Since publishing “Cherries” four years ago, I learned how important reviews and ratings are to both authors and potential readers. As a result, I began writing book reviews on Amazon dot com for all the books I’ve read since – amassing 111 reviews to date – Amazon even has me ranked as a reviewer. Although there are many genre’s represented on that list of books, I pulled only those relating to war (WWII, Korea and Vietnam) and posted them here on my blog by the date of posting.
Over the past four decades, I’ve read every Vietnam War novel that I could get my hands on, but don’t have written reviews available to post here. There are many excellent books out there that should not be overlooked – I’ll create a list of those recommendations and add them to this post in the near future. It’s my hope that this post increases the awareness of those books that are available, and my reviews aid in your decisions to read them or not. Please let me know your thoughts.
WATCH FOR NEW BOOKS AND REVIEWS AS THEY ARE ADDED. THEY WILL BE POSTED FIRST…
Thirty Days Has September
by James Strauss
The luck of the draw
Last Stand at Khe Sahn
by Gregg Jones
A great read
The Last Stand at Khe Sanh was an intriguing read that documented the 77 day siege of the Marine basecamp. It seems like the author took the after action reports about the events and then humanized the report and breaking it down to squad level action to make it more readable. I especially like how he listed names of personnel and followed them through the battle where they either portrayed valor or shows how they died. My close friend, Doc Cecala was wounded during an ambush while on a patrol with B 1/26; most of his platoon was killed and at least half of the second which came to reinforce them. Shot in the shoulder and legs, he managed to crawl back to the gates of the firebase and be rescued.
The book also does justice to the hill fights surrounding the base, showing how they worked through their difficulties: ground attacks, incoming, lack of water, food and ammunition.
Once finished, the reader is able to review the action taken by the American leadership and gage whether or not they did the right thing. Mr. Jones also documents the action within the white house and discussions between President Johnson, McNamara and Westmorland and how politics entered into their decisions.
Highly recommended for those wanting to learn more about one of the monumental battles of the Vietnam War. Great job Gregg Jones for putting it all together for us.
Melody Hill is the first book I’ve read from Rick DeStefanis and I enjoyed it immensely. The story begins in Melody Hill, TN where readers are introduced to Duff Coleridge and his family – Mama, Lacey and step brother, Brady in the days before Duff leaves for Vietnam in early 1967. Duff and his friend, Jimmy, are placed with the same company which operates in the Central Highlands. The humping was never ending in the mountains, and when Duff hears of an opening in the LRRP’s, he volunteers himself and Jimmy. Both are accepted and teamed up as snipers. During his second mission, Duff becomes a hero by saving the rest of the unit when he stays behind to cover the unit’s withdrawal to safety. Duff’s marksmanship was superb – a skill he honed while growing up in the mountains of TN – allowed him to take down several enemy fighters during the stand-off. The Army awarded him a Silver Star for a task that he didn’t think was heroic. It was just the right thing to do.
The Parrot’s Beak – A Vietnam War Novel
by: David Allin
A Pleasant Surprise
by: Mark Garrison
by: David Allin
A Learning Experience
I enjoyed reading “The Crescent” by David Allin which also increased my knowledge about APC units and how they operated during the Vietnam War. In this story, 2nd Lt. Stephen Carr is assigned as the new Platoon Leader within a mechanized unit that hadn’t had an officer for several months. As a result, SFC Aaron Samples, who had been leading the platoon during that time is now demoted and will have to take orders from this Cherry officer. Only problem is that SSgt. Samples hates officers – especially 2nd lieutenants.
by: Charles J. Boyle
An Engaging read
by Michael H. Cunningham
A Diamond in the Rough
We Were Reos: Australian Infantry Reenforcements in Vietnam
by: Barney and Andrew Bigwood
An Educational read
A most interesting story that looks at the War in Vietnam from an Australian’s point of view. The “Diggers” of Australia and “Kiwis” of New Zealand both fought communism alongside soldiers from the United States, Taiwan, Korea and Thais. The author, Barney Bigwood, takes readers through the Aussie process of military indoctrination, training and their appointment to home units. The Aussies and Kiwis sent complete units to fight the war with the intent of pulling them out together at the end of their deployment. Deaths and injuries during the war caused shortages within those ranks of fighting units. As a response, a unit of “REO’s” was created – soldiers were pulled from various home units, and sent to the war as replacements. They filled in the gaps and fought alongside their mates from other units, then moving on to replace other shortages when the unit they are in ends its deployment and goes home. In fact, these soldiers bounced between military units as replacements only.
Barney shares his stories as a replacement trying to fit in with the soldiers of the new unit he’s assigned to. Although, he may have been in country longer than many in his “short” unit, he’s still treated like a Cherry. Unit officers were always pleased when receiving REO’s because of their experience and tenure in fighting the enemy.
Readers can feel the soldiers anxiety, fear, thirst, hunger and pain while reading about the many patrols, battles, deaths and sacrifices of those in Barney’s story. Additionally, the author shares his experience with the 2D&E, a temporary unit put together with soldiers from other units. This group fought bravely as a unit, suffered many casualties and was then disbanded after the mission was completed. Unfortunately, the Australian military and government covered up its existence and didn’t recognize those who fought together during the mission. This has just recently come to light, and the military has now admitted to its existence but still holding back on critical documentation needed to help those veterans.
As a Vietnam Vet myself, I enjoyed reading these stories and also fought in many of the same places the author described during his tour and enjoyed my R&R in Vung Tau. I also learned much about the Aussie Military and how they operated during the war. Mr. Bigwood’s work sometimes reads like an after action report. It is extremely descriptive but has minimal dialog when reporting. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the Vietnam War – especially those avid readers of U.S. soldier memoirs to compare how things were done by their Aussie allies.
Great job Mr. Bigwood! Thank you for your service – and Welcome Home!
Chopper Warriors: Kicking the Hornet’s Nest
by William E. Peterson
A perfect addition to my collection
Bill Peterson’s new book, “Chopper Warriors: Kicking the Hornet’s Nest” is a compelling and easy read, comprised of twenty-three short chapters which describe personal experiences during the Vietnam War. A host of contributors have joined Bill in this story to talk about special incidents they experienced during their tours many years ago; some describe acts of gallantry and heroism…others talk about fear and death. Contributors include pilots, infantry grunts and officers, Navy Corpsmen, door gunners and a lone tunnel rat; their tours take place in different years and span across the entire country of Vietnam. Thus, seeing the war from different perspectives.
As a Vietnam Veteran myself, reading “Chopper Warriors” is like sitting around a summer campfire with a group of vets from my local VVA chapter. They come from every branch of service and occupation; most have something to say – others are comfortable just listening…all are treated with trust, dignity and respect while relating their stories around the roaring blaze. There is usually a common thread shared during these discussions and testimony seldom takes a sudden left or right turn. This is how I relate to Bill’s new tome – thankfully, he did not include the extra commentary that I might have heard: “I got one, listen to this…”
As I commented in “Missions of Fire and Mercy”, us grunts held chopper crews in the highest regard. Without your support, dedication and bravery, there would be many more names listed on the black granite wall in Washington D.C. You were always there when we needed you – I remain forever grateful for that!
After reading “Chopper Warriors”, non-veteran readers will better understand why veterans returning home after war are different and troubled. Could be a different country, war and time, the results are the same!
Bill, excellent job in following that common thread throughout the story. Thank you, too. for the education – I did pick-up on some new things I didn’t know while reading your story! Highly recommended – don’t miss out on this one! Welcome Home Brothers!
by William Casselman
A Diamond in the Rough
“Apache Snow” tells the story of young Matthew Kendal, a Pastor’s youngest son. Matt was proud of his older brother was in the Army, graduated from Airborn training and became a Green Beret. In 1968, his brother’s unit was sent to Vietnam and he ended up being killed when their small outpost near Laos was overrun by the NVA. He was a hero during this final battle and was bestowed the Silver Star for his actions (his Commanding Officer put him in for the Medal of Honor, but it was turned down).
Upon graduation from high school, Matt joined the Army with the intent of going to Vietnam and avenging his brother’s death. He followed in his brother’s footsteps, earning his jump wings and then volunteering for Vietnam – assigned to the 101st Airborne Division.
The story follows Matt and two other friends from stateside training as his squad runs patrols through the countryside. Soon, they are sent to the infamous Ashau Valley, a stronghold for the NVA and seldom visited by American patrols. Their battalion is soon assigned to recon Hill 937, surveillance exposes a large enemy force in heavy duty bunkers and trench lines – the unit is then charged with taking the hill.
This begins 11 days of fighting between the 101st Airborne and the 29th NVA Regiment – the Hill is later referred to as “Hamburger Hill”. There is a heavy toll in lives lost on both sides, the Americans suffer from lack of sleep, food, water and continuous assaults upon the hill which ends in stalemates. The story is rated as fiction, but it closely follows the actual battle to take this hill. Readers will be in awe as to how this story plays out. Most already know the outcome from history, but this author tells it like he was there. I should also point out that there is not ONE cuss word in this story, but there is also a heavy dusting of religion throughout.
The author, William Casselman, is an exceptional story teller and has a gift for writing, in this case almost 400 pages. My only complaint is that with all the time and effort it took to write this tome, the author failed to utilize an editor or proof-reader. The story is filled with typos, extra words, missing words, etc that should have been caught before publishing. These errors are distracting, and almost caused me to stop reading this story, but I stayed with it and saw it to the end. In fact, I’m sure that if the author rereads his own work, he’d be successful in correcting most if not all the errors.
Mr. Casselman, I commend you on your success of writing a great story. As a fellow author, I can relate to the many hours of typing, the many sacrifices made – both personal and family related, and the dedication required to write a long story such as “Apache Snow” – why throw it all away because of countless errors which sends the wrong message to your readers. Take the time and fix it…you’ll be happy you did!
Singing to the Lions: A Vietnam War Novel
by Robert Gisclair
A Great Read with a message
“Singing to the Lions” is a psychological thriller taking place during the Vietnam War. Recruit, Private White arrives at the field during a resupply of the company. He meets the lieutenant, who welcomes him to the platoon, and instructs him to join his fellow squad members in the wood line surrounding the open area, informing White, “Your squad is over there, find an open area and keep an eye out to your front.” Pvt. White sat among other soldiers; none acknowledged him. In fact, it seemed like they purposely ignored the new soldier. They sat in groups of two and three, eating, reading, shooting the breeze and packing away supplies. White sat alone. So much for the introductions, he thought!
When the order to march is given, Pvt. White found that he was still alone within the column of soldiers. He struggled with the weight of his pack, thirst, getting trapped by vines that shredded his fatigues and cut exposed skin on his arms and face, eating cold C-Rations during the lunch break, witnessing death after a short firefight that killed one of the replacements that accompanied him on the chopper. The night is haunting, and his first watch in the blackness filled with terror. All through the story, readers will follow the action and listen to his thoughts as he experiences everything during his first day in the bush.
The next day, a fellow soldier, Pierre Boudreaux, a Cajun from Louisiana, takes Pvt. White under his wing and helps to indoctrinate him to his new role for the next twelve months. The veterans in the group believe he shows promise and can be a trusted ally, thus, begins his learning.
The author, Robert Gisclair, excels at demonstrating the newness of every new experience for Pvt. White, and with Pierre at his side, also learns how to prepare himself mentally. Pierre takes him to Hue and introduces him to a special place, a whorehouse and later to a professor at the local university. White’s mind begins to grow and starts looking at war and life differently.
His battalion enters into the A Shau Valley on different missions and each time, they lose fellow soldiers to ambushes and booby traps. The mention of A Shau in itself is enough to send foreboding thoughts into everybody’s psyche. They also find that every time they engage the enemy, they are vastly outnumbered by a very determined NVA force that is intent on destroying the Americans.
If you were to read this book in the early 1970’s, you’d surely think that this is a “Heavy” and “Deep” read. Not that you have to be a psychiatrist to understand it, the message is clear and readers will better understand why soldiers return from war differently. They’ve endured physical, mental and psychological abuses during that tour of duty that will haunt them forever. Thank you, Mr. Gisclair, for showing those innermost thoughts in written form! It adds a different dimension to an alr eady great story. Highly recommended.
Thank you, sir, for your service and welcome home!
A surprisingly good story considering the title. Keith Pomeroy uses humor to describe much of his time with an artillery unit during the Vietnam War. Some of that humor is shown in his selection of names used for those characters in his tome – to protect the guilty, he admits. Many of his short stories are terror-filled as his unit is entrapped in different firebases – cut-off from help, ammo, water and food. One of his characters is extremely intelligent and manages to find solutions to many of their problems in ingenious ways. The author also shares his personal experiences with the family of his hootch maid, who invites him to her village for dinner. The gesture is to repay him for his generosity and gifts that were bestowed upon her simply as a show of good will. He learns much from this experience…although taking an enormous risk during that adventure.
Mr. Pomeroy also tells about the dark side of Vietnam – drugs, prostitution, theft and officers who use the war for their personal gain – telling it like it was without any sugar coating.
One important fact that the author exploits throughout his story is in demonstrating the closeness and camaraderie between his small group of soldiers. His characters are well defined and readers feel as if they know them personally. I also enjoyed reading the author’s final thoughts, where the he provides an update as to the current status of those men.
As an author myself, I can relate to the long lapse in time between the war and getting my story on paper – it took me forty years to complete. Writing a book is a labor of love requiring dedication, family support, sacrifice and a lot of time away from the family. I did it for my wife and daughter so they understood that part of my life! Great job Mr. Pomeroy! Welcome Home and thank you for your service!
Don’t let the title scare you away…the story is worth reading!
Jason and Ty are brothers, who live in a small town in Oklahoma. Big brother, Jason, is a football star and got a scholarship to play in college. Ty is a senior in high school, with hopes of getting a football scholarship of his own after this final season. Unfortunately, both are picked on, Jason by his coach and Ty by the high school principal. Ty is injured in practice and unable to play football so his scholarship possibilities vanish. Later, with the backing of the principal, fellow students set-up Ty to get in trouble with the law and he is eventually kicked out of school, then immediately joins the Army against the wishes of his parents. Jason is good enough to be a starter, but isn’t given a chance to play in college – doomed to be a human dummy on the football practice squad and then has his scholarship revoked by his spiteful coach. With no money for college, Jason also joins the Army, goes to OCS and becomes an officer, then follows in the footsteps of his ancestors and younger brother – going to jump school and earning his Airborne Wings.
Ty is sent to Vietnam as an Airborne Infantryman in the Central Highlands. There, he becomes a skilled tracker and point man, promising those with him that he would keep them safe. He, soon garners the reputation of being the best in the battalion. Jason arrives in Vietnam a few months later and heads up an infantry platoon in the mountains around Dak To. His platoon is soon ambushed and he loses most of his men on the hill, barely surviving himself. However, he’s learned valuable lessons about the enemy that he will use later in his tour. Both brothers are soon reunited and end up together in the fight for Hill 875 during November, 1967.
The author has painted vivid and accurate scenes of the battles of Dak To, the story seems to follow the same sequence of events as listed in the historical registers. Although, “The Hill’ is fiction, yet, it is clear that the author called upon his own memories of these terrible times. The accuracy is spot on and readers are drawn in as if there are right there with the soldiers fighting for their lives. This tome is visceral in its descriptions and tells it like it was – leaving nothing to the imagination. It’s too real!
Characters are well rounded and I was saddened when they begin dying in the story. This story will also show readers how those 18 and 19 year old soldiers fought heroically and did everything in their power to protect one-another. These were the best that America had at the time.
I completely enjoyed this story and found it hard to put down – completing it within three days. I recommend “The Hill” to anyone that wants to learn more about what happened to some of us in Vietnam and why many combat vets suffer today with recurring memories and nightmares of those past days we left behind.
Thank you Leonard B. Scott for an entertaining read! Also, thank you for your Service and Welcome Home, sir!
by Leonard B. Scott
Rangers in Vietnam
I don’t know how I’ve overlooked this fantastic novel all this time! The author’s prose took me back to the jungles of Vietnam. I was so fixated by the story that when I stopped for a break, I was momentarily disoriented, surprised to find myself sitting in my favorite chair back home. It’s that realistic!
“Charlie Mike” is a riveting tome and difficult to set aside. Readers are introduced to well-rounded likable characters, making it difficult to choose a single character to care about. A second story line story follows the exploits of a group of North Vietnamese soldiers, offering readers an opportunity to get into the head of the enemy and learn something about their strategy, tactics, and secrets. Both sides will clash time and time again. Many will die on both sides, tears will fall, prayers said and reinforcements arrive before doing it all over again.
There is something for everyone in “Charlie Mike”: a love interest between two of the Rangers and a couple Donut Dollies as well as a Ranger officer and the nurse who took care of him after he was wounded and became famous for landing the aircraft, Officers more concerned about public opinion than the lives of their own men, Con artists and money-making schemes and of the brotherhood shared by men who continually place themselves at risk. Taking a line from the Big & Rich song – The 8th of November – “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his
Highly recommended! I have just downloaded another of of the author’s Vietnam War books and hope it is just as good as this one. Thank you Leonard B. Scott for an entertaining read! Also, thank you for your service and Welcome Home! Charlie Mike, sir!
Jokers: War, Love and Helicopter pilots – What Could Go Wrong?
by Vern Hammill & Edward Kral
An Entertaining Read
“Jokers: War, Love & Helicopter Pilots…What Could Go Wrong” is a story of two helicopter pilots during the Vietnam War. They become best friends and confident enough to plan a skiing trip in Austria after the war. Flying both Slicks and Gunships in support of infantry units on the ground, the authors take readers along on these harrowing flights giving them a birds eye view of what it was like. Both pilots were shot down during their eighteen month tours and survived the crashes, unlike many of their friends and fellow pilots who perished in fiery balls of burning magnesium. When not flying, pilots hang out in the officer’s club to take their mind off the war, drinking enough to hopefully pass out and be spared from “war mares” often visiting during the night. The episodes at the O-Club are sometimes hilarious especially when new pilots are welcomed into the unit. This is also the time for bantering between the Slick and Gunny pilots, each group keeping to themselves and trying to outdo the other with taunts, heckling and dares…at times, tempers are lost. However, the next day when flying, it’s all business and professionalism.
Eric and Paul are both mischievous and go out of their way to make it difficult for bad pilots and those officers with poor leadership skills; finding ways to get them transferred out of the unit; often taking risks that their fellow pilots wouldn’t dare. Their unit, “Jokers” is a befitting place for the likes of these two.
About a third of the book tells their story after surviving Vietnam and following through on their plans and go to Austria for a couple of months of skiing. They come in contact with a doctor who wants to employ them for a covert mission into Eastern Europe. It is also the time when both men meet a pair of American women and fall deeply in love. The mission will give them enough money to “play” in Europe for another few months – providing they aren’t shot down, captured and survive this dangerous task.
As a former infantry soldier, I have always held chopper pilots and crews in the highest regard. When we were in trouble, hungry, running out of supplies or needing a ride out of hell, you always came! In fact, even today when hearing those rotors, I stop and look for that sound in the sky as it has a special meaning to me. Thank you!
I do have some criticism to share with the authors. First, I find the formatting of the book quite difficult to follow as it seems that the entire Vietnam experience is written in a single chapter. Scenes and time both change without providing readers a breather and run one after another without double spacing. Secondly, there are many typos (added or missing words) within sentences that should be corrected and could only be found by reading the story again.
I did enjoy “Jokers…” and recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about helicopter pilots in Vietnam. Great job Vern and Edward! Thank you for your service! Welcome Home!
Brandywines War: Back in Country
by Robert Vaughan
An Entertaining Read
Brandywines War: Back in Country” follows W.W. Brandywine through his tours in Vietnam as a Huey recovery pilot. His crew is responsible for locating downed helicopters and then rigging them for either removal or destruction or flying supplies to other locations. When working, he is all business as death continues to deal the cards. Some of his friends do not survive, which also saddens readers because we liked them. However, during his downtime, he is a wheeler-dealer, con man and instigator – the results of his antics are sometimes hilarious – at times, making me laugh out loud. As other reviewers have stated, this book is similar to MASH and Catch-22, both taking place during wartime – offering snapshots of what some soldiers might do to relieve boredom.
Readers do witness officer bravery, foolhardiness and downright meanness throughout the tome. Mr. Brandywine is always looking for a seam to penetrate in order to turn the odds in his favor. One character, “Unsoldier” is an odd character whose circumstances are hilarious. Eventually, Mr. Brandywines’ antics catch up to him when a former boss takes action to get even for all the sufferings the pilot had caused him over time.
Not a war story, per se, but witnessing many of the aftereffects of war – kinda like looking in from the outside. A real page turner! I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining and fast read. Great job Robert Vaugham! Thank you for the laughter!
An extraordinary tale about a group of Air Force soldiers stationed at Phu Cat Air Force base in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Working out of a small warehouse on base, their main job was to provide goods and services to nearby bases, outposts and villager. Sometimes, they were tasked to ride security on convoys to other locations, a hairy experience, but necessary to protect the “special” cargo. Their leader, Sgt. William E. Richards, better known as “The Kansas NCO”, a wheeler-dealer and possibly the biggest player in the black market during the Vietnam War. He was rich and ensured that everyone associated with his illegal activities had their pockets lined; officers, police, Vietnamese government officials and underlings complied with his orders and shared in the bounty. Each delivery was planned out and executed – the scariest being secret night convoys through Indian country.
