Cong Catchers

A Soldier's Memories of Vietnam

Non-Fiction - Autobiography
402 Pages
Reviewed on 02/28/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

Cong Catchers: A Soldier's Memories of Vietnam is a memoir by Lee Halverson, a former U.S. Army infantryman who served in the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1970. The book provides a personal account of Halverson's experiences during his almost year-long tour of duty in Vietnam where he served as a member of the 1st Cavalry Division. This is a first-hand account of the daily life of an infantryman in Vietnam, including the physical and mental toll of living in a war zone, the fear and uncertainty of combat, and the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families. He offers a candid and honest assessment of the war and its legacy, drawing on his own experiences and insights to provide a unique and personal perspective.

In Cong Catchers, Halverson shares his views on the challenges and hardships of combat as well as the camaraderie and brotherhood that developed between the soldiers who fought together. Throughout, Lee Halverson also reflects on the impact of the war on himself and his fellow soldiers, as well as the broader social and political implications of the conflict. This is a compelling and emotional memoir that provides a valuable glimpse into the realities of war and the experiences of the soldiers who fought in Vietnam. Halverson's writing is clear and concise, and his story is both informative and thought-provoking. This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about the Vietnam War, or for those seeking a deeper understanding of the experiences of the soldiers who fought in it.

Michelle Robertson

Lee Halverson grew up on a farm in Iowa during the 1950s and 1960s where he had a typical childhood as a farm boy with chores, family dinners, church outings, high school, college, meeting girls, and dreaming of life after finishing his studies. Those dreams all fade the day he graduates and receives a letter stating he has been drafted to Vietnam. At the time, the country was experiencing unrest over the Vietnam war with protesters voicing their disapproval, others who whole heartily supported it, and draftees who were just trying to get through their obligation without having to take one side or the other. Lee tries to survive his draft enlistment terms by following orders, while still being true to himself and his family as a married man of the Christian faith. Cong Catchers: A Soldier’s Memories of Vietnam is an incredible account of one man’s experiences throughout his time spent in the military during the Vietnam war.

Halverson writes with such emotion and conviction, one can imagine him sitting in front of you speaking the words directly. Although the book states it is an autobiography, it reads like historical fiction. It is not the typical bloody war story one might expect; rather he writes about a different aspect of war aside from the fighting; the personal side. One moment you may be laughing, another rolling your eyes at the stupidity of the situation, or overcome with grief as you feel the sadness lift from the pages to enter your heart. The experiences cannot be imagined by anyone who has not been in a war zone; however, the fears, anxieties, and emotions can be and he writes of his, his fellow soldiers, the civilians in his life, and their feelings, whilst drafted into the war.

Lee Halverson's commitment to himself and his faith in Cong Catchers is impressive. Even in the darkest of times, his faith does not falter, and his belief that God will see him through never leaves him. This faith not only helps him and his beloved wife Ginny get through the war, but it also helps many fellow soldiers as well, whether he meant for it to or not. The love, faith, and utmost respect Lee has for his wife and his marriage are refreshing in a world where faith and relationships are failing at a rapid pace. I gained historical knowledge of the Vietnam war and benefitted from the personal experience of those who were there.

Vincent Dublado

Cong Catchers: A Soldier’s Memories of Vietnam is a biographical account of Lee Halverson’s military service relating his experiences from January 1969 to December 1970. This is not your typical war story. The author has deeply rooted Christian values and chose to deviate from the usual accounts of troop strength, weaponry, battles, and the bloody horrors that go with war. Instead, he writes with optimism about his man-in-uniform experience, having spent six months going through Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training before going to ‘Nam. What follows is the tale of a soldier who prefers organizing football games, playing poker, writing letters, and repairing orphanages. On returning home he has to adjust to civilian life while hearing people say that he should have never taken part in the Vietnam War because of the atrocities that took place.

