Escaping Death’s Sting by Joel Lee Russell
Eternity Base (The Green Beret Series) by Bob Mayer
Facing the Dragon by Philip Derrick
Fire Dream by Franklin Allen Leib
Flashing Saber: Three Years in Vietnam by Matthew Brennan
FNG by John Heinz
Forgotten by Kent White
Forgotten Soldiers What Happened to Jacob Walden by Warren Martin
Gone to Graveyards by Jack Watson
Goodbye Junie Moon by June Collins
Goodbye, My Darling; Hello, Vietnam by Michael Lazares
Guts N’ Gunships by Mark Garrison
Hamfist Down!:by G.E. Nolly
Hamfist Over The Trail: by G.E. Nolly
Hero Found: The Greatest POW Escape of the Vietnam War by Bruce Henderson
Highest Traditions: Memories Of War by Tony Lazzarini
Honorable Intentions: by Russell Jones
Hope in Hungnam by David Watts Jr.
How Can You Mend This Purple Heart by T.L. Gould
Escaping Death’s Sting
By Joel Lee Russell
A Combat Marine’s Life Story, 2011
I am unable to locate my original review of Joel’s fine tome, but I did read it in 2011. This is a powerful book that begins when Joel is a youngster. His childhood wasn’t the best and he got his education from the school of hard knocks…growing up catholic, it seems that God had forsaken him. This isn’t a religious book, but there are overtones throughout.
It is interesting to see how Mr. Russell deals with life’s while growing up and how it shape’s him to be a Marine. The story continues through basic training – there are incidents that are funny and make you laugh out loud, but readers get a good look into what these young men have to endure in order to become “One of the few…”.
After Marine Boot training, Joel is sent to Vietnam to fight in the unpopular war. After only three weeks, he is killing people and watching friends get killed. In this particular battle to retake Fox Ridge, 250 soldiers enter the fight and four hours later only 79 have survived. Joel carried injured and dead soldiers to choppers for withdrawal – all along in a stupor and questioning both his sanity and faith.
This book will show you the long term effect of that war. It took a deal with God in a rice paddy for Joel to make it through with his sanity. The Marine asks God to take him quick if he is going to take him. And if HE allowed him to survive his thirteen-month long tour, Joel promised to do HIS work. Soldiers in every conflict have been known to make the same pact with their Maker when in harms way and in danger of losing their lives. Joel survives and follows through with his promise. The story continues after the completion of Joel’s military obligation and we get an up close and personal look at what PTSD is like.
Outstanding job! Welcome home and good luck!
Eternity Base (The Green Beret Series)
By Bob Mayer
Kill to keep secrets!, September 25, 2013
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!
Facing the Dragon
by Philip Derrick
Action taking place on every page
I thoroughly enjoyed reading, “Facing the Dragon” by Philip Derrick. The author is extremely gifted at bringing the readers into the story and making us feel like we are standing right there with the characters in that particular scene. The protagonist is a 15-year old high-school student who is mischievous and continuously rebels against school authorities and their rules which results in his suspension. It’s becoming so bad, his father isn’t even speaking to him anymore. Yet, they all embark on a family vacation to Disneyland. En route, they pick-up a military hitchhiker and stop to tour the caverns in Arizona where the youngster witnesses a mass murder. This sets up the storyline for the protagonist to follow the murderer, a US soldier who is on his way to Vietnam, seeking vengeance and making him pay for what he did.
The teenager impersonates a soldier and successfully makes his way to Vietnam. The new “cherry” is then assigned to the 101st Airborne as an infantry soldier, readers follow him during all his trials and tribulations in seeking out the enemy in the jungles and hills of Vietnam and through his personal obstacles that he must overcome. Although he has absolutely no military training, he is able to keep up with the best of them. The dilemma’s he faces during his tour are no different than what battle-hardened soldiers experienced during their wartime. This young soldier grows before our eyes, is awarded medals for bravery, a purple heart, and achieves the rank of sergeant before the end of his year. There are two different stories actually taking place – the other is at the end of World War II when the American soldiers liberate the German concentration camp at Dakau; the author does a wonderful job and brings them both together at the end.
“Nickels” loses colleagues along the way, the battles and jungle experience descriptions are spot on where only actual experience guided the author’s pen as there was very little “make-believe”. The concept of a 15-year old making it all the way to Vietnam is not far-fetched and actually happened; a 15-year old forged a document and made it through Marine training and into the war – he ended up being the youngest soldier killed during that war.
I found no errors in punctuation or text and very little profanity which is a sign of good editing…something that many self-published authors fail to do to save money – and it shows in their writing. This story is a real page-turner and extremely difficult to put down once you get into it.
Hats off to Philip Derrick! Well done! Thank you for your service and sacrifice and Welcome Home! I highly recommend this ‘mystery’ story to all – VN veteran or not.
by Franklin Allen Leib
An Engaging Story
I have read many books about the Vietnam War, and don’t know how I overlooked this book which was written almost 30-years ago? Fire Dream is a story that engulfs readers in an emotional roller coaster ride. The story begins during SERE training, where it’s difficult to differentiate between reality and training…it’s so real! Later, many of the characters participating in this training cross paths again in Vietnam.