The first quarter of the book introduces the main characters and follows them through their day-to-day activities. Readers soon find themselves intrigued with the complexity of these “special” and brazen missions. Seeing that the war is nearing the end, The Kansas NCO arranges to pick-up and smuggle a plane load of heroin from Cambodia to Florida in the U.S. – a first for him. In order for his plan to succeed, a one-way decoy mission is needed at the same time, the VC will be tipped off and everybody in the convoy must be killed. Sgt. Richards chooses the men we’ve been following as the sacrificial lambs for this ill-fated mission.
Sometimes the bests of plans blow up in your face. There are survivors and after having learned of the double cross, now vow to expose the Kansas NCO and make him pay for what he did to them. Providing, of course, they survive the jungle and make it back to friendly forces. Enemy forces and a group of Special Forces soldiers are chasing them – intent to terminate their existence. Surprises abound – and there is a slight chance of them succeeding, but the odds are not in their favor.
Mr. Campolo has written a wonderful story filled with espionage, terror, suspense, love and hope. The story is easy to read and chapters short – each beginning with a historical quote from a famous person to set the tone for that portion of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed his work and recommend it to all readers. Great job Joe! Welcome Home Brother!
Flashing Saber: Three Years in Vietnam
by Matthew Brennan
“Flashing Saber: Three Years in Vietnam” tells the story of a young man who quits college and joins the Army in 1965. He volunteers for Vietnam and is assigned to the 1st Cavalry Div – 9th Infantry. Initially, he is assigned to an artillery unit as a Forward Observer in Division HQ – a relatively safe position, but volunteers for the infantry units that patrol through the jungles looking for the enemy. At first, he is awed by his surroundings, naive in the ways of war and soon has his first firefight with the enemy. Wondering if he had made the wrong decision, he decides to give it his best and learn all he can to stay alive.
Sgt. Brennan later joined the famed “B-Troop Blues” unit which go looking for trouble and do so daily. Intelligence receives information and the small platoons are sent to engage the enemy. Most firefights are hit and run from the enemy, but when it’s over, trophies and souvenirs are plentiful. These units are extremely skilled and battle hardened, soon developing a warrior reputation among other fighting units in country. The author’s accounts are brought to life in such detail that readers may have to periodically take a break to ensure they are not in the war fighting alongside him.
The author returns home after his first extended tour and discovers that his fiance hadn’t been true to him in his absence. He leaves town and heads out on his own to find himself. Life is difficult. There is no excitement, camaraderie, and getting a job is almost impossible because of his war veteran status and he soon misses those friends he’d left behind. Sgt. Brennan reenlists specifically to rejoin the Blues, feeling re energized and content after the first mission.
With this tome covering such an extended period of time, the author shows readers how tactics, leadership, discipline and racism evolve during these years – especially during his final tour in 1969. Mr. Brennan does not sugarcoat anything and tells it like it was – leaving little to the imagination. During this final tour, Sgt. Brennan receives a field commission to lieutenant and is assigned to one of the Cav. platoons. His first patrol in the bush scares him silly – no noise discipline, continuous complaints, refusal to follow directions, etc., clearly demonstrating that this new generation of soldiers must be schooled in the ways of war. So begins jungle training from scratch. The new lieutenant soon gets a reputation as a great leader within the battalion and other soldiers are begging to join his platoon. However, a change in leadership within the company and battalion leadership makes it difficult for Brennan to keep his men safe and out of harms way. Dissension grows as his men begin to die unnecessarily!
As a Vietnam vet myself, I could relate to much of what the author wrote. I was, however, fascinated by the Blues missions and learned much about this elite group of soldiers. I do have one concern that kept me from awarding 5 stars in my review…typos and misused words, especially in the last quarter of the book – almost like somebody else wrote that portion. I also apologize for being the only reviewer to bring this to your attention. Please take the time to make the corrections – readers will then find it less distracting.
I want to commend the author for his work – I know how much time and devotion is necessary to create a story about his war experiences and awareness of what the war was really like in Vietnam. Great job Mr. Brennan! Thank you for your service and Welcome Home Brother (sir)!
When It Rains In Hell
by Harry R. McCoy
Well Worth Reading
“When it Rains in Hell” by Harry McCoy is a first person recounting of the author’s tour of duty during the Vietnam War. Harry was a machine gunner in the 9th Infantry Division during 1968 and stationed predominately in the Mekong Delta, however, he also experiences several missions in the Central Highland mountains. The author intersperses historical facts throughout his story to help readers better understand the background of Vietnam and how history had impacted its people – making them a tenacious foe.
The author describes his missions during road clearing and convoy security while riding in the rear of a jeep, manning an M60 machine gun mounted to a cross-bar – a-la “Rat Patrol” jeeps during WWII. Later, Harry carries the machine gun while humping through the muddy Delta and through thick mountains in search of the enemy. Mr. McCoy brings readers into his head while sharing his experiences; allowing them to see what makes him tick and why he reacts the way he does through a range of emotions. One thing for certain, he doesn’t sugar coat war and dispels the romantic or adventurous aspect of it – surely a message for today’s youth who spend hours playing video war games.
Mr. McCoy married his girlfriend prior to leaving for Vietnam. They were very much in love and wrote one another daily, counting the days until his return home. When it does happen, this veteran is not the same person that left a year earlier. Harry still has several months to serve prior to his discharge and arranges an assignment not too far from home. Being together is a struggle. His wife is a saint who tries to understand what her husband experienced, helping him through his bouts with alcohol, sleepless nights and rages. The stigma of a Vietnam Vet at that time also followed him upon his return, making it difficult for him to secure a decent job and support his family.
There is very little dialog in the story, but told like readers sitting around a campfire with the author – listening to Harry weave his tale. As a Vietnam Vet myself, I was intrigued by some of his experiences and could relate to many others. “When It Rains in Hell” is recommended for anyone wanting to better understand how war impacts America’s youth. As the saying goes, “You can take the soldier out of Vietnam, but you can’t take Vietnam out of the soldier.”
Well worth reading. Great job Mr. McCoy! Welcome Home Brother!
The premise of the story was interesting enough, however, many of the events during this LRRP patrol would never have taken place. For instance, LRRP troops communicate with hand signals and members would never ask for a roll call (twice) or call out to other team members during a patrol, especially when surrounded by the enemy in Laos. Ten team members also seems extreme during a LRRP outing – they usually travel with five members. I’m thinking that Mr. DeMille called upon his past experience as an officer of an infantry unit when he was in Vietnam – when the actions described would have sufficed.
The characters in this short story were only names without any back story to any of them, so when killed, it’s only another name removed from the list of team members and no emotions.. It also ends abruptly, I expected it to continue for a bit to let readers know how successful the body recovery mission was.
f you have a spare hour, then Rendezvous is still worth reading…readers can follow the ten member LRRP team through the jungles of Laos and see how they fare against a very good female sniper, who just wants to have fun.
“Best We Forget” tells the story about a group of Australian soldiers serving their one-year tour of duty during the Vietnam War. This book is not a book about battles or following soldiers through the jungles, instead, it follows Brian “Donkey” Simpson and his mates – Saigon Warriors – working in PR, journalism and Intelligence. Their antics take readers through the streets of Saigon, Cholon and Vung Tau – places where the war is distant and many people sneak through the streets after curfew. In places, the story is hilarious – kind of a mix between “Good Morning Vietnam” and “M.A.S.H.” It is uncanny how easily these soldiers create mischief – selling parts of their Australian uniforms as souvenirs to the American soldiers, knowing many of the local bar whores by name, trading four cases of Aussie beer for an American Jeep and selling Kangaroo feathers for $50/ea. to the gullible Americans and tons of other cons.
There are spies among them and Donkey is used as a pawn by the generals to locate and trap the informant. Most of the soldiers find themselves in “love” with the local girls – causing mental anguish because they all have girl friends at home waiting for them. Espionage and politics play a large part in the story, sometimes, pitting soldiers against one-another.
An Australian author penned this story and many of the euphemisms and comments were foreign to me, but makes for some interesting reading and guessing as to what it means – I’ve discovered that “first dinghum” can mean several different things, but I’ve attributed the phrase to “no s***” and “bloody” as bad as an American 4-letter word. The book was actually fun to read!
There are some serious and tense moments throughout the tome and it was interesting to see how they were played out. I recommend “Best We Forget” to anyone interested in reading a “bloody good book” about the Australian’s in the Vietnam War. Bernard Clancy – to a fine Bloke – Bravo! Thank you for your service and “Welcome Home my brother from down under”!
“We Walked Across Their Graves: Vietnam…” is a first-person memoir of the author’s tour of duty as a Marine in the Vietnam War. The year is 1967, Marines and NVA forces continue to battle one another for control of the notorious Que Son Valley. Losses have left the Marines short-handed, 19 yr. old PFC’s are running squads and replacements are slow to arrive.
The author brings readers right into his squad as they hump through jungles, rice-paddies and over hills in search of a brazen enemy, Water and food are scarce – rationing only goes so far and then you have to do without for a day or longer; fatigues are in tatters – soiled with dried blood and feces – the later due to dysentery which seems to last forever. The men are exhausted. Patrols last from sun-up to sun-down, foxholes completed in the twilight, night defensive perimeters require the troops to share in guard duty and remain awake 50% of the time, night ambush patrols are dispatched well after dark – these squad members are awake all night long, then periodically, the entire platoon packs-up in the middle of the night and rushes through the pitch darkness to support a sister unit that is in trouble. Sleep is taken whenever possible…eating and writing letters become luxuries that are down at the bottom of their list of responsibilities. Their main goal is to survive the day…one day at a time for 13 months. Oh, and didn’t I mention – somebody out there with you is always trying to kill you at every opportunity. There is no peace of mind!
Mr. Strunk tells it like it was – the good, bad and ugly. As a Vietnam Veteran myself, I served as an infantry soldier with the U.S. Army and could relate to much of what the author writes in this tome. No matter how many years ago it happened, it is an experience that will never be forgotten. The epilogue summarizes his life after Vietnam – excessive drinking, different jobs, marriage, starting a family and then eventually finding God
Well done Brother! Thank you for your service and Welcome Home!
by Kent White
What a riveting story! I had visions of the Gene Hackman movie, “Uncommon Valor” when reading this story. Remember the scene when Hackman and his group are traversing the Laotian mountains with a group of Asian mercenaries, trying to locate a secret POW camp after the end of the Vietnam War? Kent White’s scenic descriptions are so vivid throughout the novel, readers may feel as if they are standing right there with the characters in the lush mountainous vegetation.
The story jumps back and forth between 1970 Vietnam / Laos and 1992 Stateside. Special Forces MSG Steve McShane is a month away from retirement, yet accepts a final mission back to Asia. Intelligence sources have provided evidence that a Caucasian man is training and fighting with Karen rebels against Burmese government soldiers. The intel agencies believe that it may be former SF SSG Ken Slade, who’s entire team disappeared on a SOG mission in the jungles of Laos twenty years earlier. He and MSG McShane were friends. In fact, McShane led a larger unit back into the area to locate the missing team – finding only one mercenary survivor who said that he witnessed the killing of everyone else. So up until now, SSG Slade was all but forgotten – until the pictures surfaced.
If they are successful in locating the Caucasian, and he is, indeed, Slade, then the government wants McShane to use whatever force is necessary to bring him home. He’s an Army deserter and the only one who has answers to a ton of questions.
Two different story lines take place – the first, follows Slade and his team during his fateful mission in 1971, and the second string follows McShane and his group in 1992 as they search through the mountains of Thailand and Burma for this ghost. There is a third string as well that follows a Karen rebel patrol during their return to their secret hidden village. They’ve been fighting Burmese soldiers in the mountains during the last month and are accompanied by a tall Caucasian man who appears to be their patrol leader. This patrol happens to be travelling in the same direction as McShane’s group. Do they cross paths? Who is this Caucasian man – it’s rumored that he may be a German citizen? Will McShane be successful in his mission? Read the book – it will keep you on the edge of your seat and the ending will surprise you.
Great job Kent White! Superb story!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Prairie Fire” by Kent White, finding it both educational and engaging. Unbeknownst to all but the U.S. government and Special Forces soldiers in MACVSOG, U.S. military “Top Secret” forays were conducted into Laos and Cambodia throughout the Vietnam war. Now that the statute of limitations has expired, information about these Top Secret missions are available to the public; SF soldiers are now able to share their stories.
The author categorized his story as fiction, but is surely written based upon his personal experiences in these missions. He admits to taking some liberties within the tome for the sake of the story, but it was difficult for me to determine the difference between fact and fiction. Nevertheless, this is an exciting, edge of your seat read, as the author takes readers along on some of these forays into Laos. Each recon team has 2 – 3 Americans and several indigenous mercenaries from China, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, who stealthily move through the jungles to verify intelligence reports for the higher ups. These teams are on their own during these 5-day missions, except for air support, which would take up to an hour to arrive. Although their main task is to observe, sometimes the teams’ existence is compromised, and they need to fight and evade until help arrives. This gets hairy, especially, when the enemy soldiers use “experienced trackers” to hunt them down. The time line of this story takes place during the final months of 1967, a period when North Vietnam was preparing for the famed “TET” offensive at the end of January, 1968. So the jungles were packed with traveling battalion sized units of soldiers, trucking convoys of supplies, rest areas and training schools. Their most perilous mission will be to locate a suspected POW camp with live Americans while all this is going on – those teams have a feeling of dread like no other mission before.
Although many soldiers died during these secret missions – complete teams simply vanished without a trace, their efforts significantly impacted how the war was fought in South Vietnam by eliminating supplies, weapons, armaments and enemy soldiers who never made it to the battlefields. Great job Mr. White! Already purchased your next book and will start it immediately after posting this review. Thank you for your service and welcome home!
Youth in Asia
by Allen Tiffany
The Army relocated Corporal Jacobs from the DMZ in Korea to Vietnam, assigning him to the 173rd Airborne Division just after the vicious battle of Hill 875 and the area around Dak To during November, 1967. After in-country training, he is assigned as a team leader in one of the infantry squads of Bravo Company, the entire battalion was critically short of personnel – replacements were trickling in every day.
This small novella is a first-person account of his short time with the unit just prior to the 1968 Tet Offensive. Mr. Tiffany classified his story as fiction, but it reads like a true account – as if he were there! A new arrival, nicknamed Elvis, puts the platoon in jeopardy on the very first day, choosing to write the experience in a journal instead of keeping watch. Corporal Jacobs catches him and takes appropriate action. However, he continues to be a thorn in everybody’s side.
On the battalions last night on the fire base, Bravo Company is assigned to patrol around the fire base and protect the hilltop while it’s dismantled during the night; Corporal Jacobs team is bringing up the rear and soon faces its worst nightmare. The column of men had stopped for an extended break on the hillside, and when doing so, the rear team must set up rear security to ensure the enemy isn’t following them. Elvis’ job was to let them know when the column started to move again. Unfortunately, he fell asleep and the five men were now separated from the rest of the company in the total darkness. What now?
The team soon notices dozens of NVA soldiers moving around and digging in between them and the fire base, preparing to attack the fire base! All at once, they hear gunfire and explosions erupting some distance away – the rest of Bravo Company had walked into an ambush. Now what?
“Youth in Asia” tells it like it was. This story is engaging and worth reading in a single setting – it’s short, but with a profound message. Who will survive this harrowing account? Don’t miss this one! Great job Mr. Tiffany!
I enjoyed reading “Boots: An Unvarnished Memoir of Vietnam”, a first-person narrative following a 20 year old lieutenant – fresh out of OCS – through his year long tour in Vietnam. Lt. Park spent his first six months as an infantry platoon leader in the 1st Division – Big Red One – leading his men on day patrols and night ambushes, sometimes chopping their way through seemingly impenetrable jungle to satisfy the whims of his superiors. Other missions to guard bridges and roads were less exhausting and boring, but still resulted in him adding another “X” to his calender – countdown of days remaining in Vietnam. Lt. Park made it a point to keep his men informed and usually communicated with them after each briefing about the days’ mission. He struggled with his bosses, believing his superiors didn’t know what they were doing due to their lack of experience – normally sharing his sentiments with those around him. How did this affect his men? As a former grunt myself, I would have questioned many of those same orders – some, even placing his men in harms way unnecessarily. The story has very little character development for those men in the Lt.’s platoon and is more about the main character and what he does. I did feel like I was right there with him exhausted, wet, hungry, thirsty and struggling mentally through the monsoon season, but I was right there with him to share in his misery! Unfortunately, I could not relate to any of the others surrounding him.
After spending six months in the bush, Lt. Park is reassigned to the rear as the company XO, a support entity. At first, he misses those men he left behind and continues to monitor their patrols. However, he is soon bored and spends many afternoons at the local officers club- drinking and playing poker. He is later transferred to a position as liaison between the U.S. and the District leaders / ARVN forces…his new job is more enjoyable, allowing him more latitude to do things his way. He and his driver once work with a couple Special Forces divers on a mission and soon find themselves in mischief that could land them all in jail. Some of it is hilarious!
My only critique on the writing is the amount of typos and missing words throughout the tome. I would strongly suggest an editor to give it a once over and make the necessary corrections.
Thank you for your service, sir! Congratulations on publishing your memoir and giving us all an unvarnished glimpse into the mind of an infantry officer during the Vietnam War. Welcome Home!
A Pink Mist
by John A. Bercaw
A Great Read
As a Vietnam Infantry veteran, I have always held the chopper crews in the highest regard for always being there when needed. Without them, we would not have survived. I had jumped from choppers into hot LZ’s, finding the deepest depression or fattest tree for protection before returning fire – a real pucker moment! These pilots were relentless and continued to ferry and land reinforcements with not much protection for themselves. They flew their machines through steady streams of gunfire, and yet, they continued as if they were invincible. Dust off’s, ash and trash runs, troop deployments and evacuations and over-head support were all part of their everyday job.
Mr Bercaw does a wonderful job with this well-told story which offers the reader a glimpse of the everyday life of these flying warriors, which by the way, wasn’t a nine to five job. The book is easy to read with short chapters, each highlighting a special event in his Vietnam Tour. I did, however, find somewhat of a disconnect between his career in the Marines and his ending up at Fort Wolters as an Army Helicopter pilot in training wondering how this change took place. The author has a fantastic sense of humor that sometimes caught me off-guard and made me laugh out loud. I particularly enjoyed the way John wrote about his first few days in Marine Basic Training…he was spot on with the way DI’s confuse and break down the new recruits. Funny now…not then!
There are a couple of times in the story when Mr. Bercaw and crew were asked to go out of their way to rescue wounded soldiers on the ground. The landing zones were totally socked in and these pilots took extreme risks to both themselves and the crews by attempting to retrieve these men and get them to hospitals for treatment. Then have these dying soldiers get up and walk off the chopper on their own – leaving me with my mouth agape.
After reading “Pink Mist”, I have bumped up these crews a couple of notches on my high esteem list. I also have a much better understanding of what these sky warriors had to endure in order to survive…sadly, some did not.
Valentine’s Day: A Marine Looks Back
by Charles A. Van Bibber
It’s got it all
“Valentine’s Day: A Marine Looks Back” has it all! Mr. Van Bibber’s story provides great insight into the life of a Combat Marine during the Vietnam War – it’s a story of trust, survival and brotherhood! It’s written in a unique format, one that I’ve not seen in other Vietnam War memoirs and stories. The author writes in the first person and tells his story chronologically; the tome, however, is interspersed with de-classified Marine After-Action Reports, actual letters sent home to his family and friends and written statements from fellow Marines who were there with the author.
The Marine Action Reports summarized a battle, operation or period of time and are sometimes cryptic because of the many acronyms used. Mr Van Bibber used this information to flesh out his story as he remembered it – the written feedback from fellow Marines offered either a different perspective on that particular event or filled in the blanks that Charles had missed – all of it flowing together nicely as the story is told! As for his letters home, I found it interesting that most were what I’d call “vanilla” like most letters from soldiers in a combat zone, hiding from family what was actually taking place to keep them from worrying. Only those written to Van’s father, a former WWII vet, included his inner feelings and fears, because he was more apt to understand and relate. Readers will also note that the authors’ tone and cheerfulness changes over time – the naivety and innocence giving way to the dark side.
When Chuck arrived in Vietnam, he spent the first few months with Fox Company 2/27 and then later transferred to Golf Company 2/5 to finish out his 13 month tour, both divisions, unique in their own ways. Marines are killed or wounded daily and there were never enough replacements to fill in the holes. Van Bibber shares the monthly manpower reports showing this fact, battalions never returned to full strength while he was in Vietnam. As a result, everybody was spread thin and had to do a little extra to survive. Corporals led squads on patrols, and at times, took on the responsibility for a platoon until the appropriate replacement arrived. Unfortunately, as time went on, the ranks of those with the most experience and knowledge about fighting this enemy and his booby traps were dwindling, enemy ambushes were costly and young Marines were dying because of inexperience – making it much harder for the “old salts” to keep everyone alive. Van Bibber was one of those few remaining with this experience – volunteering for night ambushes so he could properly teach his men (OJT) – gaining their trust and giving them the tools needed to survive.
