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The Proud Bastards

by E. Michael Helms, Simon and Schuster/Pocket Star Books


The Proud Bastards

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Want to know what war was really like? Ever wonder what daily life was like on the front lines? Sense the anxiety of a combat patrol, the stomach-clenching tension on a night listening post, the knee-knocking dread of dropping into a hot landing zone. Live with these young marines in their day-to-day existence and their struggle to survive. Feel their pride and pain of serving their country during one of our nation’s most tumultuous periods. The Proud Bastards by E. Michael Helms will give you an up-close and personal sense of what war is all about.

The Proud Bastards — A Stunning Account of War!

This true story is written at an intense, emotional level. It deals with Helms’s experiences in the U.S. Marine Corps during the height of the Vietnam War. The title comes from the nickname of his battalion, “The Magnificent Bastards.” Laugh with him as he adjusts to boot camp at infamous Parris Island, at his shock, astonishment and surprise at what he’s gotten himself into. It will have any former marine “boot” flashing back on some of the most memorable months of his life. Trudge with him and the men of “Echo Two-Four” through the rice paddies, hills and steaming jungles of Vietnam. Experience fierce, face-to-face combat through the eyes and mind of an 18-19-year-old marine.

Reviewers have made such comments as:  A hard-hitting, blunt memoir … An agonizing, emotional read that merits your attention … Captures the tedium, the language, the realities of Vietnam … Superb reading … A stunning account of war!

As Helms describes receiving the bittersweet news that he’s going home, you find yourself sharing with him the mixed emotions of relief, joy, confusion and hope. You put the book down with a shake of your head and take a deep breath. Then, you pick it up again and stare at the cover … for a long time.

Read and excerpt of the book...

The Proud Bastards - Excerpt from Chapter 25

Crouched down on both knees behind a mound just inside the tree line. Taking heavy fire from a hooch thirty meters to my front. I raise over the top and squeeze off a few quick rounds and duck back behind my haven again just as a long stream of blazing tracers fly from behind me and tear into the hooch.

The booming of grenades intermingles with the popping and cracking and chattering staccato of small-arms and automatic weapons, but it’s all drowned out by the shouts and screams as flesh and bone are ripped and seared by hot flying metal. Smoke billows in wavering gray clouds as the hooch over the bunker ignites and begins to disintegrate in ashy heat waves and dancing flames.

Up and rushing forward, pins pulled and flinging the grenades toward the opening where the gooks are that have us pinned. One explosion followed quickly by another and showers of sparks and debris. We stare into the inferno at two gooks slumped over and one sprawled on his back with outspread arms. We spray a few rounds to make sure, and move on….

Moving down a wide path between rows of hootches. Shattered trees and ruins and smoke and fire are all around me and threaten to close in and consume me. Everything has become foggy and unreal. Nothing exists anymore except what waits up ahead—a surrealistic tunnel vision world of horror.

The apparition flows from the thick choking smoke of a burning hootch and materializes on the path ahead of me. A hag of an old woman, gray and wrinkled and worn with age like the crude sack dress of burlap she wears. Gnarled hands clasped together high against her chest beneath the weathered face, head bobbing up and down over narrow, hunched shoulders. The Angel of Death come to claim me? An act of prayer? A plea for mercy? Welcome liberating heroes? Is she hiding a grenade in her hands, or?

I’m thinking there’s not supposed to be any civilians left around here, and what are we gonna do with her, but Willis steps up beside me and answers my question with a long burst from his M-60 and a strange grin on his baby-face and I watch in horrid fascination as the tracers fly through the old woman as if she wasn’t there and then they pick her up and fling her backward and she lies sprawled along the path like some discarded stuffed animal that’s lost its stuffing, cut almost in half.

I walk up to the body and look down. No grenade or weapon. Aged eyes stare back at me from the blank wrinkled face. We move on….



“The best grunt-level, tell-it-like-it-was work I’ve read. Great stuff. Captures the tedium, the language, the realities of Vietnam. The Proud Bastards is a classic.” —Keith William Nolan (author of Battle for Hue, Death Valley, Operation Buffalo, The Magnificent Bastards, and others)

“A hard-hitting, blunt memoir.” —The Veteran (VVA)

“An agonizing, emotional read that merits your attention. The Red Badge Of Courage of the Vietnam War.” —Todd Huntley, The American Veteran

“A stunning account of war, seen through the eyes and mind of one young marine. Like Remarque’s All Quiet On The Western Front, The Proud Bastards is timeless.” —The Veteran’s Spotlight

“What makes Helms’s work stand out is his own unique writing style. He combines a profane Marine mouth with a masterful stream-of-consciousness, surrealistic running monologue. The military details are accurate. The emotional details are extraordinary.” —Vietnam Internet Magazine

“From boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, to trudging through the rice paddies, hills and jungles of Vietnam, the reader is engaged with this vividly told account of combat as seen through the eyes and mind of a young Marine, who lived to tell about it when so many of his friends and comrades did not. The Proud Bastards is superb reading for anybody wanting to know about life and death in the Vietnam War.” —Midwest Book Review