Expendable Warriors: One Soldier’s Perspective On The Battle Of Khe Sanh

Bruce Clarke


Bruce’s father, USMA ’38, earned two DSCs in WWII, but in 1943 was Killed in Action in Sicily. Growing up in Wichita, KS, Bruce recounts that he awoke from surgery as a freshman in high school announcing to the post-op nurse that he was going to West Point. True to his “dream,” Bruce joined the Class of 1965 on July 5, 1961. As a student at West Point, he gave particular attention to his political science courses. Following graduation, he successfully completed Airborne and Ranger Schools and was assigned to an armored cavalry unit in Germany, where he was a troop commander. By July 1967 Bruce was in Vietnam, where he was deployed as the assistant advisor in Huong Hoa District. Bruce became the District Advisor in November, 1967, headquartered in the village of Khe Sanh. In January 1968, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) launched a ferocious attack on the Khe Sanh village. After 36 hours of intense combat, Bruce personally led an exfiltration of his troops to a Marine Combat Base about 5 kilometers from the village. Bruce and his troops then joined the Marines at the Combat Base as they held off the NVA during the 77-day siege of Khe Sanh, a situation that prompted headlines across the US, including the cover of Time Magazine—“the agony of Khe Sanh”. Some forty years later, Bruce documented the events before, during and after the siege in his book “Expendable Warriors: The battle of Khe Sanh and the Vietnam War” (Stackpole Books, 2005). After his Vietnam tour, Bruce earned a Masters in Political Science from UCLA and went on to teach in the Social Sciences Department at West Point. His skills as a political analyst in uniform were well employed after his teaching at West Point, with assignments at the Army Staff, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and supporting the Joint Chiefs of Staff on strategic issues while teaching at the Army War College. In his interview, Bruce describes the critical battle and subsequent siege of Khe Sanh, how it was misrepresented in the media, and how it affected strategic decisions in the Vietnam War. He also reflects on the political implications of his Vietnam experience, the post-Vietnam army, and his influential role in shaping military and diplomatic policy during the end of the Cold War.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Leadership USMA 1965 Camaraderie
interviewer Fred Laughlin
date 25 March 2017


name Bruce Clarke
institution USMA
graduation year 1965
service Armor
unit 3/8 Cav, MACV, Advisory Team 4, USMA Department of Social Sciences, 2d BDE 1st ID, HQ DA Staff (ODCSOPS), 2/11 ACR, ACDA, 2d BDE 1st ID, Staff and Faculty AWC
specialty Advisor, Armor/Cavalry Commander, Army Strategist, Department of Social Sciences
service dates 1965 1995