As a former Vietnam Army infantryman, I could relate to much of what Van Bibber has written. Although I was in a different branch of service, patrolling the jungles, running out of food and water, no baths or changes of clothes for weeks, too hot, too cold, too wet, too sore, angry and too tired were all a way of life for us in the bush. We both had to deal with inept officers fresh out of training, but we also served under officers that knew their stuff – following them anywhere! I especially enjoyed reading about the author’s run in with certain “new” officers who had just arrived in country and thought they knew it all. Van Bibber’s jungle experience and his need to protect fellow team members caused him to refuse a direct order from one of these new lieutenants – an order that would surely result in their untimely death. You’ll have to read the story to see how this played out.
Readers not familiar with either war or Vietnam will learn what it takes to survive and how it all impacts young soldiers. You will be right there with the author and his fellow Marines…feeling their pain, fear, hunger, thirst, weariness and camaraderie. You’ll witness their bonding and understand why Marines are more concerned about the safety of their fellow soldier and their willingness to give up their own life to save a buddy.
The epilogue totally surprised me! After all the author went through in Vietnam, this is what he came home to. How sad! His arrival home was similar to tens of thousands of soldiers who returned home after the war. The public is trying to rectify this by conducting “Welcome Home Vietnam Vet” celebrations fifty years after the fact. It’s too late – the mental damage is already done and can’t be reversed.
I highly recommend “Valentine Day: A Marine Looks Back” to anyone interested in learning first-hand about the day-to-day life of a combat infantry soldier. Much has changed since Vietnam…yet in warfare, much remains the same. Great job Mr. Van Bibber!
“One More Sunrise: Memoir of a Combat Soldier” tells the story of Curtis Gay, an infantryman, assigned to the 25th Division, who operated in the jungles of the Central Highlands near Pleiku and the Cambodian border. The year was 1967, the war gaining momentum – more soldiers added to the fray to locate and destroy the enemy.
All memoirs that I’ve read share a common point – the unbearable heat and unique smells of Vietnam. Of all the troops sent to Vietnam, only 10% (infantry soldiers) scoured the jungles in search of the allusive enemy, sometimes, stumbling into booby traps, fortified bunker complexes and ambushes, causing death on both sides. The other 90% supported their ground efforts. This is not to say that only the infantry soldiers were at risk of dying during the war, helicopter pilots and crews took great risks in pulling out the wounded, resupplying troops ammunition during the heat of battle and doing anything else possible to keep their brothers on the ground safe – oftentimes, giving up their lives to do so. Everyone else was in a supported mode and stationed in small fire bases and large division base camps, although, they were subjected to enemy artillery, mortar and rocket barrages, sappers, ground assaults and road ambushes.
Mr. Gay paints a vivid picture of the life of an infantryman during the Vietnam War and touches upon it all. The never-ending patrols, the monsoon, mountains, ravines, bridge security, villages, insects, lack of food and water, running out of ammunition during a firefight, seeing death – both of friends and foe, lack of sleep, “Dear John” letters, booby traps, carving out a depression to sleep in, malaria, lack of hygiene for six weeks at a time, hospitals and coming to the rear areas for R&R..
The book is easy to read and flows well – I read it during a single afternoon. My only complaint is that it is too short. Probably the most poignant section of the book is when Sgt. Gay returns home after recuperating from a bullet wound to his chest. His transportation is on a C-130 transport plane – the sole living passenger in a cargo hold filled with flag draped coffins. His arrival in the U.S. is met with touting protesters and flying spit, he is confused and wonders what he’d done to deserve this…an older cab driver comes to his rescue. When Curis finally arrives home, he finds himself alone and nobody around to talk to who would understand what he’d been through.
I am also a former Vietnam infantry vet and could fully relate to Curtis’ story…been there…done that! His story is educational and includes a glossary of terms to help readers who are new to the Vietnam experience. The title of the book is spot on…we all lived, fought and prayed to see “One More Sunrise” and finally got to go home after witnessing it 365 times.
Great job Sgt. Gay! Welcome Home Brother!
I thoroughly enjoyed “Abandoned in Hell” by co-authors William Albracht and Marvin J. Wolf. The story begins with William joining the Army after high school and following him through the many training schools he opted for – eventually completing Officer Candidate School and Special Forces training prior to going to Vietnam. His goal was to become a member of a “Green Beret Mike Force”, instead, he is sent to command a Special Forces firebase in the Central Highland only a couple of miles from the Cambodian Border. Firebase Kate comprised of a handful of American soldiers and a few hundred Montagnards to provide perimeter security. The firebase was in a disarray; defenses were almost non existent, American Special Forces members and artillery crews played volleyball, the Montagnards randomly left the firebase to hunt food and leaving their portion of the perimeter unguarded. The overall atmosphere was laid back and peaceful. Little did they know that 6,000 NVA soldiers were encircling the camp and planning to attack and over-run Kate. The first shot fired later that first day!
The battle for Kate began in earnest, NVA soldiers used mortars, rockets, recoilless rifles and artillery to soften up the camp – successfully knocking out most of the camp’s artillery guns before mounting their first infantry assault. This battle continued over the next five days, no sleep, constant shelling, friends wounded and killed, battle stress causing breakdowns – yet the camp defenders successfully repelled several human wave attacks.
The military built three firebases: Kate, Annie and Susan in a diamond configuration to support the main province of Ban Me Thout near the Cambodian border in the Central Highlands, however, they were each out of range of one another and could not provide close support, if needed. As a result, Firebase Kate had to depend upon air support. Helicopter pilots braved the onslaught, dropping supplies and pulling out the wounded until enemy anti-aircraft fire took away that option. Jets, gunships and Spooky aircraft were all the defenders had left and Albracht made the best use of them. During that time, he directed aircraft fire and repeatedly placed himself at risk by moving around the firebase to manage his forces – eventually wounded, but continuing to fight. He was awarded a Silver Star for his actions, but many others attest that he deserved “The Medal of Honor”. Reinforcements could not reach the survivors, ammo was dangerously low, and it was obvious that they couldn’t stop another ground assault. Albracht was denied permission to evacuate the firebase by the powers to be! When the dark of night settled upon the besieged firebase – only one option remained…and Albracht took it!
During the story, the author’s also writes about various sub-topics, the hate between the Vietnamese people and the Montagnard’s, how the U. S. Air Force and Warrant Officer ranks originated, details of aircraft and the pros and cons of becoming an aide to a general officer. He’d even located soldiers who had participated in this battle – providing excerpts of their versions of the battle. The author’s also provided bios of the main characters in the story and their status today. Well worth reading and highly recommended.
First of all, I’d like to thank the author, Mr. W. James Seymour for having served and for successfully writing about his Vietnam experience! Welcome Home Brother! Every chapter also concludes with an actual letter sent home to his parents.
I did find the story difficult to read – especially in the first half, because of the lack of action, emotion and dialogue which I think would have helped tremendously. There was also a lot of redundancy throughout the story where the author fully explains the details or acronyms that have already been shared.
The last third of “In the Jungle…Camping With the Enemy” was much more interesting as readers went out on LRRP missions with the author and his team. That was some scary stuff that kept me on the edge of my seat! However, most missions came across as more like a summary or update of an after action report rather than reliving a part of the authors life.
As a former combat infantry soldier myself, I can appreciate what the LRRP’s did and don’t know if I could have measured up…platoon sized patrols – strength in numbers – in the bush was hairy enough. This book does offer some insight as to what these special groups of men did in Vietnam – their patrol size, mission preparations, stealth requirements, leadership and trust were as unique as their missions. I especially liked reading about the night your team was hiding in a clump of bushes on the side of a trail when a procession of NVA soldiers suddenly stopped to create a night bivouac area – the bushes in its center. If discovered, there would be no prisoners taken that night.
All in all, not a bad story, especially if you are interested in learning more about life both in the secure rear area base camps and In the Jungle…Camping with the Enemy.
Gift as a writer, a down to earth writing style brings readers right into his scenes as if they were on of the characters – it is that real! The story is filled with “hold on to the edge of your seat” type of suspense that will keep readers turning pages to see how everything comes out. I’ve read the author’s other three Vietnam books and found them all the same.
In this particular story, an understaffed platoon of Marines is charged with building and protecting a temporary firebase in one of the most dangerous areas during the Vietnam War. The monsoons in the northern part of the country is making life miserable for these soldiers – not only are the living condition horrendous, but supplies and replacements aren’t able to arrive due to the low cloud ceiling and constant fog. This small group is led by a gunnery sergeant, tasked with completing the mission with what he has available.
Sergeant Charlie Brown is on his second tour and assigned as a squad leader, arriving on this small hilltop during their second day there.. His efforts during the first tour earned him a place of honor among the soldiers – many hearing about his exploits through the rumor mill as a myth or storied event; many of the troops are awestruck when discovering that he is THE CHARLIE BROWN and begin to trust in his leadership (read the book to find out what he did).. That trust is later cemented when Sgt. Brown leads his squad on a patrol through the jungle. They stumble upon an enemy supply train on an unmarked, well-used trail, porters transporting weapons, food, and artillery pieces in the deep mud, followed by hundreds of NVA soldiers to the top of a nearby ridge. The small group of soldiers are unable to complete their mission – Sgt. Brown aborts and cautiously returns his squad to Fire base X-Ray.
Soon, sapper probes and snipers begin harassing the small outpost. The Beast is coming, defenders are ordered to 100% alert, spread extremely thin around the hilltop and going days without sleep, running low on food, water and ammunition, but to lose focus now could get them killed.
Two larger, nearby firebases are soon attacked by large scale forces intent on over-running them. While listening to the radio traffic and witnessing the light shows in the distance, the small group of defenders anxiously await their destiny during this dark and foggy night. The wait isn’t long, soon hordes of NVA soldiers begin their attack on the small base. Which side will be victorious? How many will die?
I highly recommend “The Beast: Vietnam 1969”, but warn readers not to start reading it late at night – you’ll be sorry the following day. Great job Raymond! Welcome Home Brother!
by Ed Neilson
Nine Different Views of the War
Nine different Warriors of the Vietnam War tell their stories to Ed Nielsen, who compiled them into this book called “Warriors”. Their accounts vary, yet there appears to be some redundancy between the stories and even within the same story – as if the authors were answering identical questions proposed by Ed Nielsen. All together, they touch upon what life was like for many soldiers within the war; their fears, naivete, devotion, brotherhood, bravery and sometimes shared laughter. On the flip side, some of the stories centers upon the way the war was fought – i.e. military soldiers spending lifetimes in special schools of warfare then being dictated to by the politicians in Washington on how the war should be fought…calling the shots…specifying rules of engagement, etc. Personally, I was not aware that this was taking place until decades after my tour in Vietnam. There were over 2.8 million soldiers having served in Vietnam and every story is unique and personal…even the same incident can be described differently by those witnessing it.
Had some difficulty reading through some of the stories because of the variation in formatting and the amount of typos – I recalled seeing the many of the same Vietnamese town spelled three or four different ways – these should have been corrected by the author or at least caught by an editor prior to publishing.
Warriors is still worth reading to view the war through the eyes of nine different soldiers who served and fought in the Vietnam War.
I found “Street Without Joy” fascinating – a cross between the summation of after-action battle reports and a history book outlining the French debacle in Indochina. Readers clearly see that Laos and Vietnam were trying to free themselves from French colonial rule after World War II…the French, Chinese and Japanese were all defeated and kicked out during the war; the author maintains that if France would have granted both Laos and Vietnam their independence in 1945 – so many lives could have been saved.
It was obvious that the French did not have enough troops, equipment and supplies to support their mission within Indochina,and were not trained or ready to fight a guerrilla style jungle war. Conventional thinking and fighting were no match against an elusive enemy in the thick jungles, who chose the time and place for battle. As time went on, there were so many lessons to be learned and opportunities for change, yet the French insisted on the status quo – going so far as to train their Vietnamese allies in those same methods and tactics. As a result, almost 100,000 French soldiers lost their lives during their 8 year battle against those forces loyal to Ho Chi Minh.
When the French were defeated in 1954, Laos received sovernty and Vietnam was split at the 17th parallel; the southern half of the country still opposing those communist of the North. The United States came into the picture soon afterwards, providing advisors, equipment and funds to support the South’s battle against the North Communists. However, there was no interest in studying the French battles and learning from their mistakes, so, history was to repeat itself…and so it did!
When Bernard Fall published this book in 1961, he states in it that the South had already lost the war with the North and cites examples of why it will happen – including outright lies by both the press and government to name a few.
I learned so much from reading “Street Without Joy” and feel that if the U.S. Government would have listened to this author or read his work, then acting upon the many lessons learned, I might not have had to serve in that war as an infantry soldier during 1970 and many of those 58,000+ soldiers might still be living.
I highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to learn more about Indochina and the French occupation.
Traces of a Lost War
by Richard Barone
A Wolfhounds Tale
Nello and Eliot are the two main characters in Richard Barone’s “Traces of a Lost War”. Both are college graduates, who join the Army as a means of beating the draft – signing on the dotted line after recruiters promise them a career as officers in the Army Signal Corps. The war in Vietnam was growing and both knew that this military specialty was their best opportunity to stay out of the war.
After Basic Training in Fort Dix, New Jersey, both men are sent to Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, GA. Only when arriving, both learn that there are no openings in the Signal Corps and, instead, are pushed into Infantry Officer Training. Eliot soon washes out and Nello continues in his quest to be an officer. Although all his scores are high, Nello is soon disqualified and sent to Vietnam as a lonely infantry private. He later learns that success in OCS is also based upon the candidates facial profile – Nello located a crib sheet of profile examples in a book at the base library prior to leaving Ft. Benning…his profile was clearly featured in the “reject” category.
When arriving in Vietnam, Nello is assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, Delta Company, 2/27 Inf. Reg’t Wolfhounds and after in-country training is named the new Delta Company clerk in Cu Chi Basecamp. He can’t type and the job is overwhelming him. When the company finally arrives for a short stand down in the rear, Nello is intrigued by these men and requests to return to the field with them – securing a position as a Radio Telephone Operator in one of the platoons. The author pulls no punches when describing the battles and life in the bush – especially when encountering officers and NCO’s who are not fit to lead. As a former Wolfhound myself, but in the 1/27th and a year later, I was excited to revisit my former base camp and area of operations, recognizing all the places Nello encountered during his tour of duty. His final mission on top of Nui Ba Den was almost his last; the base is overrun and he is one of the few survivors.
Nello soon learns that Eliot is a reporter for the 25th Division newspaper, Tropic Lightening. They soon meet and Eliot informs Nello that he had re-enlisted when arriving in Vietnam to become a journalist. This doesn’t sit well with Nello.
About halfway through the book, it became harder for me as the author began writing more about Nello’s artistic background and degree in philosophy – at times, feeling like the discussions were part of a classroom discussion. I see in an earlier review that one person responded that it felt like he was reading “Apocalypse Now” – I felt the same way! A lot of heady stuff about art and philosophy describing war.
Mr. Barone touches upon sex, drugs, alcohol, Nello’s R&R in Singapore, survivors guilt, PTSD, religion and more in this book. Back in the day, we would refer to “Traces of A Lost War” as “Heavy” – much of it floating around in your brain long after putting it down.
I have mixed emotions about reviewing “Above It All” by Dennis Brooks, because of the way it is written. First, I was not aware that this was going to be an autobiography of the authors’ life – the first 20% is dedicated to telling his story from a young age until joining the military – the last 20% talks about Dennis’ return to stateside duty, his battle with the demons of Vietnam, his drug usage and professional experiences to date. In between, we read about his Vietnam experiences as a crew chief / door gunner – an occupation with a perceived short life expectancy. Second, the author tells us several times in the book that he is not a writer, doesn’t claim to be one and only wants his story recorded for friends and family, but the excessive misspelled and missing words throughout made reading the story quite difficult for me. So, how does one rate / review something like this?
I was most interested in the author’s Vietnam experience and enjoyed reading about his adventures – in the air and on the ground. As a former grunt myself, we held chopper crews in the highest esteem – they were there whenever we needed them – no matter what! Some of Mr. Brooks adventures did take my breath away, thus, confirming their bravery and determination. Once losing close friends to combat, Dennis feels the hurt and pain and goes into a shell, trying desperately not to befriend others within his group to save him further remorse. He also demonstrates the willingness to support and fight for his fellow soldiers – covering their backs – whether he knew them personally or not. This is a camaraderie experienced by everyone that went to Vietnam, the bond between soldiers greater than anything they’ll ever experience in civilian life.
Many new officers came into country with huge ego’s and were unwilling to listen to the experience and knowledge of fellow crew members or those lower in rank who’ve been in-country for a while. Dennis’ story gives us a couple of examples when these ego’s contribute to death and careers of fellow soldiers. He also doesn’t see himself as a hero, but after reading about those events, I’d give him those medals for bravery too.
All in all, “Above it All” kept my interest for the most part and I enjoyed reading about this authors’ Vietnam experience. Mr. Brooks, you have achieved your goal of putting into words what you’ve kept locked up inside for almost forty years. It was brave of you to tell your story – exactly like it happened – both the good and the bad. If you are going to continue selling your story, please do me a favor and invest some of your royalties in a good editor or proofreader…it will make a huge difference in future sales and how others view your work. Good luck brother! Welcome Home!
Strength & Honor: America’s Best in Vietnam
by Terry Garlock
An intriguing and compelling read, August 14, 2014
If only we knew then what we know today! Would it have made a difference? The government instituted special rules of engagement in Vietnam which restricted the military from doing its job – to win the war; the press also made things worse by seeking out and only reporting the negatives of the war, which tended to sway public opinion and keeping them blind to the real facts. Those never serving during the war found Vietnam Veterans stereotyped as unemployed or unemployable, criminally inclined, prone to substance abuse and wracked with guilt over the horrible things they had done or seen in the war. Maybe now you – the American public – can understand why vets kept their story to themselves when they came home from Vietnam. The country seemed to have lost its mind, and everybody seemed confident they knew all the answers about the war – unwilling to hear it from those who were there.
The Vietnam War was consumed by controversy and, in its later years and since the war ended, it has been shrouded in myths and half-truths, the real truth hiding in the hearts of those of us who were there. The author, Terry Garlock, put together a compilation of stories from those who served their country honorably during the war; they come from every occupation: chopper pilots and crews, jet jockeys, medivac pilots and crews, Cobra gunship pilots, infantry grunts, special forces advisers, scout teams, LRRPS, medical staff and Navy Riverine forces – officers and enlisted, men and women from all branches of the service tell their true stories to counter the false stereotype and misinformation that has followed us veterans for decades.
A common thread throughout is that not one of these veterans would hesitate to risk his life for a total stranger and felt confident that someone else would do the same for them. They didn’t take territory to hold it as in other wars, they fought the enemy wherever they could find him to stop or at least discourage his infiltration into South Vietnam. That meant that we might fight the same battle in the same place at different times – happening a lot – and some troops would wonder what the hell we were doing, whether it was all a waste. Troops fought to protect one another! Then when somebody was wounded, these brave medivac pilots risked everything to save his comrade on the ground. Many of those wounded during the war have unsuccessfully sought out the pilot and medivac crews over the years, wanting to formally thank them for saving their lives.
Terry suggests that readers begin with two special chapters in the book before starting Chapter 1 – I also recommend doing this as it provides some background to the war and touches upon many of the myths and half-truths of the Vietnam War. There are forty-six different tales – some long, some short, but all provides the reader with food for thought…they were the best you had, America, and you turned your back on them!
Highly recommended to all who want to know the truth about the Vietnam War. Great job Mr. Garlock! Welcome Home, sir! Thank you for being there when us grunts needed you – we are forever grateful!
Goodbye, My Darling; Hello, Vietnam
by Michael Lazares
Rite of Passage
As a grunt during the Vietnam War, we held chopper crews in the highest of esteem – always there when needed and seemingly fearless in their endeavors. I have read dozens of books about these crews and learned more about what they endure during their tours. It was a difficult time! God Bless them all!
I read the author’s prior book, “We Gotta Get Out of this Place…”, a compilation of short stories and events by those who served with Mr. Lazares during his first tour in Vietnam. I enjoyed the story and looked forward to reading “Goodbye, My Darling; Hello Vietnam” as it is more of a memoir of his personal life and experiences. I was not disappointed and immensely enjoyed this new story. The author is witty and writes with humorous overtones; my wife observed me laughing out loud several times.
It seemed like Michael had a mischievous streak throughout childhood that continues and follows him through two tours of duty in Vietnam. Helicopter missions were long and stressful and oftentimes filled with surprises. When the day is over, pilots needed to unwind and usually did so at their private Officers Club. Pranks and mischief are common – nobody is immune to these antics, and even though a person is injured at times, the games continue. Booze is rampant, used in a medicinal way so these officers can sleep during the night – unconscious and unaware of their surroundings. My favorite antic is Michael’s light switch trick with the commanding officer in the bar – priceless!
Mr. Lazares is a skilled pilot, and as a result, oftentimes is assigned to the most dangerous missions. Some of those experiences may take your breath away. Others, may cause tears. I consider myself right there with him in the cockpit, screaming at times, but enjoying the scenery he has painted. Leadership is also questioned…when rotten apples sit at the top of the pile, it endangers all the others. Michael shares his unfortunate experiences with some of these supposed leaders.
All in all, I found “Goodbye, My Darling; Hello, Vietnam” humorous, educational and entertaining. I would have given five stars had it not been for the formatting errors and excessive typos, but if you are able to look past this, the book is an easy read and difficult to put down. Welcome Home Sir! Thank you for your service!
