Soldier By Chance – Author, Thomas White

Tom White just released his new book!


Tom White’s new book about his memories of the Vietnam War on the DMZ with Army and Marine life in a dangerous war zone.


In 1966, Thomas White was a nineteen-year-old surfer living an idyllic life in Marin County, CA. His sheltered world was shattered when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. At the moment the Vietnam War was ramping up, he found himself on the front lines.

Tom arrived in Da Nang with the 8th Battalion, 4th Artillery, to begin a fourteen-month tour of duty. The journey took him to the DMZ, the border separating North and South Vietnam, and the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the war.

In addition to searing memories, Tom returned from Vietnam with a portfolio of candid photographs that bear witness to his life-changing experience.

In this memorable first book, Tom shares insights about relationships formed, experiences encountered, and the horror of war during this brief moment in a historic time. His words and pictures illuminate a harrowing tale and the transformation of a soldier by chance.



Thomas White was born in 1946 and grew up in Marin County, just north of San Francis- co. After two years of college, he was drafted in 1966 and sent to Vietnam. Somewhat disillusioned after returning home from the war, he let go of his dream of becoming an art teacher and built houses as a carpenter.

After working in the Bay Area for six years, Tom bought two hundred acres of remote and undeveloped land in the rugged foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Over the next forty years, Lightning Ridge Ranch slowly became a real one, with a house, barns, horses, and goats. His handcrafted home on the high ridge offered commanding views of rolling hills, perennial creeks, and distant mountains. His Gold Country landscape was wrapped in lush stands of pine and oak. While working the Ranch, he also established himself as an artist, actor, and woodworker.

In 1993, the Old Gulch Fire burned for five days and reached the edge of Tom’s property. In 2015, the Butte Fire roared onto the Ranch taking more than 150 acres. His herd of goats had kept the brush down and saved his house and barns. In 2016, he sold the land he loved and moved to the Gold Rush town of Murphys, California.

Tom’s Lightning Ridge Ranch had been reduced to a charred wasteland, bringing back haunting memories of Vietnam.

Some memories never fade.

Photography restoration and preservation by David Vassar:

David Vassar
Book Design and Photo Restoration
David Vassar is an Oscar® nominated and Emmy Award® winning filmmaker who has enjoyed decades of experience as a successful writer, director, and producer.
In 2010, David and his wife, Sally Kaplan, moved to Calaveras County. They have spent the last ten years continuing their work in film and television as well as writing fiction and non-fiction. Although David is an avid photographer, Soldier By Chance is the first book David has designed. He looks forward to continuing his work in what for him represents an exciting new chapter.