that meant survival.