As a grunt during the Vietnam War, we held chopper crews in the highest of esteem – always there when needed and seemingly fearless in their endeavors. I have read dozens of books about these crews and learned more about what they endure during their tours. It was a difficult time! God Bless them!
This book, “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”, is a compilation of disjointed stories by crew members during their tours. Some are funny and typical of the mischief twenty year old soldiers get involved in, others are serious and dreadful. Another reviewer stated that it is difficult to rate work such as this and I wholeheartedly agree. The stories appear to be snippets of memories by various pilots and air crew members – most are too short and leave the reader wondering what happened next; only a few stories of the collection related differing viewpoints to the same incident – the rest cited experiences from across the country and in different years; a few had typos. As individual viewpoints, each snippet is ‘stand alone’ without reference to the prior experience or a lead-in to the next; no common thread connecting them. Don’t get me wrong, the individual stories are interesting and bring you right into the action with the storyteller. I did enjoy many of them.
This book is a fast read and interesting enough for readers that want quick, broad pictures of helicopter crew experiences during the war without getting bogged down in a novel. The author has another book recently published, “Goodbye, My Darling; Hello Vietnam!” which I have already purchased and downloaded to my Kindle, I am hoping that it is much more engaging.
Thank you for your service! Welcome Home Brothers!
Killing for Peace is a memoir about Lt. Garry Farrington’s tour of duty with the First Cavalry in the highlands of Vietnam. This first person account is different from other Vietnam war stories as it views the war from the perspective of an Army Infantry Officer.
Lt. Farrington’s prior training had groomed him for a leadership position within an armor unit, but after arriving in country, the shortage of lower ranking officers in the bush resulted in his reassignment to an infantry company as platoon leader. Not ready for that kind of command, the “brown bar” officer has doubts of his ability to properly lead men into battle. Even though Garry is an officer, he is no different than any other Newbie Cherry soldiers arriving in Vietnam – frightened, naive, awe-struck and wanting to survive his tour.
The officer is initially assigned as the leader of the 4th platoon (recon and CP support) to help get his feet wet; this seems to be the launching pad for new lieutenants – a position, that the captain can easily observe. The cherry officer soon gets himself in hot water with the company commander when getting caught in mischievous pranks during the company’s stand down in the rear. It doesn’t take long for him to get reassigned to one of the three rifle platoons.
Many new officers are notorious for pushing rank and feeding their egos when first coming into a new command position, but Lt. Farrington was different. He wanted to learn from his subordinates and soon gained their trust. It doesn’t take the troops long to see that their new leader isn’t on the fast track, a glory seeker trying to make a name for himself to move quickly up the military career ladder. Instead, he demonstrates a trust and belief in his men – they are important and always came first…he was not overprotective, got the job done, but didn’t take unnecessary risks to place his men in harms way.
Garry becomes a natural leader and develops a great rapport with his men. After a few months, he is promoted to 1st LT and assigned as the new company commander because of the shortage of available captains in the war zone. When leaving the bush after several months for a rear echelon position, Lt. Farrington was proud to have the distinct honor of not having any of his troops killed. Sure, there were booby traps and battles fought, men were injured – including the L-T himself on a couple of occasions, but nobody died under his command.
Garry tells the story of visiting the battalion aid station to have shrapnel from a booby trap removed from his cheekbone. The surgeon, a major, had just returned from his daily afternoon nap and didn’t want to remove the fragment, insisting that it will come out by itself over time. After dismissing the L-T, the major returns to his office. Two Spec5 medics were not surprised after witnessing the major’s action, seems everyone despised the man. When asked if they were comfortable with performing the surgery, the L-T gave them a direct order to treat him, so they wouldn’t get in trouble. They are successful, but caught in the act. Lt. Farrington threatens the major with his life if he takes any action against the medics for following his direct order – and gets away with it!
His rear echelon job allows him to continue following his old command, although it’s from the battalion C&C helicopter flying overhead. He enjoys the new job and the ability to continue looking out for those men on the ground. With only a month left in country, Garry is assigned the task of beefing up the defenses of a remote firebase. Attack is imminent and the next few weeks become his worst in country.
Lt. Farrington was no hero, yet he earned a Silver Star, Bronze Star with V device and Purple Heart among others. His story is easy to read – sometimes funny, written by a witty, humble and down to earth kind of guy. I highly recommend “Killing for Peace” for anyone wanting to learn more about the Vietnam War and the people who fought in it. Great job Garry! Welcome Home Brother and God Bless!
Mighty Men of Valor: With Charlie Company on Hill 714-Vietnam, 1970: 2nd Battalion 502nd Infantry 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) Second Edition
By John G. Gould
Vietnam War Memoir in the 101st Airborne, May 27, 2014
John G. Roberts’ memoir sometimes reads like a journal composed from after action reports; citing coordinates from topographical maps, unit injuries and amount of enemy kills. Just as a point of interest, the many maps and pictures found within the book are quite difficult to see or read on a Kindle. The story is told through the eyes of the author, a shake ‘n bake buck sergeant, who chronicles his tour in Vietnam with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division (0-Deuce). I was anxious to read this story as I also served in a sister unit within the 101st: 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry (Geronimo), and wanted to compare his experiences to mine. Although, Sgt. Roberts left Vietnam three months before my arrival (I transferred up north for the final five months of my tour after the 25th Division went home), much of what he wrote hit home and brought back memories – both good and bad.
John writes about the day-to-day routines of the infantry grunts – the misery of humping, digging foxholes and keeping watch for the enemy during the black of night. Then waking up and repeating the process all over again. Most of the time, these treks are uneventful and soon become redundant and boring – causing soldiers to become complacent and sloppy. Their ranks continue to diminish as soldiers are Medivaced daily – not due to enemy action, but as a result of falls, sprains, heat exhaustion, dysentery and malaria. Relocating to the Ashau Valley changed everything.
The Ashau Valley is a dangerous and notorious place, the surrounding mountains, thick with vegetation, steep and mysteriously shrouded in clouds during the monsoon season, made it difficult to climb, sleep and fight. Here, everyone is on full alert, because the enemy is always nearby. When contact is made, there are moments of sheer terror before their training takes over. His descriptions of the gut wrenching action are spot on. Many of the battles here last days instead of hours – the author’s experiences are on Hill 714 and others without a name.
Low hanging clouds on these half-mile and higher mountains often created a hardship to those grunts fighting in the hills; making it impossible to receive food, water, medivacs or air-support during those times – sometimes going without for several days. This is the time they are most vulnerable.
John also tells about his homecoming at the end of his war and of his difficulties with PTSD in the years to follow. His wife also contributes to the book and writes the final segment, offering advice about living with and supporting loved ones who suffer from PTSD.
I thoroughly enjoyed “Mighty Men of Valor” and recommend it to all. Veterans will relate…civilians will learn. Welcome Home Brother! God Bless!
Jeremy Shoff wanted to join the Marines, but his girlfriend persuaded him to join the Navy instead – a strategy that could keep him out of Vietnam. After completing his training, he receives orders for a year-long cruise on an aircraft carrier; the war in Vietnam would go on without him. However, he never makes it to his ship – a couple of days before leaving, Jeremy and three of his friends go out on a drinking binge and suffer horrific injuries when their speeding car crashes into a bridge abutment. Seaman Shoff barely survives and is transferred to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital to mend.
Once Jeremy awakes from his coma, he finds himself in ward 2B – his fellow patients are Marines and Navy sailors who have lost limbs or sustained other traumatic injures from battles and booby traps in Vietnam. The sights and sounds that greet him are overwhelming, leaving him filled with guilt, sadness and remorse.
The story eventually evolves around the struggles of six injured soldiers in the ward. Readers experience a wide range of emotions while these soldiers mend and struggle through rehab – relearning basic tasks that they can no longer perform.
As the months pass, these soldiers learn to function with their physical limitations and help one another whenever possible. Visitors are few and far in between for the patients in this ward…all they have is each other. This story is about developing trust, friendship, brotherhood and loyalty between this small band of brothers while experiencing the pain of hardship, loss, and perseverance.
As time goes on, this band of six soldiers – teenagers all – get into mischief. The group is innovative in some of their endeavors and I found myself laughing out loud – too many times to count. I was also surprised by the compassion they received from complete strangers when outside the hospital compound. My favorite part is when an Admiral visits the ward, and then berates the patients for not saluting him as he passes their beds. Seaman Shoff has heard enough and goes off on him, telling him that instead, it should be him saluting each of these heroes when passing…they’ve earned it! The Admiral threatens him with court-martial, but friends in high places get him absolved for this insubordination. Nevertheless, Seaman Shoff is a celebrity in the ward.
I thoroughly enjoyed this tome and recommend it to everyone…it is the side of war we don’t hear much about, but continues daily as long as wars are fought.
Bright Light: Untold stories of the Top Secret War in Vietnam
by Stephen Perry
A story of the Few who wore the Green Beret in Vietnam April 24, 2014
Bright Light by Stephen Perry is an eye-opening, first person account of the secret war fought in Vietnam by men considered to be the best of the best. The public and most of the military were unaware of these special forays into Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam, small groups of six men moving stealthily through thick mountainous jungles amidst thousands of enemy soldiers. Yet, our politicians vowed that the United States was not crossing the borders of Vietnam in pursuit of the enemy and the soldiers themselves were sworn to secrecy.
These small Spike teams comprised of three American Green Berets and three indigenous SOG personnel (Nungs, Vietnamese, Montagnard and Cambodian), spied on enemy movement, caches, called in air strikes and attempted prisoner snatches when possible. Missions werre usually scheduled for five days, but usually end after only a couple because the team is compromised and requests an emergency extraction. Imagine yourself on this team, operating fifty miles from the nearest friendly forces, without artillery support or the benefit of nearby units that can back you up when trouble erupts. Once discovered and engaged by the enemy, the small group can request helicopter gunships and fighter jets to keep enemy heads down while awaiting extraction, but the odds are usually 200 – 1 against them with more enemy reinforcements en-route. Time is of essence! Surviving requires stamina, tenacity, trust and faith with a little luck sprinkled in the mix. Most team extractions are made by dropping four – 120 ft. ropes into the jungle from a chopper hovering above the triple canopy, however, their withdrawal up through the foliage leaves them most vulnerable and easy targets for the enemy soldiers; they return to Vietnam, flying the fifty miles suspended from these special harnesses. At times, teams are ambushed immediately upon rappelling into an area and it becomes necessary to escape and evade to a place where they can be extracted. The enemy is usually moving about with only weapons and ammunition while the SOG teams carry almost 100 lbs. on their backs, yet their training allows them to stay ahead of their pursuers. Their missions are frightful and keep you on the edge of your seat – you are relieved when they survive and saddened when certain team members don’t make it back.
Bright Light is a term used when a special team is inserted to rescue downed pilots or locate missing Spike teams that have disappeared or lost communications. The enemy is aware of our credo to not leave any man behind and know that others will soon arrive to seek out their lost comrades, all they have to do is wait for rescuers, who they know will soon arrive. This is the most dangerous of missions.
The entire story is not filled with gloom and doom, team members are also mischievous when they experience downtime at the FOB. Mr. Perry shares several anecdotes of their experiences which made me laugh out loud: mace, rat patrol and stealing a brand new jeep that belongs to the colonel in charge of C.I.D as well as others. The author also shares a story about camaraderie within the group when a Patton tank throws a track on the road outside of the FOB. A couple of the indigenous SOG members happened by and were immediately threatened and berated by the tank team who thought them to be enemy soldiers because of their unique uniforms. Armed fellow soldiers quickly came to their aid, the tank crew, thinking they are being attacked, turn the turret and take aim upon the small camp. You’ll have to read the story to see how this ends.
Mr. Perry and another friend had to visit the morgue to identify a former room mate who was killed during one of these missions into Laos. The enemy used anti-aircraft guns and killed the wounded soldiers as they were being evacuated by ropes during the battle. The author states that he counted over thirty two-inch round holes in the body – some providing a clear view through the body to the chrome finish of the gurney he is lying upon. This is a vision that is difficult to put aside.
Bright Light is a short book that gives us a peek at these special units and clandestine missions. These operations were classified until recently allowing for stories such as this one to be published. We learn what it takes to wear the Green Beret and why soldiers like this are needed. Once you start – it will be difficult to put away. I read it in a day and then read it a second time a couple days later. Highly recommended to all!
I have to admit that George’s book cover might trigger flashbacks to Vietnam Veterans who served with the 25th Division – not so much the electric strawberry patch, but Nui Ba Den, the mountain which can be seen from anywhere within their area of operations. I, too, was with the 25th Division as an infantryman with the 1/27th Wolfhounds, the closest I ever got to the Black Virgin Mountain is probably fifteen or so miles. We heard rumors about the mountain – your descriptions and history filled in the blanks for me.
I had a rough time with the beginning of this story because of the use of so many “twenty-dollar words” (as the author refers to them) in the story. I was distracted, not because I didn’t know the meaning of the word…well, a couple did stump me…but it felt like I was reading a college term paper instead of a novel. Thankfully, as I continued, their usage diminished and the telling of the story changed somewhat – appearing as if a new author had taken over.
The first two-thirds of this memoir covers the period of time between the authors’ graduation from college through part of his Vietnam tour. The author takes readers through the rigors of basic and AIT training, the flight overseas, and finally landing in Vietnam – he shares identical observations about the heat, smells and sights that all first-time soldiers make after landing in Vietnam. The author and his friend, Fred (completed training together) are both assigned to the 2/33rd Infantry Battalion, 25th Division as regular grunts, but in different companies.
Readers are right there with the author during his exhausting patrols, night ambushes, insects, firefights on and around the mountain, and a trip to Cambodia in May, 1970. He covers all the aspects of war: fear, death, guilt, sorrow, race, bravery, cowardice, savvy officers and NCO’s and those especially not suited to lead men into battle; every unit had them! As a Vietnam Veteran, I found many of George’s experiences in his memoir to mimic my tour – while reading, I could envision myself right there with him. Spot on, my brother! I do, however, want to mention that the author uses some words incorrectly. For instance, when setting up a perimeter in the field, he often describes a unit setting up in a circumference of some kind. At one point, a whole company forms up in a circumference of 75 yards. I feel the correct term should be “diameter” as circumference is the total length of the perimeter itself – a normal house would not fit into a circumference of 75 yards. There are others, but this one in particular twisted my gut every time I saw it.
When I arrived in country in August of 1970, I did hear about the murder of the Donut Dolly at Cu Chi Base camp and thought it was another one of those lifer tales like black syph, prostitutes with implanted razor blades in their vagina, et al to keep troops in line – your memoirs now confirm it really did happen and I also learned why. In my day, to get an R&R to Australia, soldiers had to extend their tours – nobody with under twelve months in country qualified. Feedback from those returning from Australia hyped it up so much over time that everybody wanted to go there during 1970/1971.
The last thirty percent of George’s memoirs address mental illness, citing examples from patients he worked with while stationed at the 935th Psychiatric Detachment. After all, the author’s college degree is in this field and qualified him to complete his Vietnam tour in this occupation after an opening is created.
The last few chapters of this memoir follow the author as he tries to acclimate himself back into civilian life. Once again, George hits the nail right on the head as his examples hit home with many of those survivors of war – even today from the middle east and Afghanistan! Mr. Reischling has researched PTSD and shows us why Vietnam Veterans, especially, are the way they are today. It’s a cause and effect description that I for one can fully relate with. Thank you for your story!
As a final note, I would have rated this memoir 5-stars, but poor formatting, typos and the improper use of punctuation throughout is worth two stars. I strongly encourage you to hire a professional editor to clean up you tome – and don’t wait too long. It will make a big difference and attract more readers / sales. Good luck!
If allowed, I would rate “Our Sons, Our Heroes” by Linda Jenkin Costanzo TEN STARS! The author has compiled an impressive collection of stories which address one side of war seldom heard of – the impact of losing a son to war. Ms. Costanzo spent years seeking out and speaking with America’s Gold Star Mothers from the Vietnam War. In her story, she shares the memories of 16 mothers who lost sons in Vietnam, rekindling emotions, that for some, were buried almost forty years.
Every chapter is dedicated to a specific soldier – his military picture is the first thing a reader sees. It stays with you as you read about the mother’s fond memories of her child. In a few short pages, we get to know each one of these boys; their loves, hates, personality, sense of responsibility and clever things they did while growing up. All these mothers possess special boxes, filled with pictures, awards, letters and other memorabilia which honor this long, lost child; a few also share “special” letters in part or in whole to illustrate the special love between a mother and her son. An author, Thich Nhat Hanh, quoted the following: “You listen deeply for only one purpose – to allow the other person to empty his or her heart. This is already an act of reliving suffering. To stop any suffering, no matter how small, is a great action of peace.” It is very clear from the words within this book that Linda did just that.
There are some common threads between these stories; communication between the family and government is difficult, dealing with abusive protesters and hecklers, no help readily available to assist with emotional / mental issues, and finally, the difficulty in achieving closure when the casket arrives and is marked, “Remain sealed – military property – do not open”.
Most families struggled because the government did not provide an explanation or detail as to how their loved one perished. If they are lucky, one of the surviving soldiers from his unit might contact them to answer their many questions. However, this rarely happens because the soldiers are struggling themselves, trying to cope with terror filled nightmares of war and survivors guilt (surviving when their friends died). Some of these warriors do finally come forward, but it takes them fifteen years. I was surprised by the fact that protesters disrespected the families in their time of sorrow, spitting and heckling that their sons deserved to die in the war. I had thought it was only us soldiers that suffered through that humiliation. In the sixties, counseling wasn’t available to help get the families through the periods of grief and denial, prompting the families to get through it on their own. Parents were not allowed to open sealed caskets and see for themselves that the body within is indeed their son. This order is strictly enforced with a penalty of imprisonment if it is violated.
The Gold Star Mother’s Organization has been around since 1928, yet, very few know of its existence and benefits at the time their sons were killed. Those lucky enough to join found overwhelming support which helped move them and their family forward. In fact, many continue to support our veterans even today by volunteering in the VA hospitals and looking to help other mothers.
This book pulls at your heartstrings – making you cry in places. I am humbled to read about these ordinary women who are seldom recognized as they face adversity with extraordinary strength and character. Please listen to their story and remember that women continue to suffer the same fate today – as soldiers continue to die in war. I highly recommend it! Thank you Ms. Costanzo for writing this book and allowing me to share in this special story of love, gratitude and faith.
“Chapter One – The Story of Vic Charles” in not a war novel! Instead, it’s a story about a Vietnam Veteran – twenty-two years after leaving the war zone (circa 1991). Vic Charles is a successful author, his earlier book addressed the stereotyping of Vietnam Veterans, debunking the myths, monikers and finally bringing honor to the veterans of that political war. Victor became an instant celebrity – the book was selling well above expectations, and soon the many letters of thanks and appreciation from grateful veterans and family members began to overwhelm him. He read them all and responded to those he could! Both the Vietnam War and the Veteran’s return home are common threads between them all. Iraq War Veterans were returning home to airport crowds, parades and special treatment – Vietnam Veterans are hurt and angry, their homecoming brought them to empty airports and protesters, rude confrontations, blackballed from certain jobs and the blamed for the war. It isn’t fair!
Mr. Charles sets out to write a second book to address the veteran homecomings. Unfortunately, his exposure to the many discussions about the Vietnam War over the last couple of years became a distraction to him, resulting in “writer’s block” which keeps him stuck in a wordless chapter one. When in Vietnam, Vic had to kill the enemy to save himself and also witnessed other atrocities of war. These memories had been locked away for years, but lately, a special song on the radio, a movie, witnessing an accident or just seeing a sign during a relaxing drive begin triggering flashbacks and nightmares, snippets of Vic’s time in Vietnam. These continue throughout the story – moving readers back and forth in time. Victor has been blacking out on occasion and doesn’t know how to fix this – he turns to alcohol which only makes things worse.
One thing Vic has going for him is his loving wife and children. He first met his wife Molly prior to going to Vietnam. They fell deeply in love – she was the reason to survive the war. He wanted more than anything to hug and kiss her one more time. Molly was his savior back then…she senses something is wrong…is she too late? Can she save him?
As a reader of “Chapter One”, one soon realizes that Vic Charles has severe PTSD. We have a front row seats in the balcony, watching intently to see how Vic plays out his cards in the game of life. We can see there is a problem and understand why. This disorder was not recognized in 1991 and soon veterans from modern wars began suffering and exhibiting the same behavior. Today, the VA has made great inroads in helping veterans with PTSD; veterans should not hesitate to go there for that help.
On a final note, editing and formatting issues within the book is costing the story its’ fifth star. However, with some polishing, this diamond will sparkle! Great job Bob Staranowicz!
