On 18 August 1965, regiment fought regiment on the Van Tuong Peninsula near the new Marine base at Chu Lai - the first major clash of the Vietnam War. On the American side were three battalions of Marines under the command of Colonel Oscar Peatross, a hero of two previous wars. His opponent was the 1st Viet Cong Regiment commanded by Nguyen Dinh Trong, a veteran of many fights against the French and the South Vietnamese. Codenamed Operation Starlite, this action was a resounding success for the Marines and its result was cause for great optimism about America's future in Vietnam. Starlite catapulted the Vietnam War into the headlines across America and into the minds of Americans, where it took up residence for more than a decade. Starlite was the first step in Vietnam's becoming America's tar baby. The phrase "han tu" - "blood debt," came into Vietnamese usage early in the war with the United States. With this battle, the Johnson Administration began compiling its own blood debt, this one to the American people This unique account of the battle is based not only on interviews with the Marines involved, from private to colonel, but also on interviews and battlefield walks with men who fought with the 1st Viet Cong Regiment, all of them accomplished combat veterans years before the U.S. entry into the war. The result is a detailed narrative of the battle from the mud level, by those who were at the point of the spear. The book also examines the ongoing conflict between the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marines about the methodology of the Vietnam War. With decades of experience with insurrection and rebellion, the Marines were institutionally oriented to base the struggle on pacification of the population. The Army, on the other hand, having largely trained to meet the Soviet Army on the plains of Germany, opted for search-and-destroy missions against Communist main force units. The history of the Vietnam War is littered with many 'what ifs'. This may be the biggest of them.