Courtesy James Oliveri
Lawrence High School graduate and former Five Towns resident James Oliveri on the cover of his recently published memoir.
More than 30 years after James Oliveri returned from Vietnam War, he decided to write a memoir, detailing his experiences as a member of the U.S. Army advisory team.
Oliveri, 71, started writing his book 20 years ago, and said he wanted to publish a fictional account. “I re-did [the book] in several forms, and rewrote it four times before it ended up in the form it is now,” he said.
In “The Frost Weeds, Vietnam: 1964-1965” Oliveri shares the often untold stories from the earlier years of the war, a time period, he said, very few history books address.
Born in Inwood and raised in Cedarhurst, Oliveri graduated from Lawrence High School in 1961. He attended the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury and began working in the banking industry two years later. He enlisted in 1963.
The memoir covers Oliveri’s job as a radio operator, his experiences in battle, and major U.S. events that occurred during his military service, such as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, “to give a better flavor of what was going on at the time,” he said.
Published in July by Hellgate Press, a military history book publisher based in Oregon, Oliveri’s book brings light to the beginning stages of the war, when only 16,000 American soldiers occupied Vietnam. “Most books concentrate on the later periods, where major battles took place. By doing that, [people] are missing out on a very important period when the war was quite different,” he said.
Harley Patrick, acquisitions editor and owner of Hellgate Press, admired Oliveri’s mission of addressing a time period seldom discussed. “The period that James writes about provides some important information and keen insight into the conflict and will, I believe, make an important contribution to the existing library of Vietnam War literature,” Patrick said.
The book’s title is based on call signs the advisory team used to communicate with other American soldiers between headquarters. “I would be assigned out to a Vietnamese unit, and communicate with [U.S.] headquarters through the radio,” Oliveri said. “Frost Weeds was one of our code names.”