Highest Traditions: Memories Of War
By Tony Lazzarini
Memories of War, March 15, 2014Tony Lazzarini’s memoir, “Highest Traditions: Memories of War” is an easy read that can be finished in a single afternoon. All chapters are short – only 2 – 6 pages in length, each referring to “incidents” that occurred during his twenty-one month tour of duty in Vietnam, providing readers with a glimpse into the life of a Huey Door Gunner in Company A, 25th Aviation Battalion, 25th Infantry Division (Little Bears).The story unfolds in 1965, Tony is currently a helicopter mechanic with the 25th Division in Hawaii and volunteers for a new program called “Shotgun” – like the second cowboy sitting up front with the driver on a stagecoach. These men trained to ride along on helicopters as defenders and protecting the aircraft during missions. The entire unit leaves Hawaii by boat, arriving in mid-April, 1966 and giving birth to a new group of warriors – Huey Door Gunners.The first several chapters talk about building up their new base camp in Cu Chi, the aircraft itself, her crew and why missions are flown. Later chapters tell about those memories that stand out during Tony’s many months in country. “Little Bears” operate within the Iron Triangle, an area soon to be recognized as an enemy hotspot. Supplies are continuously needed by soldiers on the ground; helicopters are shot down or explode, wounded and dead soldiers are medevaced to hospitals and graves registration, yet, these aircraft crews continue to fly through the curtains of lead to accomplish their missions. When not flying, door gunners and the crew chief continue working on the weapons and aircraft to ensure “their bird” is ready when needed.As a veteran of the Wolfhounds, 25th Infantry Division, I recognized the names and places mentioned within the story and remember that “Little Bears” was one of the aviation units supporting us in 1970. It is satisfying to make the connection.”Highest Traditions: Memories of War” is not a typical memoir depicting every event during a specific period of time. Mr. Lazzarini chose to give us some background then to share those highlights of his time in country. It worked for me and I immensely enjoyed his story. Great Job! Welcome Home Brother!
Tommie Bauer arrives in Vietnam during the middle of September, 1967 and is assigned to the 25th Infantry Division as an infantry soldier. The men of Charlie Company patrol through the jungles Northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian Border and seem to attract the enemy wherever they go. Helicopters get shot down, constant fire-fights seem to last forever, friends die, the men are alert most of the night – getting very little sleep, then move throughout the next day – cutting a path through thick jungle to locate the enemy. The men are exhausted physically, emotionally and mentally, their ranks – quickly depleting; they need to catch a break and recharge, but the enemy is on the move and they must be stopped. There is no time to rest.
The division soon creates a Recon Platoon – Tommie and some of his friends are recruited into this new outfit. They spend the first two weeks in training to learn tactics, stealth and other skill sets needed to operate in small groups, then chopper out the next morning on their first mission, These new missions require them to be invisible in their movements, then setting-up in small groups to “observe” possible enemy movements. They are not to engage, but must memorize every detail of what they witness about the enemy and then forward the information to division intelligence. Compared to what Tommie and his friends had experienced with Charlie Company, this new opportunity promises to be a great improvement. Unfortunately, the teams are ambushed immediately upon landing, choppers are shot down, friends are killed, and they are on the run – now outnumbered 5 – 1.
Firefights continue and it’s “deja vu” all over again. Only now, they operate in units of less than 10 men – team members continue to rotate in and out of the unit, replacements forego the two-week training program and join the units in the field within two days of arrival. The enemy is everywhere and supplies continue to move east toward Saigon. Rumor has it that the enemy is planning to stockpile supplies and then attack Saigon – forcing their surrender and ending the war. Little do they know that they are only two days away from the great Tet offensive of 1968.
There is a side-story taking place in which Tommie questions his relationship with two girls he’d left behind. When wounded, he engages a new relationship with his nurse – an Army Lieutenant, Rachel; they adore one another and become lovers. Her memory is the only thing keeping him sane.
“…Of Bags, Counts and Nightmares” is written in the first person, readers find themselves right there with Tommie – sharing his burdens and thoughts. It is also a wonderful representation of what soldiers experience in war. Perhaps, the experiences shared here are a little over the top and might qualify as a “worse case” experiment, but if this was not fiction, I would venture to say that Tommie suffers for the rest of his life – whether he has Rachel’s help or not. PTSD is a terrible disorder and does not go away! Learning, understanding and control are key in keeping this mental illness at bay!
Lastly, I just want to mention that there are several instances where the author uses “there” in place of “their”, “here” instead of “hear” and some other minor typos. No big deal though – it don’t mean nuthin’. Great book! Could not put it down to see what happens next to Tommie and his friends! Thank you Ron Marks!
Hope in Hungnam
By David Watts Jr.
Did not expect this!!! (spoiler alert), February 25, 2014
Korea, the forgotten war! UN troops were on the offensive – the end was near. Suddenly, millions of Chinese Communists entered the fray and the tide quickly turned. UN troops are pushed back to the Chosin Reservoir where they make a heroic last stand against the human waves intent on killing everyone in their path. Overwhelmed, General McArthur orders all troops to withdrawal to the port city of Hungnam, there, everyone will be evacuated and relocated to the south where UN forces can regroup.
Marines fight their way out of the reservoir and began heading south, soldiers are pulling back with their dead and wounded – trying to leave no one behind. In addition to the military, all roads leading to Hungnam are crowded as hundreds of thousands North Korean civilians join in with the military convoys. En route, mines explode in the road, enemy snipers and artillery track them and people continue to die. Marines try desperately to defend a shrinking perimeter while pulling back in an attempt to delay the enemy and give fellow soldiers and refugees a chance to escape.
One young Marine shares a bomb crater with his best friend, neighbor and school mate from home. Enemy soldiers crawl to within five yards of their hole and wait for an opportunity to kill these Americans. Both are eventually shot, the neighbor friend dies, The main character is wounded in the leg, loses a lot of blood and is left for dead. In a search of the lines, a lone medic comes across the wounded and unconscious marine, He is not responding and has lost a lot of blood, he’ll die soon without surgery. Placing himself in harms way, the medic crawls on his belly, pulling the wounded soldier through the deep snow and sub-zero temperature behind him while bullets zing overhead and impact nearby. After reaching safety, the Marine is soon treated and stabilized, loaded into an ambulance with five other wounded soldiers, our hero medic is the driver, he starts the vehicle, grinds the gears until they catch, then lurches down the road toward Hungnam. The ambulance hits a mine about half-way there. Everyone is dead or so it seems.
A young Korean woman with two children and the sole caretaker of her blind father, finds the young Marine lying on the snow covered road – he is barely alive. She carries him home and nurses him back to health. It is during this time that we learn valuable lessons in hate, forgiveness, compassion, courage, honor, respect and love.
A side story also takes place within this story about a Captain and his crew aboard the Merchant Marine ship, SS Meredith Victory. Their role during the Korean conflict is to move military supplies from one place to another in support of UN Peacemakers in Korea. The orders they receive just prior to Christmas Day, 1950 is for the crew and ship to perform an impossible task – one that is unheard of and has never been attempted before. They must succeed…or thousands of innocent people will die!
“Hope in Hungnam” is a treasure…a story that keeps playing in your mind long after closing the book (or turning off a Kindle). I highly recommend this story and wish to thank the author David Watts, Jr. for a job well done!
Each member of the crew wears an inner outfit with electrical leads that helps to warm them in the un-pressurized plane. The temperature during these flights at 20,000 feet is minus 40 degrees,coupled with the 170 mph wind blowing through the openings in the aircraft body, it feels more like minus 100 degrees – making it difficult to fight back. Most disabled B17’s catch fire and explode in mid air without a chance of the crew escaping. Survivors from nearby planes relive these experiences every night…to ensure crews are able to fly, medical doctors issue downers and uppers in an effort to help them sleep. They are all scared out of their wits, but dare not say anything in fear of being sent to the “nut house”. So they man-up and deal with the terror.The main character loses his virginity to a waitress in London and later meets a stripper at one of the upper class theaters. He is smitten and asks the lady to dinner – only to talk. They become enamored with one another and soon fall in love. They write to each other continuously and he visits her whenever he is able to swing a two-day pass. Seeing Jane is his therapy for the PTSD he has…her words of encouragement are all that keep him going in this insane world. When he isn’t scheduled to fly that day, the author becomes a tourist, visiting nearby towns and in awe of the history he encounters.
I only have two criticisms that prevented five stars in my review: First, the story ends abruptly. So much detail up to that point, then a brief epilogue finishes the story. I would have been interested in more detail about Sweden and learn more about what he did during those three months to find Jane. Secondly, I was bothered by the amount of redundancy in every mission. Appears like the the same paragraphs are used in every mission description.
I have to admit that “Savage Sky” kept me on the edge of my seat. Not only is it an exciting read, but I also found it educational and learned much about England’s history and of the B17 and crews during World War II. Highly recommended! Great job George and thank you for your service – Brother!!!
SSG Mike Marowski is a prominent leader, skilled in the art of warfare. He doesn’t take unnecessary risks and is known to take care of his men. Because of a shortage of officers, Mike is assigned as a Platoon Leader during the siege of Con Thien. The enemy unleashes rockets, mortars and artillery daily – 1200 rounds are noted during one particular day – ground assaults by Sappers are also common. The story takes place in the fall of 1967 – just prior to the TET Offensive. Enemy soldiers and other resources must be moved into South Vietnam to support the offensive, Con Thien is in the way and must be destroyed!Sleep is hard to come by as Marines hunker down in their foxholes during these aerial assaults. Marines feel helpless, many dying without having an opportunity to shoot back at the invisible enemy. Company and battalion sized units patrol the surrounding area outside the wire, only to be ambushed by a fortified enemy who is also supported by artillery and mortars. Once the monsoon rains begin, life on the hill is downright miserable.
Units are slotted to remain at Con Thien for up to six weeks and then rotate to Dong Ha for refitting. Mike Marowski is promoted to Gunnery Sgt., and unfortunately for him, doesn’t get to return to the rear with his unit. Instead, the replacing unit is short officers and Gunny must stay behind to lead the replacements. One thing is clear for the reader: Marines follow orders and comply without argument.
Navy Senior Corpsman Terry King will do everything possible to save his fellow soldiers…more adept to saving a life instead of taking one. This belief will cause a dilemma for him later in the story. He and his fellow corpsmen have their hands full keeping up with the wounded; if they are still able to fight, they’re patched up and returned to the perimeter. It isn’t uncommon to find Marines on the perimeter who’ve been patched up more than once; dirty and blood seeping bandages visible on damaged bodies.
Together, both men find themselves as sole survivors after an accident and must find their way back to friendly lines. Will they survive this living hell and return to the waiting arms of their wives? This book will keep you up late because it’s hard to put down…there is always something happening to one or the other that keeps the reader flipping pages seeking the outcome. Highly recommended! Great job Mr. Pyle!
The Foot Soldier
By Mark Rubeinstein
Short story…short tour…a compelling and riveting story! Author, Mark Rubinstein manages to capture the realism and fear experienced by many young soldiers, newly arrived to fight in the Vietnam War. As infantry soldiers, they are required to hump through jungles to find an elusive enemy, mindful that they may be hiding behind every bush and turn of a trail – and watching their every move. Tension is high…fear is paramount! Not only do these young men contend with this constant fear of ambush, each soldier also struggles under the weight of his supplies, high humidity, dense jungle, leaches, and thirst – all combining to sap their strength and will.
Then add a new, incompetent lieutenant, who has just graduated from OCS, leading this group. He is gung-ho, exaggerates body counts and is anxious for any excuse to burn down villages and kill every Vietnamese they encounter. His direct orders are morally wrong, but refusal to comply has severe consequences. What is one to do?While reading through the 60 pages of this novella, I get visions of scenes from the movies “Platoon”, when Charlie Sheen collapses on his first patrol, and later when Sgt. Barnes accuses villagers of supporting VC – those soldiers witnessing this interrogation are split in their support of the sergeants actions. The other movie, “We Were Soldiers once…”, when after landing on the LZ, the one Lt. giving chase to a lone enemy soldier – the platoon is compelled to chase after him – and follow him right into an ambush.
The author nails it in this short story, leaving thoughts about the story well after closing the book! Highly recommended to all! Great job Mr. Rubinstein!
By Mark Berent
Mark Berent’s book, Rolling Thunder not only tells a war story, but educates readers who are not familiar with the terminology and routines of pilots during the Vietnam War. I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed this story in which the author follows the adventures of three strangers, soldiers who cross paths on several occasions during their tours and eventually become friends: An Air Force captain and fighter pilot, an Air Force administrative lieutenant and an Army Special Forces Major. Their lives become intertwined in the story – at one time, all three are fighting for their lives in the same battle against an overwhelming enemy, but in different roles. It is early in the war and the military is fighting with their hands tied behind their back, the White House (the president and aides / civilians) are calling the shots: picking targets, identifying others that are strictly off limits and choose not to consider or approving targets recommended by the military. After all, The United States Government is afraid of drawing China and Russia into the conflict, thereby, taking a rather conservative stance in the war, angering those who take on the missions, placing themselves in harms way.Each story line is filled with adventure and hold your breath suspense. The Lieutenant’s character surprises me the most. seemingly having all the ups and downs during his tour. He falls in love with a local girl, then one night on the streets of Saigon, she saves him from the clutches of the VC. He sees her again several weeks later, but only as a witness to her murder when the base perimeter is attacked and breached by the enemy. He has it in his blood to fly…he experiences terror in the cockpit…he becomes a hero!Court Bannister, fighter pilot, is the son of a famous movie star…he has much to prove to his peers in Vietnam who think he got to where he is because of his father’s influence. It doesn’t take long to prove his worth! However, on one of his first missions, Courts’ wing man is killed because of pilot error. The pilot’s father, a general at the Pentagon, and Courts current commanding officer both blame the Captain for his wing-man’s death. The father, eventually goes so far as to get Court transferred from his current job of flying support for infantry units in the Delta and III Corps to bombing runs in North Vietnam – the most contested airspace of the war, losing an average of five planes / pilots per week.
The Green Beret is a fighting machine and appears to return from the dead – twice during the story. Wolf is a skilled warrior, leading teams to find and rescue downed pilots before the enemy can take him prisoner. However, his tour ends before he is able to complete some unfinished business. The major is set-up by a double agent on his last mission…both survived and both seek revenge upon the other. I’m certain that all three stories will continue in Mr. Berent’s next book when the three military officers return to Vietnam for a second tour.
A most enjoyable read and highly recommended to all. Great job Mark! Welcome Home Brother!
Marble Mountain: A Vietnam Memoir
By Bud Willis
Memoirs of a Marine Huey Driver, December 29, 2013
As a Vietnam Infantry veteran, I have always held chopper pilots in the highest regard for always being there when needed. Without them, many more of us would have perished. I had jumped from choppers into hot LZ’s, seeking the deepest depression or fattest tree for protection, while the crew functioned cool as cucumbers during this ordeal. These chopper pilots were relentless and continued to ferry reinforcements and pick up the wounded with not much protection for themselves. They flew their machines through steady streams of gunfire, some exploding in the air or crashing, and yet, the crews continued as if they were invincible. Dust off’s, ash and trash runs, troop deployments, evacuations, resupply, over-head support, VIP taxi’s and tour guides were all part of their everyday job – sometimes having to fly by themselves when short on personnel. Additionally, Mr. Willis informs us that all pilots also have secondary duties (administrative functions) while on the ground…..sleep was at a premium and a single shift sometimes lasted 24 plus hours or moreBud Willis does a wonderful job with this well-told story and offers the reader an in-depth look at the everyday life of these flying Marine warriors, which isn’t, by the way, a nine to five job. Bud’s memoir also includes pictures, copies of reports and written statements from those he had served with. The book follows “BOO” through training and then during his tour as a chopper pilot in Vietnam; his tour lasting 13 months from March, 1966 through April, 1967. The author also has a fantastic sense of humor and wit that sometimes catches me off-guard, making me laugh out loud. When I thought about the antics and games these officers orchestrated – I had to remind myself that even as officers, many of them were only 19 – 21 years old and still kids themselves. However, war steals that naivety and innocence, leaving in its place deep scars, both physically and mentally. After reading Marble Mountain, I have bumped up these pilots a couple more notches on my high esteem list. I also have a much better understanding of what these sky warriors thought about and had to endure in order to survive…sadly, many did not!
I stumbled into “Solo Vietnam” when the author posted a link on my Facebook page. As an avid reader of Vietnam War books, I quickly downloaded a copy to my Kindle and moved it to my “books to read next” file; promising myself to start it right after finishing the book I am currently reading. I was not disappointed!
“Solo Vietnam” starts out slow as the author introduces various characters and shares personal history about the main character, Nora Broussard – a divorced, single mother with four children. The setting for the first portion of the book is New Orleans, a city rich in history and best known for the annual Mardi Gras. Nora, a part-time torch singer at the Roosevelt Hotel, looks forward to this time of year, not only for the parades and celebrations, but also for the hordes of tourists who are very generous with their tips.Nora’s second occupation is flying crop dusters during the spring and summer months. It was during her flight training several years earlier that she fell in love with her instructor, Steve, a married man. Their relationship soon resulted in a daughter, whom Nora had to give up for adoption. They’ve been apart for a couple of years, but Nora continues to have deep feelings for this aviator. She soon discovers that he is recalled to active duty, shipped to Vietnam as a jet fighter pilot for the Navy, and soon learns that his wife has recently died – this opens the door for Nora, she will do anything to connect with him again.
As luck has it, Nora is chosen as a singer to accompany Bob Hope on his annual USO Christmas tour in Southeast Asia. Afterwards, she chooses to remain behind in Chu Lai, Vietnam, agreeing to manage the USO facility for the next eighteen months so she can be near her lover – leaving her family behind to live with their grandmother. Unfortunately, she is unaware that the enemy is planning a nationwide offensive during the Asian Lunar New Year, Tet – 1968, and her involvement during this time will be worse than anything she had ever imagined.
It is difficult to put the book down once reaching this point. Jeannette Vaugham has done her homework as her descriptions and dialog while Nora is in Vietnam are spot on. The last few chapters also address the MIA / POW issue in some detail – leaving readers numb afterwards. I also admit to having learned some new “Navy-speak” and more about the aircraft carriers and demands of fighter pilots during the Vietnam War. “Solo Vietnam” is a story of love, hope, fear, tragedy and courage. I enjoyed it immensely and recommend it to others. Great job Jeannette!
Another vet from Afghanistan makes an error in judgment during the war which results him receiving a dishonorable discharge from the service. In his case, revenge drives him to become the leader of a terrorist cell within Kansas. His wish is to kill as many politicians and U.S. civilians as possible as pay back for what they did to him.I found myself laughing out loud when Walt and his gang is on the loose…what a bad-ass group of seniors! Walt and Ox’s undercover stint within a nursing home to identify Medicare fraud was hilarious. I especially like the older fellow who tutors him on the ways within…coaching him on how to not take pills, eat the food or drink the juice to avoid turning into a zoned out, unresponsive patient who doesn’t bother anyone. The “underground” supply chain and scrounger within the nursing facility gets the patients pizza, soda and all the good stuff that is “medicine free”.
There are tense moments within the story, but the gang of seniors get it done, even if their methods are wacky at times. A lot of fun, easy to read and recommended to all!
The new Army medic is assigned to a Dustoff unit, his new job requires him to disembark the aircraft,treat and stabilize the wounded on the ground and then continue to treat the patient until arriving at the hospital. Most of the time, he was required to run through enemy rifle and RPG fire to “save” the patient – no matter the risk – it’s his job! The pilot of his Blackhawk team is Samantha Hawkins, a Warrant Officer, skilled and adept in any conditions – making the chopper dance if she needed to. Lt. Craig Ng is the ranking officer, co-pilot and team leader and Sgt. Talon (part Cree Indian and Ukranian) is the crew chief – Daniels room mate and best friend.The story follows this crew through high adrenaline rescue missions, responding to assist locals after suicide bombers visit and lastly, during those periods of total boredom when there are lulls in activity and nothing else to do. From day one, Daniel tries to woo Sam, who rebuffs all his advances; the military frowns upon officer and enlisted man fraternization and getting caught ruins the officers career. The author’s wit and humor keep readers smiling and laughing during those non-violent times. Danial is sarcastic and isn’t afraid to tell an officer exactly how it is, especially when involving rear echelon officers who are only concerned with saluting and spit shined boots. This does get him in trouble and mars his record, but he isn’t concerned. Daniel is touted as the best medic in all of Afghanistan. This crew is very tight and supportive of one-another, oftentimes, trying to keep Daniel in check.
As a female officer in a primarily male war zone, Samantha does her best at not flaunting her femininity, even going so far to not shave her legs or underarms in an attempt to keep all the men at bay. In overseas situations like this war, rape does occur to those unsuspecting females…the crew always keeping on eye on her. No matter what Daniel says or does, he can’t get any closer to Sam than a crew mate. He never gives up!
Just prior to his last four months of his two-year commitment in Afghanistan, circumstances cause Daniel to be reassigned to a line platoon, which supports a small outpost near the Pakistan border in the most notorious valley in the country. Danny comes to blame Sam for this and wants nothing more to do with her. Night patrols, guard duty, snipers and mortars are a part of normal life during this time. The outpost is eventually overrun – Daniel is miraculously spared as he is knocked unconscious during the attack – covered in blood and left for dead near other dead soldiers.
The story picks up again with Daniel finishing med school and Sam’s sister getting him a residency at a nearby hospital. Sam, meanwhile, leaves the Army, moves in with her sister and tries desperately to fit back in as a civilian – nightmares and PTSD continue during the last several months – eventually causing her to consider suicide. Hearing that Daniel is coming to the neighborhood, she perks up sets out to make things right between her and Daniel. They are no longer in the Army and no more rules exist that prevent them from fraternizing. Sam has always loved the man, but now the shoe is on the other foot and Daniel rebuffs her every move. Dan is still angry and unwilling to forgive her for her actions during the war…she is persistent and continues her attempts to gain his trust during the next year. Dan helps her battle PTSD and is available whenever she calls, however, she is unsuccessful in breaking through Dan’s armor. After that first year, Dan decides to move back to Canada and continue his residency at a hospital there – leaving Sam behind without even saying goodbye. Is this the end of Daniel and Sam?
