Book Talk: Through Smoke-Teared Eyes: The Vietnam War I Fought by Johnny F. Pugh

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A book can be written in any number of ways. Typically, it is a work of one or two people. They work on it for a time until it is finished, edited, and published. But there are exceptional circumstances where the journey that a book travels before it reaches its audience is much more unique. This is what Through Smoke-Teared Eyes experienced.

Through Smoke-Teared Eyes is a first-hand account of the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1967. It was written from the perspective of Johnny F. Pugh, a Vietnam veteran from Albuquerque, New Mexico. This book narrates his and his comrades’ experiences while in the Iron Triangle during the conflict. It showcases harrowing stories of survival, of the kinds of warfare the soldiers had to go through, and the horrors that the American military committed to the Vietnamese peasants all in the name of war. More importantly, Through Smoke-Teared Eyes is a beautiful account of the friendships through hardships that Johnny F. Pugh and his fellow soldiers developed while in the harshest of conditions.

More than the actual events related in Through Smoke-Teared Eyes, its life behind the scenes are just as important and compelling. Johnny F. Pugh died in 2011 from lung cancer linked to Agent Orange. The book, at the time, was still unfinished. But his wife, Christine, made a promise to see the book finished and published. “The most important promise I needed to keep was the one I made to my husband before he passed away. Though he wasn't able to tell me in words because of a stroke he suffered three years earlier, Johnny let me know with his eyes that he entrusted me to finish his book and see that it would get published. How could I refuse and let him down?" she reveals.

Finishing the book and seeing it published, of course, took quite some time. Christine needed a period to grieve. After a couple of years, with the much-needed encouragement from their daughter, Christine was able to pick up the pages again and continue writing Through Smoke-Teared Eyes. “I was finally able to open his book and face it, learn it well and finish it in a way that would be true to his style of writing and his message without falling apart and feeling sad myself.”

Her hard work and tribute paid off. Through Smoke-Teared Eyes bagged the top prize at the 2018 San Francisco Book Festival. The book has reached the hands of other veterans who were also at the Vietnam War, and they think that it is an excellent piece of literature. And no matter where Johnny F Pugh maybe, he is no doubt proud of the journey that his story has traveled, thanks to his lovely wife.

Reviews and What Readers Say

"This book is a must read for anyone wanting to “feel” Vietnam in 1966-67. I was in Johnny Pugh’s unit at the same time he was, though I don’t remember if I ever met him, but I can promise the book is historically accurate. To me, Chapter seven alone is worth the price of the book because it tells in detail much of the battle of Attleboro. That action took place in November 1966 where the Wolfhounds and nearly all of the 25th Division were so heavily involved. Mr. Pugh details the action where one of my best friends, Roy Blewett, was killed in action. Johnny Pugh writes with great talent and keeps you riveted throughout the read. I believe any combat Vietnam infantry veteran will find some difficulty with the read as it is emotionally strong, but certainly well worth the ride. The book was published posthumously by his wife, Cristina, as he passed before writing the last lines. I found her comments very heartfelt and I commend her for seeing that his book was made available for all to read. This book belongs in every library."

Donald Arndt, Reader's Review Amazon Client, Verified Purchase

" Kudos to Johnny and Cristina Pugh for sharing this courageous story of hope and survival. The deeply personal and bilingual presentations, poetry, and pictures from Vietnam make this a unique and captivating documentation of the plight of the Wolfhounds and other soldiers. I highly recommend this treasured book to others, so that they can learn valuable lessons retrieved from the wounds of war. We must not forget this turbulent time in the history of our country, and the cost to the individuals that served, their families and their future generations."

—Zosiaulinski, Reader's Review Amazon Client, Verified Purchase

"This book mesmerized me with its painfully honest, endearing story of a veteran who revisits his year of hell fighting and surviving an ugly and unpopular war in a completely foreign little country halfway around the world. His story is filled with unforgettable characters, some of them the heroic soldiers he fought alongside as well as several higher-ranking officers who have little regard for the lives of the men under their command. As the author learns critical survival skills and pride in his own ability to lead others as point man for his platoon, he also discovers how to feel love, loss, trust and betrayal, especially when he and his comrades realize they are being used mainly as bait to flush out the enemy, the "ghost-like" VC who cleverly disappear into the vast tunnel network underneath the notorious Iron Triangle of South Vietnam. It is refreshing to read a war memoir written not by an officer but by a "grunt," one of the many men who fought and suffered or died in the Vietnam War's steamy jungles and rice paddies. I also enjoyed enjoyed the author's perspective as a Latino soldier and his liberal use of Spanish in the characters' dialogue."

—Maria Rieger, Reader's Review Amazon Client, Verified Purchase

"So well written and tells the slow agony our young men went through. "

Reader's Review Amazon Client, Verified Purchase

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Johnny F. Pugh, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, served in the Vietnam War from 1966-1967. Although he suffered from chronic pain due to a service-related back injury and PTSD, this didn't stop him from becoming an award-winning designer and builder of adobe homes, as well as a professional painter and part-time sculptor, artist, writer, poet, loving husband, father, and grandfather. At the time of his death in 2011 from lung cancer linked to Agent Orange, he and his wife, Cristina, lived in San Diego, CA. This book is a promise by his wife that his story and those of his camaradas would not be forgotten, that their sacrifices and their bravery against terrible odds and morally wrong motives from their superiors, would be honored for all time.

The top prize for the 2018 San Francisco Book Festival, Through Smoke-Teared Eyes is a detailed and courageous narration of one soldier’s thoughts and combat experiences while in the Iron Triangle during the Vietnam War. Written through the perspective of Johnny F. Pugh, in an attempt to outface the pains of the past, the book is a captivating account of survival, trust, betrayal, and hope. The author documents the brutal forms of warfare that Johnny and his fellow soldiers faced behind the lines. From Johnny's account, he shares with the readers a personal and bilingual presentation of his friendship with his comrades while learning critical survival skills from them. The author also describes how Johnny found himself in a moral dilemma after witnessing the horrors committed by the American military against the Vietnamese peasants.

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