The battles are so realistic that breaks from reading will be necessary to get through it. I found myself invested in the main characters who came together in Vietnam and shared in their many experiences as if I were right there with them. Almost feeling like I knew them personally, I was deeply saddened when they were injured. A deep bond developed between these men…one that is very natural and duplicated throughout the many units in the war zone. I was also deeply moved when the LT visited Simon in LA…their sharing of a common love, pride and remembrance had no boundaries.
I highly recommend Fire Dream to anyone having experienced the camaraderie of military service in a war zone. Reading it will awaken many emotions and memories from those days long ago.
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 fiancé 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)!
By John Heinz
FNG – Who would have realized?, September 20, 2010
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!
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!
Forgotten Soldiers What Happened to Jacob Walden
By Warren Martin
Forgotten Soldiers – Fiction?? I wonder…, April 23, 2012
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!
Gone to Graveyards
by Jack Watson
Well worth the read
I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Gone to Graveyards” by Jack Watson. Although classified as fiction, the story rang true from every point and read like an actual true experience. The protagonist in this story is a new 2nd Lieutenant who takes over a platoon of grunts in the highlands of Vietnam. The men liked their former leader who went home a couple of months earlier and have been led by a cranky E6 sergeant, who doesn’t go out of his way to help the new leader when he takes over. Sean must learn on his own and soon has cryptic visits and gets advice from ghosts (leaders in the past) to help him gain the trust of his men. It seems like their missions continue non-stop over the same area while looking for an elusive enemy mortar crew.
This leader is not out for self-glorification like some of his officer peers and continues to lead the men in an honest and fulfilling way. He checks into their personnel files and learns about their strenghts and weaknesses then uses the information to the benefit of the platoon as a whole. One of the first things the new leader is burdened with the task of dealing with a black soldier who goes out of his way to make things difficult for the Lt. and others. Everybody else in the company is aware of him, but nobody has taken action yet.
The book is difficult to put down as readers are held in suspense as to what will happen next. The LT develops a love interest with a nurse after he is wounded in battle which is on and off again during his tour. I did dislike some of the other leaders and peers – especially Lt. Avery, and the new captain. Other characters were likable, especially the Lt’s RTO, Cisco, whose witticism caused me to laugh out loud on occasion. The last few chapters occur during the onset of the 1968 Tet offensive and it is doubtful that any of the characters will survive the upcoming battle.
I highly recommend this book to those who want to learn more about the Vietnam War and the experiences of Army grunts during their day-to-day endless patrols in this wet, mountainous, bug infested third world country.
Goodbye Junie Moon
By June Collins
Educational read, November 15, 2013
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 naïve 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!
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!
Guts N’ Gunships
by: Mark Garrison
I thoroughly enjoyed “Guts N’ Gunships by Mr. Mark Garrison. The story begins with the author volunteering for the draft in 1968 and signing up for helicopter training. The author takes us through his training, flight school and then on to Vietnam. One thing I enjoyed was that the author has a flare for entertaining as much of his writing is filled with witticism that will make readers smile. War is also funny, especially in the antics these soldiers pull on one another. Although chopper pilots are a special breed of heroes, us grunts held them all in high esteem for they were our saviors and came whenever called. Without them, food, water, ammo, extraction, medivac and fire support would not be there and many more soldiers would have died.
Mark’s first mission was a baptism of fire, and even he could not understand the “coolness” and patience portrayed by these chopper drivers as they flew through a hail of enemy bullets to land. Soon, finding that he, too, would become a skilled and professional pilot.
Mr. Garrison stays away from politics but admits that he will continue to fly and fight the enemy as long as it will help young American Soldiers survive and return home.
It’s understandable that the pilots work extreme hours and then still get special night projects which results in their getting little sleep, but the war must go on and there are only so many officers to go around. However, on those nights when they didn’t fly, it seems that all of them dabbled with booze to erase the tension of the day and be able to sleep at night. It’s easy to see the camaraderie developed by this special group of soldiers and the bond that remains even after returning home.
If you are looking for a shoot-em-up type of book, then Guts N’ Gunships is not for you. If you want to learn what these young men had to endure during training and war – both when it was dangerous and even the boring times – then jump on this one. Highly recommended!
Thank you Mr. Garrison! Welcome Home, Brother!
Hamfist Down!: Evasion, Survival and Combat in the Jungle (Hamfist Trilogy Part 2)
By G.E. Nolly
Fascinating Story, March 13, 2013
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!
Hamfist Over The Trail: The Air Combat Adventures of Hamilton “Hamfist” Hancock (Hamfist Trilogy Part 1)
By G.E. Nolly
Fascinating Story, March 1, 2013
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!
Hero Found: The Greatest POW Escape of the Vietnam War
By Bruce Henderson
Treated worse than dogs, January 5, 2011
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.
Highest Traditions: Memories Of War
By Tony Lazzarini
Memories of War, March 15, 2014
Tony 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!
Honorable Intentions: The odyssey of a American warrior who kept his eyes wide open and is willing to stand up and pull the veil away on what is really happening.
By Russell Jones
Mr. Jones – I Salute you!, May 2, 2013
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!
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!
How Can You Mend This Purple Heart
By T. L. Gould
Compelling Read, May 27, 2014
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.