There is so much that goes on within the book and it’s difficult to include a review. Readers will learn about “Sophia”, PTSD, how the military operates in war and witness the camaraderie among those soldiers who fight the war. I am very surprised and enjoyed “Thank Sophia for Sam”, highly recommending it! Great job Mr. Power!
Goodbye Junie Moon offers readers an inside look at the entertainment business in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and also exposes a growing corruption ring within the military service industry in Vietnam. Have you ever witnessed people or fellow employees continuing to break the rules or conducting ongoing illegal business? As a hard-working, honest employee yourself, you try to do the right thing and report this to your supervisor – only nothing happens. What if you continued up the chain of command and found that the issue continues to be covered up? Whistle Blowers are at risk of retaliation: losing a job or career, harassment, intimidation and possibly death. Who can you trust? Is it worth it? In the case of Junie Moon, she finally finds the right people to support her and goes public – the wrong doers immediately place a bounty on her head and she is unable to flee Vietnam and return to her native Australia. Once the U.S. Government is involved, June is placed into protective custody and whisked to the United States capital.
This is a true story and well publicized during the senate investigations in Washington, D.C. However, I was still in high school and too naive to understand the ramifications. I did get sent to Vietnam in 1970 as an infantryman and never suspected things like this occurred. Now, I have an idea why some of the war trophies we sent to the rear for safe keeping disappeared! It is remarkable to note that after reading about the kick backs and “pay to play” schemes in Vietnam, nothing seems to have changed in the last fifty years; greed and corruption is still rampant!
I did enjoy the ‘behind the scenes” story of the entertainment industry during the Vietnam War. The author, June Collins, writes about her dreams and growing up in Australia, alternating those chapters with her experiences in Vietnam. It takes a lot of guts for a person to do what she did during the war. She loved the soldiers and hated to see groups taking advantage of them. She didn’t sit on the side lines watching the war go by…June got right into the thick of things, trying to fix what was broken.
Highly recommended…don’t let the first chapter dissuade you from continuing to read this story…you’ll be glad you did! Great job Ms. Collins!
The Pipes Were Calling by David Flaherty is classified as a work of fiction; however, it is written with so much accurate detail that I have to believe this story is about the author’s tour in Vietnam and beyond.
The protagonist, Danny Murphy, arrives in Vietnam as an innocent, naive, scared 18-year-old soldier with only five months in the Army. He is assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, their area of operations primarily in the southern Delta part of the country. Danny’s first experience with a local is when an old Vietnamese lady confronts him in the shower area, offering to shine his boots for a small fee. Embarrassed by her presence and anxious to get her on her way, he agrees, but soon regrets – believing that she has stolen his only pair of boots. After exiting the shower area, Danny is relieved to see the old mama-son squatting nearby and working diligently on his boots. When finished, she also sells him a simple cross on a shoelace – convincing him that it as a good luck charm and he will be safe when wearing it.
He befriends a Shake ‘n Bake Sergeant, who arrived at the same time he does. Taking Danny under his wing, Sgt. Penny has him assigned to the same squad and helps to prepare him for the field. The morning after the first night in the bush, both Danny and Sgt. Penny are forgotten, left behind by the rest of the platoon to fend for themselves. Fortunately, Sgt. Penny participated in the pre-mission briefing and knew of the final objective. Using his map and compass, both soldiers catch up with the rest of the group later in the day.
Danny soon makes friends with Odie Burke, a black soldier in the squad and experienced point man. He teaches Danny the ropes and how to identify booby traps – soon pairing up to walk point whenever it was the squads’ turn. Most casualties incurred by the troops are due to exploding booby traps – firefights with the enemy are far and few in between.
Danny is pulled from his squad and sent to sniper school – a new mandate for the Brigade, and then reassigned to Charlie Company – the worst in the division with the highest rate of casualties. From this moment on, Danny continues to find himself in precarious situations; most caused by lousy communications and poor judgment of the battalion’s officers – luckily, he escapes death more than once.
Eventually, fate catches up. Danny loses his `good luck cross’ and is soon the victim of a booby trap, seriously wounding him. While recuperating in a hospital outside of Vietnam, Danny learns from another patient and friend from his old squad that everyone had perished during a massive ambush and he is the lone survivor. He falls into a major depression, dwelling on those friends he lost. Then when Danny is finally discharged from the hospital, he and others in uniform are attacked by a group of war demonstrators who beat the soldiers to the ground.
Danny goes on lock down, keeping his past military experience – especially that he was a Vietnam Veteran a secret. These bottled up memories remain a problem for more then twenty years before he is compelled to seek help and learn how to deal with the demons that plague him.
I did find that something odd happened in the second half of the book. Like flicking a light switch, suddenly formatting, typos and sentence structure errors came out of nowhere and continued for the rest of the story. Not certain if it is due to my personal Kindle settings or something that happened when the author uploaded. It’s worth looking into and fixing if it’s on Amazon’s end.
I strongly recommend “The Pipes Were Calling” to anyone wanting to learn how war impacts the young soldiers who were called upon to fight it – especially the Vietnam War which is considered the most unpopular war of the century. The story will pull on all your emotions. Kudos Mr. Flaherty!
“Alone in the Valley” by George Lanigan is a memoir which Chronicles his experiences from the time he drops out of college in 1968 until he returns home from the Vietnam War in 1971. George states that he’d always wanted to be a Green Beret in the U.S. Army since his early childhood days. He decides to follow his dream, enlists into the Army – intent on making the grade. George’s descriptions during basic training and infantry AIT are right on, reminding me of some things I’ve done that were long forgotten.
I looked forward to reading about the author’s training during Airborne and Green Beret school as I was unfamiliar with both. I’d heard stories from fellow veterans about jump school, but I never knew anyone who trained for Special Forces. I remember the song where it heralded that so many entered, but only a few actually received the coveted beret. Although George does not go into major detail of the specific training itself, readers get a sense of the difficulties he must overcome. Special Forces training outside of Fort Bragg included radio school and Morse code, skiing and snowshoeing in Germany and jungle warfare training in Panama.
Mr. Lanigan heads to Vietnam in July, 1970 – a month before my tour began and is stationed near Vung Tau on the South China Sea. My tour began in Cu Chi which was only an hour away. His new job is to oversee and train Cambodian teenagers in the art of war. Their country has sanctioned this training in order to help them defend against both external and internal enemies. He would take groups out to valley and bush for days at a time; sometimes encountering VC or NVA soldiers on patrol – getting hairy at times. When at the basecamp, George walks the perimeter during odd hours every night to check the wire and Cambodians in the bunkers. Seems like sleep and rest are a hard commodity to come by. After all, this is still a war zone.
During his downtime, George and the other SF soldiers, like normal teenagers, would sometime get into mischief and have to suffer the consequences. He owns a small tv set to help pass the time, and hooks up with fellow SF members at the local bar occasionally to swap stories and reminisce about past training.
Coming home, George finds the World has changed; protesters are everywhere and blame the soldier for war. It isn’t safe to be out in uniform. There are no parades, words of thanks or welcomed home by civilians who, instead, should be grateful to him for protecting their freedom. This was very puzzling for all returning veterans who were ecstatic for having survived the war and then facing hostility, ridicule and insults upon their arrival home. What a fine reward!
The story held my interest, my only complaint is the formatting and editing of the book which prevented me from giving it four or five stars. Indie authors, myself included, are continuously chided by readers and reviewers who expect perfect books. George, please take the time to hire a skilled editor to help make corrections and then reissue the updated version. It does make a difference!
This is my first Bob Mayer book – the description pulled me in so I downloaded a free copy during one of the Amazon promotions and wasn’t disappointed. Since I was unaware that Dave Riley is the main character in a series of books (found this out when reading the reviews after finishing the story), I didn’t have a benchmark to compare any of the characters to and accepted their abilities for what they were. I was a little disappointed with Sammy and expected her to exhibit more of the skills that her father taught while she was growing up – then accepted Riley’s leadership role when took over the group. I was intrigued by the storyline and wondered how a project so huge could be kept a secret since 1971…some people had to die to preserve it. We also learn that money is power and everybody has a price.
Overall, Eternity Base is well written, entertaining and a compelling read; capable as a stand alone book within a series. It does have some twists and turns along the way, but Mr. Mayer kept me guessing until the very end. Highly recommended!
“Lest We Forget” is a short story with a powerful message. Many father’s had served in war, witnessing death and destruction firsthand, asked to perform impossible tasks, always living in harms way and then surviving that part of your life. Many had prayed to their God during that time, setting pacts and negotiating for things in the future. Surviving the war without shedding blood doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is unscathed. Those invisible wounds have brought down the strongest of soldiers over time, many feeling guilty for not dying with their friends, causing them to suffer a life of guilt and despair.
Now your daughter enlists into the military and is deployed to Iraq. You worry about her and feel helpless that you are unable to protect her. How far would you go? What are your options? Could you make the same choice?
“Lest We Forget” keeps one thinking long after putting the book down. Is any of this possible? Great job John Cassell!
Unfamiliar with life on a submarine and intrigued by the book description, I downloaded a free Kindle version of “Collapse Depth” and started reading immediately – leaving my 58 other downloads to collect additional electronic dust in the “to be read” folder. I found the story both educational and suspenseful, learning technical terms, gaining an understanding of the day to day life on a nuclear Trident submarine, and then wondering whether or not the saboteur will be successful in destroying the boat. The book is difficult to put down because there is always something new introduced into the storyline – forcing readers to stay up late at night to see how these new emergencies are handled. Kept my interest throughout!
Like many of the other reviewers, I also found the typos and formatting errors distracting, at times, having to stop and decipher before continuing. Mr. Tucker, do yourself a favor and have “Collapse Depth” edited and properly formatted…it will reap huge benefits in the future.
“The Last Jump” is a fitting tribute to the Greatest Generation. It begins in modern day when the government makes a decision to seek out and honor African American soldiers from World War II that deserved, but were overlooked for the highest military award – The Medal of Honor for heroic actions during that war. John P. Kilroy, a white journalist, was also invited to Washington, accepting the MOH posthumously for the actions of his father in the same battle. However, it was in a separate ceremony without fanfare so the significance of the main ceremony remained a tribute to only the black former soldiers.
John P. wanted to learn more about his father and took this opportunity to interview his former friends: the four MOH recipients. He learned so much about him, but there was something missing – a secret,none of them would share. Readers are taken back to the beginning of the war, each survivor adding to the storyline which spans the entire war. John’s father, John P Kilroy and John Kilroy – not related – were enemies during training and then later become the best of friends – inseparable! John P was married and John (Jake) had a fiance, their stories are also told while they support the war effort by working in the ship building yards, testing and flying aircraft – later transporting them to the front, and learning about how difficult life is as civilians during the war.
Uncovering the secret, a pact made sixty years earlier, became a quest for the truth. Years pass since their initial introduction in Washington, but he continues to push them – hoping one of them will slip and spill the beans before the former comrades take it to their graves.
The historical facts within seem accurate and offer the reader an up close and personal look at the day-to-day activities of those young men during war. If you don’t know much about the great war, “The Last Jump” is a refreshing story about love, sacrifice, dedication and honor – also learning about history at the same time. The ending is not expected and will leave you with mouth agape. Highly recommended! Great job Mr. Nevola!
What a life Mr. Jones has had! Raised in a religious family, the church always first in his family’s life; Russ’ father was an associate Baptist Minister and the family spent one year in Brazil as missionaries. After graduating from high school, the author wanted to leave home and “go out into the world”, he loved flying and joins the Army, volunteering for helicopter flight training. The war in Vietnam was building up, but Russ believed that by the time he finished training, the war would be over. However, upon graduation, he sees that the war was now at its peak and finds himself assigned to fly helicopters in one of the most highly contested and dangerous areas in Vietnam, I-Corps.
I found myself openly laughing at some of Russ’ experiences during his military training. As an Army Vietnam veteran myself, it was easy for me to relate to many of those same experiences. It is, as if, all drill instructors had followed the same script almost verbatim. As a grunt (combat infantryman) in Vietnam, we held those helicopter crews in the highest regard. They were our transportation, brought us supplies in the field, supported us when encountering the enemy, and finally, picking up and our dead and wounded. They came whenever they were called and never let us down.
When Russ began pilot training, I found myself intrigued by the rigors and intensity required for certification, and then, witnessing the bravery and determination required to fly helicopters in combat. This was a whole new learning experience which allowed me to better understand helicopter pilot training and their day-to-day activities during the war. Mr. Jones mentioned early in the book that he volunteered for it all to “push the limits”; surely he was not disappointed with this portion of his life.
If this wasn’t enough of an adrenalin rush for a lifetime, after his discharge from the Army, Mr Jones then chose to became a police officer in San Jose, CA, fighting crime and eventually joining the war against drugs. He soon joins the DEA, infiltrates the Hell’s Angel’s inner sanctum, goes undercover against the cartels in Central and South America, was assigned to both the Russian and Chinese governments to help in their quest to stop the flow of drugs within their countries, and then finally, stopping to smell the flowers. He finds that trying to stop the flow of drugs is impossible and describes the business as a multi-head dragon – cut off a head and two new ones replace it. Russ truly believes that the only way to stop the ruthlessness of the business is to legalize it. Much of his arguments are food for thought, allowing the reader to decide for himself.
The final chapters follow Russ and his wife as they travel the oceans, visiting ports and destinations many of us only dream about. We also discover that he is a gourmet cook and prepares delicate dishes from the bounty given up by the seas. It seems like this lifestyle is payback for everything he’s done up until then. The dictionary defines “Honorable Intentions” as “upright, “a good reputation”, “impeccable conduct” and “purpose”. The title is a perfect description of Mr. Russ Jones. Thank you, sir, for your service and for trying to make the world a better place. Highly recommended read!
Gary Cowart’s, Blood on Red Dirt, is a story about a young man who joins the Marines during the early part of the Vietnam War – Marines only because the Air Force and Navy had year-long waiting lists. I found myself smiling on several occasions when the author wrote about his Basic Training experiences. There is just no way to escape the wrath of Drill Instructors during these initial weeks of military indoctrination…we all experienced it whether it was warranted or not. It’s all part of the plan to create a formidable soldier to fight wars. Gary chooses artillery as his specialty and eventually gets shipped to Vietnam. I enjoyed reading about his Vietnam experiences – as I was in the Army Infantry, Blood on Red Dirt gave me the opportunity to learn more about these Marine artillery men and their role in the war.
Artillery units were a great asset to the troops out in the field. I have the greatest respect for those cannoneers and appreciate the many times they came to our support…now I have a better understanding of the science required to get the round to where it needed to be. Gary also showed me that it is sometimes much safer to be out on patrol through the jungles than to be stationed on a firebase or Landing zone.
Thank you for a great story and for your service! Welcome Home Brother!
I have recently concluded Mr. Nolly’s first book in the series, “Over the Trial” and quickly downloaded his next book in the series to find out what happens to Hamfist after his O-2 plane is hit and he bails out over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This edition picked up right where the earlier story left off.
Having served in the infantry during the Vietnam War myself, I could relate to Hamfist’s trepidation while spending the night in the jungle, surrounded by enemy soldiers who were searching for him. I was right there with him…holding my breath, et al. It is incredible to see what it takes for a rescue operation, and then realizing the possibility of losing that same person and others during the operation. It is a harrowing experience for all, and one that demonstrated the bravery of all involved.
The book offers a first-hand look into the day-to-day activities of these brave pilots during the Vietnam War. “Hamfist Down!” is also a love story, which offers the reader a glimpse into Japanese culture and how the rich might live in that country. This book continued to confirm my deep respect and thanks to those in the air, who were on guard to protect us down below. Highly recommended book! Moving on now to book #3 in the collection! Great job, Mr. Nolly!
I found “Hamfist – Over the Trail” both enjoyable and educational – allowing me to learn more about the day to day lives of those aviators in Vietnam. As a former grunt during the war, I have the utmost respect and gratitude for those “Sky Drivers” and “Zoomie Pilots” – they always came to our rescue when we were desperately in need of their help. The book is an easy read, following an Air Force Academy graduate (Hamilton aka “Hamfist”) through his flight training and eventual deployment to Vietnam as an O-2 FAC pilot.
Mr. Nolly’s work gave me a glimpse into what it takes to become a pilot, how he thinks, what he must know and what he must do to survive. Some “drivers” are superstitious and follow certain rituals prior to taking off. Others are fatalistic and simply believe in fate and when your number is pulled – it’s time to die!
As the author of “Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel”, I wrote about the scared, naive and innocent infantry soldiers and their “rite of passage” through the war. Newbies were always in awe, apprehensive, asked hundreds of questions and didn’t take risks. It was surprising to see the same thing happening when new lieutenant pilots arrived in Vietnam. They were no different than those soldiers on the ground – all trying desperately to survive.
As soon as I finished the story, I was anxious for more and quickly downloaded the next book on my Kindle and began reading the continuation of the story. Great job Mr. Nolly. Thank you for the education and Welcome Home!
By Mark Berent
I’m not able to add much more than what has already been written about Mark’s short story. I found it amusing that he wore his flight suit and didn’t carry much more than an M-16 and a couple of canteens of water. The hump kicked his ass. Just think what would have happened if he carried 80 lbs. on his back and did this everyday for almost a year. Still, I enjoyed it and will have to look into his other works.
Paul McNally has written a wonderful account of his life in “The Best of the Best…Dying Delta”. The author refers to his story as just one long letter, written to his niece, Olivia, who asked about his experiences during during the Vietnam War. Like many veterans at the time, Paul was reluctant to speak about the war. However, he had always been comfortable in sharing his feelings on paper and decided to help with her school project in this manner. Where else to start but at the beginning.
The author was raised in Pennsylvania and spent much of his earlier years outdoors and getting into mischief with his siblings – he was the second eldest of nine children and quite savvy about surviving on the streets. Luckily, some of their pranks could have resulted in serious injury or even death, but Paul claims that his guardian angel watched over him. He also felt that his childhood had prepared him for both the Marines and the war in Vietnam. So he followed his destiny.
A few months after joining the Marines, Paul found himself on a troop carrier – sailing with the 5th Marines for the next twenty-two days while en-route to the war in Vietnam. The time is November, 1966 and the Fighting Fifth patrols through the central highlands from a base near Chu Lai. It is here that his Guardian Angel continued to watch over him while he volunteered for two of the most dangerous jobs at the time: walking point and searching tunnels (Tunnel Rats). Death had come calling on several occasions only to leave empty handed. The fighting escalates and Delta Company’s losses continue to mount. As their ranks deplete, it is necessary to bring in replacements from the states. The author has one chapter titled “FNG” where he talks about these new replacements. I was curious to see how Marines felt about these new recruits as in comparison to the I was treated in the Army (depicted in my book, “Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel”). An except from that chapter sums it up…”This was not an easy time for me, mainly because the replacement troops we were getting, for the most part, were right out of boot camp and had only the training they got in the basic infantry school and jungle training from Camp Pendleton. By now I knew that these replacements were going to be more of a hindrance than an asset to us. You just couldn’t expect someone to come to a country like this with just a few months of training and be expected to know what to do. I know because even with the countless hours I had in combat training prior to my tour and even my woodsman knowledge I learned growing up didn’t prepare me for what I was to encounter when I first got here. You had to live it, breathe it and embrace it before you could feel comfortable fighting in this war and country. I felt bad for these Marines because if they encountered any action like we had recently, I didn’t give the FNG’s much of a chance surviving it. By now, I had learned that it didn’t pay to get too close to any of these new guys; it hurt too much when they got wounded or killed.”
The author is severely wounded during an ambush and finds the war is now over for him. He returns to the states and begins a lengthy rehabilitation. Eventually, he is discharged from the military but has a difficult time adapting to civilian life again. He battles demons while looking for work – traveling back and forth across the country. Soon, he meets his bride-to-be, who sets him on the correct path. This “letter” allowed the author two things: first, provided him a means of dealing with those horrors of war and thus, restoring his mental equilibrium; and second, to set down a straightforward account of his life for the family’s history.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story. It is an easy read, and made me feel like the author and I were sitting together around a fireplace while I listened intently as Paul told his story. Highly recommended!
I found “Year of the Monkey” to be unusually different from the many books published about the Vietnam War. The first couple of chapters pulled me in – keeping me interested and anxious to find out what this soldier did to deserve the punishment he was awaiting. Once this hook was in place, the author takes everyone back to the beginning – where it all began.
As a reporter for a military magazine, the lead character seems to have “Carte Blanche” with his duties and job responsibilities. He is stationed in Long Binh with access to Saigon and a never-ending supply of drugs, beer and cigarettes. When a Green Beret arrives, after reassignment to the Press Corps, there are many questions asked and no answers given. He is quiet and keeps to himself – shrouded in mystery.
The main character finds himself falling in love with a girl he meets in a Saigon bar. She informs him that she is not a prostitute, but instead, a visiting student from a village down south in the Delta region. She promises him that if he is able to come visit her in the Delta, she will take care of him like nobody has ever before. Shortly after, as luck has it, he is assigned to a story near her village and soon hooks up with her. Many things occur during this time, which causes the reader to second guess what is actually taking place. Is he being set-up or is love getting the best of him?
