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The Ensign Locker – JJ Zerr

In 1966, the destroyer USS Manfred  is bound for Vietnam. For junior ensign Jon Zachery, life is simple. He wants the American dream for his wife and for himself, and the Navy is just the first step along the way. After the ship enters the combat zone, however, Zachery lands in hot water with his superior officers.

At the same time, he begins to have troubles with his wife. He finds himself in challenging combat situations with the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, but he is most distressed when he discovers that one of his roommates is rabidly anti-war.

Following two months in the combat zone, the ship gets a new commanding officer—and a new set of problems face Zachery and his shipmates. At first, his new commanding officer distrusts only the five ensigns in the ensign locker, but eventually he begins to distrust the entire wardroom. What happens next has a huge affect on the entire crew—ultimately resulting in the ship returning home to San Diego. Now Zachery must face the anti-war sentiments at home, and it may be the last straw for him.  


Praise from Military Writers Society of America

Naval Junior Ensign Jon Zachary, Two Buckets, can’t seem to get the hang of things aboard the USS Manfred bound for the war in Vietnam. Odd man out, he has a hard time hanging on to his strong Catholic Faith, his wife and his temper. When he gets a handle on one aspect of his life, another seems to fall apart.

Mixed ideals and reactions to the war in ‘Nam complicate his life on land and at sea even more. Just as Two Buckets starts to make amends at home and a name for himself onboard, the ship gets a new Skipper who’s more interested in medals than honor, and things start spiraling out of control. Jon Zerr’s unique conversational style of writing takes the reader through the protagonist’s life as if a stowaway inside John’s brain.

Military Writers Society of America

A dandy read and very accurate...

If you ever wondered what it was like to be on a "tin can" [destroyer], this is the book for you. A great story that made me wonder what next will happen to this guy, Jon Zachery, Ensign, USN. He starts off in trouble and as "George" [least senior Ensign] he seems like an unsat officer. Time and many adventures, he grows to be "Bull." You'll just have to read it to find out what "Bull" means and who was Two Buckets. As one who has been "George" and "in hack" and even "Bull," this is a dandy read and very accurate.

Ralph Humbertson, Lt. USNR, ood[f], cdo, glo, and odd jobs officer 66-69

Well worth the time!

This book from new author on the scene is a poignant and beautifully woven coming of age tale during a time when coming of age meant 'doing your duty' and fighting in a very unpopular war. At times it's difficult to muddle through and keep track of all the various characters' names, but it's well worth the effort. John Zerr is obviously a master storyteller, and I can't wait to experience his voice as it develops with more and more stories to come! 

An excellent read!

How often do you begin a book that you can't put down but at the same time you know it is going to end too soon? John Zerr's account of John Zackery's experiences on a U. S. Navy Destroyer during the Viet Nam War has the authenticity of a story written by someone who was actually there. His vivid and riveting description of the relationships and events are outstanding. His descriptions of the daily routine of watchstanding are authentic and give you a real feel for what life was like in the Gulf of Tonkin and when he retuned home. An excellent Read. Can't wait for his next book.

Definite page turner—emotional, dramatic, thrilling!

Imagine yourself in the 60s, married and your first child is on the way, but you're a junior officer new to a ship that's about to deploy to Vietnam & your superiors seem to have it out for you. There is no internet or cell phones so communication with family is not what you picture today--leaving a lot of room for miscommunication & loneliness.

You have to read the book to find out how Jon Zachery manages all this while being deployed on a ship with a cast of larger than life shipmates during a war. This was an excellent book!! It took a few chapters to get used to the military lingo & acronyms, but I'm glad I stuck it out because once the story took off it became a definite page turner!

The characters were beautifully developed over the course of this tale, sucking me in so that I became anxious to find out what would become of each person. The evocative writing took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions as Jon Zachery navigated navy life on a ship, struggled to "fit in", & tried to manage the chasm between military demands and family life. For his first novel, John Zerr quickly found his sea legs and turned out a remarkably vivid account of a navy man's life at sea & home during an unpopular war. I can't wait for his next book... 

Robert Bledsoe Cdr. USN (Ret)

Main Street Books in St. Charles, Missouri

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