Lee Halverson makes sense of his tour of duty which was filled with humanity and very little of the barbarity that people back home were telling him. Halverson’s narrative exudes a different perspective, one that is rarely considered when America talks about the Vietnam ordeal. Of course, Halverson had his share of brushes with death. His sense of duty and the faith he put in God and the woman he loves are what drive his story to a personal turning point and what he has learned from it. Cong Catchers is a profound reading experience. I’m sure people will be reminded of films like Hacksaw Ridge, Jarhead, and Good Morning Vietnam. Halverson knows how to make his account touch the heart and soul of his audience, and that is another bonus when reading his true story.

Asher Syed

Cong Catchers: A Soldier's Memories of Vietnam by Lee Halverson is a non-fiction memoir of the author's young adulthood and the war that shaped his life. Halverson begins with a backstory on his upbringing, education, and how he met and married his wife, Ginny. Less than a month after being wed, Halverson was off the civilian trail and en route as an enlisted man in the Army, initially in Okinawa and ultimately in Vietnam. He shares the highs and lows of life in the military and the impact of an unpopular war, even among soldiers who immediately tossed off their gear in favor of civilian clothes as a show of discontent. He also shares photographs and excerpts from letters, his reliance on his faith, his work as a sentry dog handler, and what the 'Cong Catchers' actually are: the pairs of boxers Ginny sent him in monthly care packages.

Cong Catchers is an introspective look at a time past, and an honest accounting of Lee Halverson's outlook and experiences. From a sociological standpoint, it is a time capsule of what was and shows how far we have evolved today. Halverson speaks of children being sold by prostitutes into orphanages, something we now fully understand to be the children of trafficked women, ripped from the hands of their enslaved mothers and forcefully sold by pimps. The dichotomy of our ignorance then against our empathy now is stark and made more real through the words of someone who witnessed it. I was initially put off by Ginny who is described as going full Karen at an airport, demanding seats on a flight because she was late and missed her own, and being upgraded to first class just to get her to stop screaming in public. As the memoir continues she is shown with a little more grace and generosity, and her devotion to her husband is unwavering. The writing is well crafted and while I see this book being enjoyed by those who like its A-to-B-to-C retelling without a discernable arc, who I really see embracing this book is the Halverson family themselves, as Lee has created a legacy novel with a slice of family history that will doubtlessly be treasured for generations of his descendants to come.

Grant Leishman

Cong Catchers: A Soldier’s Memories of Vietnam is author Lee Halverson’s recollection of life as a drafted soldier at a time of great social turmoil in the United States. Lee believed it was his duty to serve when called but there was nothing this college-educated Iowan farm boy wanted less than to travel halfway around the world to fight in a war that many at home considered to be unjust. Nevertheless, despite having just gotten married to Ginny, the love of his life, Lee, along with thousands of other young men, went to Vietnam to fight for freedom. This is a personal story that takes the reader through the hell and hardships of basic training before Lee and his fellow soldiers are sent to train as attack-dog handlers. From Louisiana to Okinawa in Japan, and finally, to the killing fields of Vietnam, we follow Lee and his compatriots as they try to cope with the sheer boredom of guard duty and the horrors and terror of rocket and mortar attacks. Despite the constant threat to their safety and the ready availability of liquor, drugs, and prostitutes, Lee will stick close to his entrenched Christian values and his deep love for his wife Ginny to help him survive the hardest two years of his life.

Cong Catchers is not a gung-ho war book or recollection of heroic battles and brave soldiers; it is a simple retelling of what life was truly like for the common soldier in Vietnam. What I particularly enjoyed was the lack of pretense by Lee Halverson. There was never any attempt to exaggerate the dangers or indeed the intense boredom; the author tells his story simply and is always crystal clear as to his motivation, values, and principles. This is no blow-hard story but rather a straightforward narrative of the situations Lee found himself in and especially the people he came into contact with in his unit in Vietnam. For a white, Iowan farm boy, it must have been a culture shock when he met some of his fellow draftees, especially those from the mean streets of the city. That he, and indeed the men serving with him, acted with compassion and understanding, especially toward the civilians and children they encountered along the way does them all great credit. The author mentions that the writing of this memoir was cathartic for him and one can feel that as he reveals his heart and soul to the reader. I enjoyed reading this book and can highly recommend it.


Heard the story on radio. Enjoyed it!!!