The CIA is involved, forcing him to spy on his new friend, the Green Beret. Bits and pieces of his hidden identity are soon revealed – the reader soon learns that everyone is playing a role in a scheduled master plan. Soon the big question from the beginning of the story is answered. But did it really happen that way?
Some parts of the book are slow-moving and repetitive, and in my opinion, the drug scenes are depicted much too frequently. All-in-all “Year of the Monkey” is a suspenseful story and worth reading.
Reading “River Rats” by Ralph Christopher was an educational experience for me. I am also a Combat Vietnam Army Veteran and author of a book relating my experiences as an Infantry Grunt with the 25th Division. My personal knowledge of the Brown Water Navy is limited, at best, and I am unfamiliar with their equipment, tactics, and mode of operations. Thankfully, Ralph’s explanations, pictures and story helped me to better understand how the war was fought in the Delta.
I was pleased upon recognizing many of the landmarks Ralph mentions in “River Rats” as they are the same areas my unit operated in. Although Ralph was already home by the time I had arrived in country, those shared areas were still very dangerous and very active with enemy soldiers and incoming supplies during my tour.
I’ve heard about the bases built upon pontoons in the middle of the river, but had no idea of its size, on-board facilities, and capabilities to support these fighting men. “River Rats” is mostly told in a first-person, but portions of it come across as an “after action report”. Not saying this is bad, but sometimes there appears to be too much detailed information (Navy speak) – more than a lay person can absorb while reading. I was especially intrigued with the smaller boats and four-men crews that went out on night ambushes – pulling up to the riverbank and beaching their craft – then watching for enemy movement. The reaction of boat crews during an enemy ambush from land is also something to behold…making strafing runs up and down the river and eventually beaching the craft immediately to the front of the enemy – I think there’s a saying about hanging brass ornaments and these boat crews. There is just so much to learn from “River Rats” that I must recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about the Brown Water Navy and the heroes of the Vietnam Delta.
There is only one negative that prevented me from rating this book five stars and that is misspelled words. Most all of them would pass a spelling scan, but they are used incorrectly. As examples: passed used instead of past and set instead of sat are just a couple of examples that come to mind. Otherwise, when looking past them, it was a great read! Thank you Ralph!
Duke Barrett has hit the nail squarely on head with his book, “The Wall of Broken Dreams”. As a Vietnam Combat Veteran myself, I have to admit that when it was time to take a break from reading – I was surprised to find myself at home and in bed. For just that one quick moment, I thought I had been napping on a nearby cot and listening to the banter of my fellow grunts. It is that real!
In between missions in the bush, our time in a firebase was usually comprised of work details, guard duty and very little sleep. During our downtime, we always huddled around in small groups, sharing experiences, personal details and our dreams. There is a special bond between us and anything goes.
Much of this story is told through the dialog in these group discussions. The main character, Johnny Richards, is a smartass, gifted musician from Chicago and is well-liked by all. The dialog itself is 1960’s jargon and slang; saying such as “I can dig it” or “I’m hip” are commonplace. I, too, have been to Vung Tau on R&R and found the author’s description of the bar scene, when the new arrivals are negotiating with the local hookers, to be hilarious because the same thing happened to me. Now I’m certain that an identical script had been used by those girls during the entire war, and owners made thousands of dollars by selling watered down coke or “Saigon Tea” to these anxious, horny teenagers.
When Johnny meets Mai in a picture store, readers begin to see a different side of this rebellious GI; one showing tenderness, a loving nature and willingness to learn from this new woman in his life. Johnny will do anything for Mai and dreams of her all the time. He wants nothing more than to get married and take Mai to America and raise a family!
The plot twists later in the story and left me with my mouth agape! After finishing the book, I thought about it long afterwards – it latches onto you. Duke’s title is most appropriate and also provides food for thought about those names listed on the Vietnam Memorial. This book is highly recommended! Great job Mr. Barrett! Welcome Home Brother!
John Cory’s book, An IED on the Yellow Brick Road is a short story of less than 100 pages and can be read in one sitting. I am fond of war stories and look forward to reading about the experiences of others. This one, however, is the aftermath of war and talks about injuries and wounds that are invisible. A gay couple living in the countryside – one a Vietnam Veteran and 62 years old – are visited by two strangers, a man and a woman, who knock on their door on a rainy night. Turns out that neither of the two new arrivals knew one another; the female was hitchhiking a ride and the male offered her a ride.
The Vietnam vet has a feeling that both visitors, who are in their twenties, were modern day veterans. However, neither of them will admit to it.
Coop, the Vietnam vet, has a studio out back where he has built a shrine about the Vietnam War. It is here that the three veterans finally open up and begin talking about their experiences. They talk about three different war zones: Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, but it the same old war where the enemy can hide among us. Not only does PTSD rear its ugly head, but the female states that she has survived getting blown up twice in her humvee and has trouble with her thoughts. Yet the VA Hospital isn’t willing to help her. Eventually, each blames the other for their faults – blowing off steam.
This book is about compassion, anger and then later support between the three generations of veterans. Eventually, they feel like they are home again.
It is difficult for me to write a review about this book because so much takes place – most of it through dialog. I can only say that if you are a veteran, it is easy to relate to their stories. If not, this book will alert you to what veterans are carrying deep within their memories since returning from war. It is well worth the time to read. After finishing, the reader will not be able to get the words out of their heads. They stay with you…leaving you astonished and bewildered. Excellent job Mr. John Cory!
I found “Across the Fence” by John Stryker Meyer to be a great educational experience about SOG and its role in Vietnam. The author details several different missions within this fine work – some are first-person and others – from his friends in fellow “Strike Teams”. All are magnificent! I was especially intrigued with the inner workings and protocol of these SF units. Small goups of 6 – 8 man patrol deep within Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam on clandestine missions, and doing so without artillery support or back up from larger nearby units. Even notorious and well trained SOG teams are not guaranteed success every time; as evidenced by the disappearance of one of these teams. How can a team of six men voluntarily accept a mission into an area suspected of housing 10,000 or more enemy soldiers? It takes a special kind of man to be part of a SOG team, and after completing Mr. Meyer’s story, you will better understand what it takes to be a Green Beret. There is plenty of action, fear, impending doom, and sometimes humor throughout this great story. It is a shame that the families of those soldiers killed during this secret war may never learn the details surrounding the death of their loved ones, until maybe now.
I recommend “Across the Fence” to anyone wanting to learn more about this secret war and of the harrowing experiences of these special soldiers. They have my utmost gratitude and respect! God Bless!
“A Year In Vietnam With The 101st Airborne: 1969-1970” by Harry G. Enoch is a different kind of read and does not follow the same boilerplate template used by other Vietnam authors. Instead, Mr. Enoch’s work is comprised of his day to day activities as he posted them in a diary/journal over forty years ago. The title caught my interest right away because I had served with the 101st Airborne too, but it was a year later, 1971. I was anxious to compare my experiences with Harry’s and downloaded his story to my Kindle and began reading in earnest.
I do have to admit that I was surprised by this type of format, but quickly learned to follow the day-to-day activities as written. Harry’s humping experience were spot on and I could relate to his experiences in the bush – almost a carbon copy of my own: humping the mountains, hot days / cold nights, monsoon rains, digging foxholes, cutting through impenetrable jungle, carrying ninety pound rucksacks, and always on the lookout for the enemy. Fortunately for Mr. Enoch, he spent an equal amount of time during his tour in fire bases and rear areas.
Life in those areas are are a mixed bag, some days are boring as hell while others are filled with mundane work details like bunker guard, filling sandbags, reinforcing bunkers, laying concertina wire and burning human waste – from dawn to dusk. Then, as luck would have it, they find themselves back on the bunker line for the night. Although rear areas offer many distractions during the day like the EM Club, PX, Mess Hall, and swimming to name a few, but many of those men serving there would give it all up to get back out into the bush.
When reading this story, a person will learn more about the day-to-day life of an infantry soldier in Vietnam. It doesn’t matter if he was in the bush or in the rear areas – it was a dangerous time and everyone served honorably.
One of the other reviewers mentioned that Harry spends too much time writing about what he eats on a daily basis and also itemizing the contents of his many special packages he got from home. It’s a little too much and this is why I’ve rated this story four stars instead of five. Still worth reading!
I always had a great respect for Special Forces and what they could achieve. In Blackjack – 34, code name for this particular mission, a handful of American SF Soldiers lead a company size force, comprised of Cambodians and Chinese Nung mercenaries, to locate a large enemy unit thought to be operating in the area. The “Bodes” are meticulous and excellent hunters, moving stealthy through the dense jungles without a sound. Some believed they have a special gift, because they can sense when the enemy is near. It is early morning when this group locates the enemy, and the first bullets of their day-long battle ensues. It is soon clear that this group is vastly outnumbered and soon surrounded by enemy soldiers.
One of the Americans, James Donahue, is also a medic and finds himself in a dual role during this skirmish. The Special Forces also trained the “Bodes” to be medics, their competencies saved many lives that day. Even while the battle is raging, these young Cambodian soldiers are yelling obscenities and hurling insults at the enemy; taking great joy in this and feeling like they have the upper hand. These Asians despised the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regular soldiers, and fought ferociously without a sign of fear – even at these odds.
Helicopters are not able to land to retrieve the wounded and ammunition had to be dropped from speeding Hueys as they flew overhead. Unfortunately, some crates landed outside of their perimeter and had to be retrieved in order for them to have any chance of survival. I found myself intrigued a few times while reading the story, especially when discussing the “Bodes” and their customs. Seems that each of them carried a small Buddha figurine to protect them. Then later, when it appeared they may be overrun, these you men placed the Buddha figurines in their mouths and continued the fight. This gave them some comfort in knowing that if they died, their “God” would take care of them. There was also a time during the fighting when one of the “Bodes” in his team turned to Donahue and said with a smile, “Don’t worry Donahue, if you die, I eat your heart.” This also caught the author off guard and when he responded that he didn’t want him to do this, the “bode” was hurt and dejected. The Bode explained that it was an honor to have somebody eat your heart – it will help in his travels through the afterlife. James then provided an explanation which seemed to appease and satisfy the youth.
Bac Si Donahue is eventually wounded himself, but continues to treat the injured Bodes; sewing one man’s face back together after it is ripped apart by shrapnel, and then to stop the bleeding, stuffed gauze into a bullet hole running from the roof of the man’s mouth to the top of his head. Accomplishing these feats with a steady hand even after losing much blood himself.
The battle continues to wage through the day – leaving scores of enemy soldiers littering the ground outside of the perimeter. The author has well developed characters – readers feel the sadness and loss when some of them are killed.
Will the Mike Force arrive in time to save the heroic group of survivors? How many more will die? You’ll have to buy the book to find out these answers. At the end, Mr. Donahue also provides an update and current status of many of the characters in this well-written story. This book is about only one day in the war, many of the men continued fighting for years before the war finally ends for them. Recommended read for anyone wanting to know more about the Mibile Guerrilla Forces in Vietnam.
Jerry Horton has a fantastic story to tell in his book, “The Shake ‘n Bake Sergeant”. The 1960’s was a turning point in our society – the Baby Boomer Generation was coming on full tilt to change the world. Values were changing rapidly. Long hair soon replaced the crew cut hair styles of the prior generation, rock music, drugs and public displays of free love became the norm. The older part of this generation still believed in wholesome family values, fighting communism, believing our politicians and promoting higher education. Early on, this author envisioned himself to be a professional engineer one day – he went to college and worked hard toward this degree, but unfortunately, quit after the first year due to a lack of funding. He soon found that jobs were scarce and the money not enough to sustain himself and pay for college too. He found the perfect solution: join the Army and then use the G.I. Bill to fund his education.
The Vietnam War had been going on for some time and Jerry believed it would be over by the time he finished initial training. He always considered himself a leader and he was soon recommended by his instructors to enroll in The NCO Academy – Shake ‘n Bake University. After successfully completing training, he was promoted to an E-5 Sergeant and sent to Vietnam. Infantry soldiers were still the minority in the war zone – only one of every thirty went to fight in the jungles while the other twenty-nine were in a supporting role. He was confident that with these odds, he wouldn’t have to hump the boonies. Unfortunately, the odds didn’t favor Jerry and he was the “One” in thirty.
Jerry was sent to the Army’s 4th Division, operating in the central highlands near the Vietnam border with Cambodia. This area was a key funnel for enemy and supply infiltration from the Ho Chi Minh trail into Vietnam. The new sergeant soon earned the respect of his squad while patrolling through the jungles and mountains of this enemy stronghold. Most patrols were primarily recon missions to either find or monitor the enemy’s movement. The Battalion officers used these soldiers as pawns – pushing them to exhaustion in their search for the enemy. The jungles were triple canopy and most difficult to hump through. The NVA had decades to prepare their defenses and encampments – all camouflaged perfectly – undetectable much of the time.
A Shake ‘n Bake Sergeant was trained to lead soldiers into battle. They were also the most sought out by the enemy for extermination. The author’s descriptions of these patrols and humps through the jungles, soldiers carrying everything they owned on their backs, were typical of most infantry units. These soldiers struggled with fatigue, hunger, thirst, insects and even a tiger and other large cats through the pitch black darkness. Jerry is soon promoted to platoon sergeant and is now responsible for 25+ soldiers. He was a good leader and led his men by example. His men trusted and respected the buck sergeant.
Jerry is in Vietnam for four months when the higher ups order the company to locate a suspected enemy force. Instead of small squad or platoon sized patrols, the company operated as a single unit. Unbeknownst to the men, they had stumbled into a well camouflaged and fortified basecamp. The NVA had expected them and placed snipers high in the trees – tying them in place. The enemy allowed the first two platoons to pass by unmolested before springing the ambush. The company was split in half, pinned down and completely surrounded by 1,000 plus enemy soldiers, many of them from an elite force of Chinese Nung soldiers of the 66th Regiment. This real estate housed the enemy Division headquarters and they were not willing to give it up. The battles were intense and it appears hopeless for the Americans. They run low on ammunition and water a couple of times during the 24 plus hours of fighting and are unable to land a helicopter for supplies and to evacuate the wounded. The trapped soldiers display courage, bravery and camaraderie as their ranks dwindle during the expected massacre. The reader is right there with the soldiers, ducking the flying lead and hoping for a miracle.
The author is severely wounded and spends months in a stateside hospital. He does survive the brutality and uses the GI Bill to pursue his Engineering degree after recuperating and getting out of the service. This book is exceptional and highly recommended. Congratulations Jerry – well done! Welcome Home!
Although this is a work of fiction, the story could very well have happened and none of us would have been the wiser.
Captain Jacob Walden, 24, had only been in Vietnam for a month when his plane is shot down in 1970. He ejects safely, only to be captured by farmers loyal to the enemy. The author chronicles Jacob’s 400-mile trek on foot through the jungles – northward toward Hanoi where he can be turned over to the proper authorities. Jakes entire world takes a flip upside down when his captors inform him that Vietnam is not at war with the United States, therefore, the Geneva Convention does not apply. Jake is not a POW, instead, he is judged a criminal and sentenced to prison.
Thus began his daily ritual of torture, starvation, inhumane treatment and isolation. Thinking his life could not get any worse, Jake soon discovers how wrong he is when a masochistic Russian Major takes over the interrogation and torture.
The author uses real events in his story such as the historic U.S. raid on the Son Tay prison camp to rescue seventy American prisoners – a location only 23 miles west of Hanoi, Jane Fonda’s infamous trip to the Hanoi Hilton Prison in North Vietnam, and the fall of the Russian empire.
Thirty-six years later, Capt Jacob Walden is officially pronounced dead by the United States government. A reporter and Jacob’s brother do not believe this to be true and set out on their own to find proof to the contrary. What they find instead is shocking! To tell anymore would be a spoiler – you’ll have to read this fine story on your own to see how it ends. Warning: you’ll stay up late into the night reading because you won’t be able to stop. Highly recommended! Great job Warren!
Retired Marine Sergeant Major Quick died at his cabin in a remote part of the Ozark Mountains – never knowing what had happened to his son, a confirmed POW in Laos during the Vietnam war. When the American POW’s were released in Hanoi after the war, his son and many other confirmed prisoners from Laos were not a part of that contingent of freed soldiers. It was reported that 213 POW’s were collected from various prison camps in Laos and were en route to Hanoi. The prisoners and guards, over three-hundred men in total, were following the Ho Chi Minh trail northward. However, just prior to reaching the gateway into North Vietnam, the entire group vanished. There were no survivors, evidence on the trails or documentation regarding the march and its outcome – 213 American families would never know what happened. So it was said…
After the Vietnam War ended, Sergeant Major Quick spent four years with the “Spooks” in South East Asia trying to solve the mystery of his missing son. He had heard rumors of existing evidence, and followed up on every lead. He created a log of his own during this time and recorded every tidbit of information – keeping it hidden and secret from the Spooks and others. After his death, this package and other pertinent information ended up in the hands of Marine Gunner Shake Davis. Warrant Officer Davis and Sergeant Major Quick served together in Vietnam and other hot spots during their careers. They were close friends, and it was Shake who held the Sergeant Major’s head in his arms – comforting the older man until his heart finally stopped and he took a last breath. The Warrant Officer was contemplating retirement and was ready to sign the papers when these secret documents arrived. In order for him to carry on, Shake had to find a way back to Vietnam with a good enough cover – one that would enable him to conduct his clandestine investigation behind the scenes. The perfect opportunity came up when the Marine Corps asked Shake to postpone his retirement and join up with a MIA delegation in Vietnam. This was also a front for the real reason the government was sending him there. Shake Davis was tasked with spying on Vietnamese military strength, tactics and weapons in addition to those discussions about MIA’s. Could he do this and conduct his private investigation about the Laos disappearances at the same time?
Shake Davis found Vietnam much different from how he remembered it during the war. Most of the people encountered were not even born when the war was fought and did not show any resentment for the Americans. It was a different story with the older generation. There were many secrets, ex-soldiers harbored guilt and wanted retribution, there were indeed survivors of the Laos March and evidence of what had happened was also available and hidden in a secret place. However, people are now dying and Shake Davis is in the cross-hairs of assassins; somebody was going to great lengths in wanting to keep the Laos file a secret.
This book is a cloak and dagger thriller with many twists and turns. Shake eventually finds himself at the outer walls of Hue and the Imperial Palace. The familiarity of these sights forces him to relive the battles he fought here during the 1968 Tet offensive. When his mind stops the movie, he realizes that he is standing in the exact place where his foxhole had been some forty-two years earlier. In fact, he even meets a former NVA soldier, who turns out to be the one who fought Shake, hand to hand, in this very spot.
The truth is out there! Can Warrant Officer Davis find it? Will the US and Vietnamese governments try to stop him? Will he escape the assassins? Will there be closure? This is a stay up late at night book – well worth the reader having to drag his ass the next day. Highly recommended. Well done Dale!
By John C. Hall
I found myself engulfed in this memoir of Don Hall. I was taken in right from the beginning when Don and his younger brother, Mike, were dropped off by his drunken father at a Catholic orphanage. I, too was brought up in Catholic schools, served as an altar boy, and was sometimes “terrorized” by the nuns. I found the beginning of Don’s story intriguing because I never knew anyone who lived in an orphanage. When I was young and delivered newspapers, I had a couple of “youth homes” on my route; one was for girls only and the other for boys. When coming in contact with residents, they were always cheerful and carefree. So I was shocked to learn how these young boys were treated.
There were many times that I laughed during this portion of the book, especially when Don or his brother described their feelings or surrounding events; not aware of Catholicism, they initially thought the nuns were “witches” and killing kids, shrinking them and then hanging them on pieces of wood throughout the home (crucifixes). Many of his anecdotes relating to church, religion, and his environment were comical at first. It didn’t take long for the nuns to bully the kids, at times, outright punching them in the face and drawing blood. Punishment was to be locked up in the second floor linen closet for hours at a time. Eventually, Don grows up and is able to fight back – putting the meanest nun in a headlock and flipping her over his back in retaliation for beating his younger brother.
Don eventually drops out of school and joins the Army. His tour of duty starts out with the infantry – humping endlessly through the bush and being led by incompetent leaders. He found his way out of this mess by volunteering for the LRRP unit, acceptance was not automatic and Don had to successfully complete a very regimented training course. Failure to do so would result in his returning to the infantry units – this was all the motivation he needed.
I am also a former Army Grunt and could relate to many of Don’s experience with “The Herd”. However, while reading of Don’s experiences in the LRRP units, I realized, early on in the book that I was going to gain an education about these special soldiers; and I did! I have great respect for these men and for how they operate – often outnumbered, scores of enemy soldiers standing only several feet away…this takes a special kind of person.
Don also finds that all leaders are not carved from the same tree. His first CO in the LRRP unit was like a father figure and always watched over his men…doing everything in their best interest. After he leaves, the new CO’s indifference and often drunken state causes the teams in the field to be at great risk. He was more interested in body counts and glory than he was in following protocol that ensures the safety of those men in the bush. This attitude sometimes resulted in team injuries and death – something he would not admit was his fault. I can relate to Don’s feelings about his superiors and have found officers I’ve served with to fall out of the same good and bad barrels.
“I served” is a must read novel. Don and his wife, Annette, have conceived a masterpiece – one that leaves me with a sense of awe, admiration and thankfulness for those volunteers, whose actions and bravery saved the lives of many grunts in the jungles of Vietnam. Thank you for your service and Welcome Home Brother!
Our Turn to Serve: An Army Veteran’s Memoir of the Vietnam War is a first person narrative which chronicles the author’s “old” experiences in college, through the military and into his post service years. Although this memoir is short, the author has succeeded in presenting an interesting and entertaining story that encompasses those significant memories that will never be forgotten. The author has stated in this tome that when two people standing side by side witness the same event, their accounts will be strikingly different. Our Turn to Serve is about his main accomplishments during the late sixties – those he can still remember – a memoir to share primarily with his family and anybody else interested in the Vietnam experience.
As a Vietnam Veteran myself, when reading about Dave’s experiences in both basic training and AIT, I found myself smiling, remembering similar experiences myself. It’s almost like everyone responsible for the training of these new recruits were following an identical script over the years.
Dave makes a comment when first stepping out of the plane after arriving in Vietnam. The identical comment is made by most all the authors of Vietnam War books: “…when I stepped into the midday sun, I could not believe the immediate impact of the oppressive high heat and humidity…never before have I experienced anything like my welcome to Vietnam.” Dave was assigned to the infamous 7th Cavalry, First Cavalry Division – General Custer’s outfit during the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the same unit depicted in the movie, “We were Soldiers once.”
As a former infantry soldier myself, I could relate to many of the author’s shared experiences and hardships. The author also focuses upon the strong bond and “brotherhood” that develops between soldiers when serving together. To this day, he continues to feel guilty after losing a close friend. The author had to leave the bush for an emergency dental appointment. He’d only been gone for a day, but during his absence, his unit came in contact with the enemy and suffered casualties; one of them was his friend. Would it have made any difference if he had stayed behind on that very day? Could he personally have prevented his death? There are many more soldiers today carrying the same burden forty years later.
Dave also shares many of the events during his five day R&R to Hong Kong. In one situation, he ended up having to purchase several “Hong Kong Tea’s”, which is really watered down coke in a shot glass. This formality seemed to be common place throughout Asia where the “ladies of the night” always have to drink five of these to loosen up – mama-son always finds a way to get that extra $20 from GI’s – whether they accept her offer or not.
Finally surviving his year-long tour, Dave returned home and quickly changed into civilian clothes after meeting his family at the airport. He wasn’t ashamed of his uniform, but it appears that the respect he was anticipating upon his arrival home was replaced by disapproval.
Our Turn to Serve is also a story of duty and service! The most important lesson learned by the author when returning from Vietnam: “you realize how fragile and precious life really is when you’ve seen so much death and mayhem around you.” Many war veterans write about action they saw, but there is a lot more to remember than just action. There were friends, frustrations, mistakes, the occasional laughs, the sadness, losses and fear. This is what Dave focuses on in his story.
Highly recommended for anyone seeking a short story to learn more about what these young men had to endure for twelve months. David’s descriptions are right on!
Arthur Wiknik’s story touched upon many of the memories I have about my own tour as a grunt in Vietnam. I do recall that after Basic Training and AIT, many of us sought out additional training in order to delay our deployment to Vietnam; Arthur coins it best, “…maybe the war will be over after all this training and I won’t have to go.” Many of us draftees signed up for Leadership Preparation Course, NCO (Shake ‘n Bake) training, and jump school to shorten the potential time left in the military. However, the war hadn’t ended and our destiny was fulfilled.
Nam Sense takes the reader through many adventures during Arthur’s year long tour with the 101st Airborne. Hamburger Hill, A Shau Valley, Firebase Riptide, et al, were very dangerous places, grunts counted on the seasoned veterans to get them through patrols; most were only Spec 4’s and PFC’s, but they knew their stuff. When Cherry Officers arrived, not all were like Aurthur’s leader, who insisted on leading them all to glory to make a name for himself and catapult his career. Nam Sense or “Intuition” saved many lives during the war – so did common sense. When officers chose to ignore this wisdom, troops suffered the consequences, some were killed. In his story, Arthur continues to be punished because of his continued criticism of the new Lieutenant, who does not want to pay attention to “Nam Sense” and instead pushes his men for his individual glory. Fragging is also touched upon and it is easy to see why somebody would want to kill their superior. During my tour,I had similar experiences with Cherry Second Lieutenants; one was seriously wounded after a month and the other “saw the light” after a few days and became more of a team member. However, most officers I served with respected the grunts and listened to their opinions.
As a Cherry NCO arriving in Vietnam, Arthur knew better than to push his rank and worked hard to be accepted by his fellow soldiers. Part of his strategy was to get businesses in the U.S. to send samples of most anything edible sent to Vietnam to share with his men. They also learned to respect him because of his views and persistence in standing up for the men.
Arthur does have a knack for “ghosting”, which he explains in the book. The time quickly adds up and reduces the amount of time he had to spend in the bush on patrol. Mr. Wiknik does have a sense of humor and I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions. Nam Sense is worth reading and offers the reader an opportunity to witness the insane things that occur in war.
I ended up purchasing a copy of Blood Trails from Amazon.UK because I wanted to establish an account on that side of the world. But I couldn’t wait for it to arrive, so I purchased a Kindle e-book version too and began reading it immediately. Like Chris, I also kept a diary when in Vietnam and referred to it when writing my own novel.
I truly loved Blood Trails and could relate to many of the anecdotes within the story. My outfit, the 25th Division, also patrolled around Tay Ninh and Cambodia and I can recall many of those things described in the book. Some reviewers have posted that Blood Trails was just another grunt story. It is, but there are also 3.5 million Vietnam war stories out there – some of us have chosen to write about them. Although many of the books are the same in the sense of writing about the suffering of patrolling and sleeping in the bug infested jungles, every one of them is unique and personal. I have read many Vietnam novels as well, but I always find them educational and I learn from them. I think it is important for readers who may have known teenagers that went to war in Vietnam, to read books like Blood Trails to better understand why these warriors were so different upon their return. War is hell and they lived there.
Of the 3.5 million troops that eventually served in Vietnam, only 10% of them were assigned to the Infantry. These were the ground pounders that actually humped through the jungles, avoided booby traps, stumbled into fortified enemy positions, and actually did the face to face fighting. This is not meant to belittle the other 90%, because without their support, the infantry soldiers would not have survived. It should also be noted that the firebases and base camps were sometimes more dangerous than in the jungle, especially when they were mortared, rocketed and assaulted by the enemy. So each story is unique and written from a different perspective.
When reading these different stories, I find myself drawn into it as if I am right there with them in the story. I can feel their fear, anticipation, awe, suspense and find myself relieved when the patrol finally returns to safety.
Blood Trails deserves five stars and will be placed in the top twenty of my all-time best books about the war. It is highly recommended and should be read by those interested in joining the service or wanting to know what life in the jungle was really like.
Great job Chris! Welcome Home Brother!
Nu takes place during the Vietnam war, but it is not a war story. James Flannery is a school teacher seeking work, and the area around An Khe, in the central highlands, came highly recommended. He sought out a teacher, who was working with children in a very remote village in the mountains. After finding Nu, he is introduced to her methods of teaching, which are truly unique. He decides to join up with Nu, instead of working with the French Catholic school at the base of the mountain, and learns himself while teaching others.
Mr. Flannery lived and taught in this remote village, high in the mountains, for two years. People in the village have lived there for most of their lives and have never ventured too far away from home; in fact, travel was limited to how far a person could move by foot. These people were dirt-poor, and have never had electricity, refrigerators, televisions, plumbing, toilets, hot water or any other seemingly modern day conveniences. There were no newspapers and “news” was communicated verbally from person to person.
When reading Nu, I was blown away by the simplicity of the village and the strong values and cultures shared by the community. They were a very proud group where stature among the villagers is looked upon favorably. They will share the last bit of food with total strangers and will offer a roof over their head without expecting anything in return. Although the war is going on all around them, they don’t care and aren’t bothered by either side. They are left alone and survive, unmolested, on their own.
Readers will be treated to a whole new way of life as seen through the eyes of the author. James does an excellent job in showing us how life differs from that which we normally take for granted. It is a very difficult life living up in these mountains, but while reading Nu, I would have loved to be there with them. Finally, the Communist Viet Cong learn about this new American teacher and what he is doing. They set out to find him and kill him.
Nu gets five stars and is highly recommended. Buy this book and visit this brave new world! It will open your eyes!
Acceptable Loss is an awesome story!! I especially liked reading about the secret insertions into “no man’s land” as the five-man LRRP teams operated without any support. It is edge of your seat suspense when these small groups are unknowingly trapped between large enemy forces and have to make their way to the pick-up point, precisely on time, or they will be left behind! After several of these encounters, I can see why Mr. Jorgenson transferred to the Blues. However, it wasn’t any easier there as these volunteers knew they were headed for battle when the call came for help.
I am also a Vietnam Infantry veteran and author, and can relate to those instances when the author walked point, as I did for much of my tour; much of it hit home. There is nothing glorified about war, and Kregg was able to show this all through his novel. I truly enjoyed his story. It was very easy to read, and made me feel like I was right there beside him; heart pounding and wondering if we were going to survive. Acceptable loss kept me up a little longer that I should have on some nights, but I found myself yearning for it upon my return home the next evening.
Acceptable Loss deserves five stars and a place within the top twenty of my all time best Vietnam novels. Great job Kregg!
Fred Downs does an excellent job at depicting the day-to-day life of infantry soldiers in the Vietnam War. Told through the eyes of a Platoon Leader/Second Lieutenant, we see the war from a different perspective. Using a journal approach, the author leads his platoon – alternating between their tedious duty of protecting bridges to the difficult humps through the jungle on search and destroy missions. The battles are descriptive and you are saddened when one of the well-developed characters is killed or wounded. Although the book only covers six months of the author’s tour, he touched upon just about everything that a young infantry soldier would encounter: mines, booby traps, ambushes, fragging, heat, monsoon rains, air assaults, burning down hootches, tunnel complexes, digging up graves, etc.
The story is fast moving and easy to read. As a Vietnam Infantry vet, I have read many memoirs and stories about the war, and find myself always comparing my experiences with those described in the book I’m reading. There are three and a half million different stories that can be told about the war; each is unique in its own way. By reading Killing Zone, Mr. Downs brings the reader right into the fold – up close and personal – to learn and experience his war firsthand.
Killing Zone deserves a five star rating and is highly recommended!
As a Vietnam Infantry veteran, I have always held the chopper pilots in the highest regard for always being there when needed. Without them, we would not have survived. I had jumped from choppers into hot LZ’s, finding the deepest depression or fattest tree for protection before returning fire – pucker factor ten-thousand! These pilots were relentless and continued to ferry and land reinforcements with not much protection for themselves. They flew their machines through steady streams of gunfire, and yet,they continued as if they were invincible. Dust off’s, ash and trash runs, troop deployments and evacuations and over-head support were all part of their everyday job.
Mr Joyce does a wonderful job with this well-told story and offers the reader an in-depth look at the everyday life of these flying warriors, which isn’t, by the way, a nine to five job. The book follows Mr. Joyce from the first day he volunteers to fly planes in college, through his fixed wing flight training and later reassignment to a helicopter squadron, and then during his tour in Vietnam. The author also has a fantastic sense of humor that sometimes catches you off-guard and will make you laugh out loud. After reading Pucker Factor 10, I have bumped up these pilots a couple of notches on my high esteem list. I also have a much better understanding of what these sky warriors had to endure in order to survive…sadly, many did not!
Five stars and highly recommended!
Dieter’s story of survival in the jungles of Laos was a gripping tale to say the least. As a former Army Vietnam veteran myself, I was intrigued by all the goings-on of an aircraft carrier and have to admit that while reading Bruce Henderson’s story of Dieter Dengler, I found the book to be an enjoyable learning experience for me. I was especially taken back when there was mention about a fellow pilot of Dieter’s, Donald Woloczak, from Alpena, Michigan and how he became MIA during the war. You see, I have been wearing a bronze POW bracelet of Donald Woloczak for the last thirty years, and the information shared by the author was new and seemed to fill in the gaps.
I, too, was born in Germany, but six years after the end of WWII. However, I’ve seen the destruction of war and have heard similar war survival stories from my family in the old country – the experience matures you quickly.
As for the living conditions and treatment of Dieter and others during their captivity is beyond anything human. But one must do whatever is necessary in order to survive. The chase left me on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. The scene of Dieter and his fellow POW running into the villager took my breath away. It was great that his escape from Laos was successful, but it appears that he could not escape from the tormenting in his head. Great job Bruce, and thank you for the education! Five Stars for Hero Found.
Jeffrey Miller penned a fantastic novel about a loving family’s quest to learn more about Robert “Bobby” Washkowiak, who was listed as MIA during the Korean Conflict. The story first introduces us to Bobby and his closest friends from advanced military training, Harold and Walter, who have all arrived together in Korea during the fall of 1950. The U.N. troops had the North Koreans on the run and retreating to the North. Victory was eminent and it was rumored that the American troops would be home for Christmas.
We are then introduced to Bobby’s wife, Mary and their young son, Ronnie via the many letters written home from the war. Bobby was deeply in love with this woman and wanted her not to worry about him while he was fighting this war. It would soon be over, he’d write, and they would all be together again. In fact, he promised to return home. Then the Chinese enter the war and it is the U.N. troops that are retreating. Human waves of Chinese soldiers attack and penetrate defensive perimeters, forcing the American soldiers and those of other nations to hastily retreat south in an attempt to survive the onslaught. Only to be led through a gauntlet of enemy soldiers where many soldiers did not make it through to safety.
Several decades later, we find that Ronnie had survived his own war in Vietnam and later married and had a son of his own, Michael. Both men come upon a footlocker that had been stashed in the attic and long forgotten in Mary’s former home. Inside, they find a treasure trove of letters, pictures and other memorabilia that had been sent home from Bobby to his wife while fighting in the forgotten war. Their mother and grandmother had saved everything! Michael takes it upon himself to study the Korean conflict and battles, reading and re-reading his grandfather’s letters in an attempt to trace his route through time. He was surprised to find so many similarities between his grandfather’s letters home and the stories of others. He was finding that he could soon predict what the next letter might say.
Jeff does an excellent job taking the reader though a time machine, back and forth between current day and then moving back to spend some time with Bobby and his close friends in 1950 and 1951. The author also had a knack for knowing when to switch gears and move to a different time. In fact, it was something like this that caused me to stay up much later than I should have so I can go back in time and find out what happened next. Great job Jeffrey!
War Remains is a highly recommended read; it’s not only a war novel, but a story of love, hope and honor. Bobby made a promise to return home to his wife and family. Does he live up to it? Read the book and find out.
I was absolutely swept away by John Heinz’ book, FNG, to the point where I am here today still trying to close my mouth; my jaw dropped suddenly after completing the final chapter of his novel. Yes, the ending is quite a surprise! Originally, my main reason for purchasing FNG was to compare it with my own, Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel. Both refer to newly arrived soldiers in Vietnam and I wanted to read John’s version.
I was sucked into the story from the very beginning and found myself intrigued by the main character (Dwight – FNG Medic) and his ability to “feel” the enemy. At first, I thought that his weapon, GG, was magical, instead, I found that he, himself, had a special gift.
The scenes in the story are eloquently written and very detailed and descriptive. In fact, this is the first Vietnam War Novel that I’ve read to have such explicit, steamy and descriptive sexual content to describe the encounters between the Dwight and his CIA lady friend. It will take your breath away!
Of course this is still a war story about a special medic that leads a special platoon to glory in Vietnam. Dwight is a hero and almost on a first name basis with the division general. He’d also had dinner with General Westmoreland and staff, and was looking forward to meeting the President of the United States in the very near future. John’s description of Dwight flying the O-38 bird dog after the pilot had been killed had to have come from personal experience; otherwise the story would not have flowed as fluently as it did.
FNG is a wild ride and like the other reviewers have stated before me, this book is difficult to put down once you start it. Highly recommended. Great job Mr. Heinz!
Daniel, by Keith Yocum, is one of the most unique books that I’ve ever read about the Vietnam War. The story captivates you right from the start and keeps you guessing about this new visitor. For most of the book, I thought Daniel to be either a ghost or an Archangel with a mission to protect this outpost from being overrun by enemy soldiers. Yes, it is late in the war and many U.S. troops had already left the country, those remaining were simply in a defensive posture awaiting their turn – nobody wanted to be the last soldier killed in Vietnam.
The story is riveting and the reader can’t read fast enough to see what will happen next. I thoroughly enjoyed this story! Keith did a wonderful job at describing those last days on Firebase Martha; the boredom, dust, loneliness and fear. I especially enjoyed reading about the main character’s first encounter with the visitor in the middle of the night. The fear experienced in a situation like this can be paralyzing to the young soldier in the bunker. In the dark of night, the shadows played tricks on you; unnecessary firing at imagined enemy soldiers attacking was always frowned upon. However, Keith describes the fear and emotions perfectly – something real is out there…it is walking directly toward you…you are mystified by the appearance…afraid…this can’t be happening!
Daniel is a wonderful story…the last chapter left me breathless…rejoicing finally when it was all over. A great read and highly recommended!
I have to admit that when reading books, I am usually lucky enough to find at least one overlooked typo someplace in the book. In John Peterson’s book, A Hard Place, I found my first one only a couple of pages into the book and then continued to find additional errors as I continued to read. They appeared randomly and seemed deliberate, as if they were intended to be in the script so I accepted that and moved on. The story, itself, was a wonderful read! On a few nights, I found myself staying up late into the to see how this group of soldiers were going to get out of the pickle they found themselves in. It was gritty, very descriptive and made me feel like I was right there with the author and his team.
Halfway through the book, I chose to visit the review section on Amazon – something I did not do before purchasing the book. The description was enough to draw me in. It was disappointing to see so many reviews criticize the author and challenge the authenticity of many things in the book, including the typos and grammar errors. I soon came to a post by the author himself who wrote to address those critics. The book was a fictional Vietnam War story and the errors within the book were there on purpose. I thought he gave a good rebuttal, it also allowed me to look at this novel in a different perspective. The story was still an adventure and could not have been told this way without the author having been in Vietnam himself. Too many things happened during the story or were said in dialogue that could not have been conjured up by a lay person. Were many of the experiences in the story realistic? Hell yes! Did they really happen? Who cares, it was a great read and that’s why the author classified it as fiction!
When I returned to A Hard Place, I often found myself chuckling when encountering the typo’s and grammar errors, it added a new flair to the story and made it more enjoyable than it already was.
Karl did a wonderful job in writing Matterhorn. As a Vietnam infantry vet myself, it was easy for me to relate to many of the hardships experienced by the Marines in this story. I also remember those constant never-ending humps through the jungle – at times for days on end and sometimes without sufficient food or water. The story moved easily and I found myself reading way late into the night because I wasn’t able to put my Kindle down. Of course I complained in the morning and then did the same thing again that very night. Karl did an excellent job in developing his characters and bringing the reader into his platoon itself; I was extremely saddened when many were lost.Yesterday, my monthly Vietnam Veteran Magazine arrived and I was surprised to find an article about Matterhorn and a short interview with Karl about his book. All along, I had been looking at the main character, Lt. Mellas and assumed he was the author’s alter ego in the story. Karl pointed out during the interview that he was not Lt. Mellas, but another Lieutenant in the company.He also mentioned that it took over thirty years to finally complete and publish Matterhorn. My own novel, Cherries – a Vietnam War novel, took just as long to complete with identical results. I remember the huge piles of retyped pages, depleted carbon paper and typewriter ribbons that were stored in the corner of my office – thank goodness for computers today!
Matterhorn is a wonderful story, I highly recommend it, and should be a must-read for every want-to-be soldier coming out of high school.
Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part
By William Perterson
Nerves Of Steel, February 23, 2012
I finished your book last night. It was a wonderful story and I learned a few things by reading it…did not know the gooks had helicopters that they ferried soldiers around. I can relate also to your story about meeting the Vietnamese waitress in DC and what the results were. I worked for an automotive company when they hired a new Quality Manager; a young Vietnamese female. We hit it off and she took me to Vietnamese restaurants during lunch and introduced me to the various dishes. She, too, was born in Saigon and had no recollection of the war…she was only 34. She recognized some of the places I’d been to and also informed me that there is no such word as “Dinky Dau” in the Vietnamese language. I spent the next six months with this woman – she had a fiery personality and employees often referred to her as the Dragon Lady.
Your job there was pure hell compared to what us infantry type had to do. I was overwhelmed when reading about what you had to accomplish on a daily basis. Of course in my case when in firefight, I could hide behind a tree or large rock – you guys just flew right into the hornets nest with very little protection (chicken plate only) – that took nerves of steel!!!
As I told you when we first emailed each other that us grunts always held the chopper crews in the highest regard and with the utmost respect. Now after reading your book and visualizing what you did first hand, I think if we were ever privy to some of those things you shared in the book, then the grunts would surely have referred to all of you as “White Robe Six”. I was also amazed by how much we had in common – when you read my novel you’ll be able to say the same.
Thank you again for being there for us and for taking those unnecessary risks to save our asses on the ground. I am certain that if not for you guys, the names on the black granite wall in DC would have twice as many names. I am very proud to have met you Bill and wish you well. Welcome home brother!