Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes
Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part by William Peterson
Nam Sense: Surviving Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division by Arthur Wiknik, Jr.
Nu by James J. Flannery
… Of Bags, Counts and Nightmares by Ron Marks
One Month, 20 Days, and a Wake Up by Chuck Jackson
One More Sunrise by Curtis P. Gay
Our Sons, Our Heroes: Memories Shared by America’s Gold Star Mothers from the Vietnam War by Linda Jenkin Costanzo
Our Turn to Serve : An Army Veteran’s Memoir of the Vietnam War by David B. Simmons
Prairie Fire by Kent White
Prey for the Sniper by David Allin
Pucker Factor 10: Memoir of A U.S. Army Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam by James Joyce
Recondo: LRRPs in the 101st Airborne Kindle Edition by Larry Chambers
River Rats by Ralph Christopher
Rolling Thunder by Mark Berent
Rendezvous by Nelson DeMille
Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
by Karl Marlantes
Matterhorn, August 4, 2010
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 Peterson
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!
Nam Sense: Surviving Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division
By Arthur Wiknik, Jr.
Nam Sense – Grunts intuition, May 9, 2011
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.
By James J. Flannery
WOW – Not what I expected, January 8, 2011
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!
… Of Bags, Counts and Nightmares
By Ron Marks
Survival Accompanies Misery!, March 13, 2014
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!
One Month, 20 Days, and a Wake Up
by Chuck Jackson
USAF Pararescue Jumper
thoroughly enjoyed Chuck Jackson’s new story, “One Month, 20 Days, and a Wake-up – One man’s story of what it meant to be a PJ”. The Navy has their Seals, Army, Green Beret’s, and the Air Force,, Pararescue Jumpers (PJ). One thing to note is that they are all the best of the best and good at what they do.
In this story, readers follow the protagonist and his best friend as they go through basic training and then into Special Forces training to become PJ’s. The training is extremely difficult and those who graduate have a special skill – one that was greatly in need in the Vietnam War.
The friend is first to leave the country and later followed by the protagonist. Once there, he finds that the two of them will be separated during their tours.
The author’s recounting of the training and many rescue operations shared in the book makes readers thankful that people exist who are not daunted by the task at hand. In most instances, the PJ leaves the helicopter alone to seek out the missing pilots or crews of the downed aircraft. One story in particular left me breathless, where the jumper and missing pilot are left on the ground after enemy fire causes their transportation to vacate the area. To avoid spoiling the story, I will leave it there.
Other missions tell the story of rescues where those on the ground did not survive and the mission became one of recovery instead. Initially, I thought this book was about the author writing about his own experiences. He did let me know that the story is a work of fiction and the accounts are those based on the recounting from a close friend. Either way, I’ve a great respect for these men and their special skills. As a result, I feel comfortable knowing that soldiers like those portrayed in this story are keeping me safe.
Highly recommended for those wanting to learn more about what these special people have to go through to earn the burgundy beret and flash…and then, marvel at what it takes to stand between us citizens and those who want to harm us. Great job Mr. Jackson!
One More Sunrise:
by Curtis P. Gay
A Compelling Read
“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 Curtis 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!
Our Sons, Our Heroes: Memories Shared by America’s Gold Star Mothers from the Vietnam War
By: Linda Jenkin Costanzo
Ten Stars, March 28, 2014
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.
Our Turn to Serve : An Army Veteran’s Memoir of the Vietnam War
By David B. Simmons
A story of duty and service, September 25, 2011
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!
by Kent White
Educational and Engaging
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!
Prey for the Sniper: A Vietnam War Novel
By David Allin
t’s OK, but…
For some reason, Prey for the Sniper, took me a little while to get into. In this tale, there are three separate story lines that the author weaves together and finally clash together at the end. A coke girl and mama san sandwich lady by day and VC at night, Tranh, a teenage girl, has a special mission that could end the war. She is gung ho until her sniper ally kills one of the American soldiers she’d befriended and pined for and now wants her revenge, but not against the Americans.
Their mission is to take place on the side of Nui Ba Den (Black Virgin Mountain) during the Christmas holidays. They arrived late and missed their initial opportunity…one final chance remaining. The mama san sniper is good at her job and a great nemesis for the American sniper team who is tracking her, but only one of them will succeed.
David also brings in characters from his earlier books – all missions of this mechanized unit for the 25th Infantry Division. As a former Wolfhound grunt, myself, I enjoy reading about some of the same areas I’d patrolled through and in learning more about how mechanized units operate and of the things they did differently. Mr. Allin paints a great scene and makes me feel like I’m right there with the troops.
This story seems to drag some as compared to his others and contains more typos. However, none of it interrupted the flow and I enjoyed the ending. Thank you, Mr. Allin, well done!
Pucker Factor 10: Memoir of A U.S. Army Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam
By James Joyce
Pucker Factor ten-thousand, January 5, 2011
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!
Recondo: LRRPs in the 101st Airborne Kindle Edition
by Larry Chambers (Author)
“Recondo” is a captivating and engaging story about an infantry soldier who goes to Vietnam and volunteers for the LRRPs in the 101st Airborne and later gets accepted into the prestigious Recondo training program. The training is rigorous, demanding, and sometime dangerous. The author doesn’t go into much detail about the training modules but paints an overview for readers to get a feel for what it was like. The 3rd week (final week) entailed small teams to go into the Ashau Valley to gather intelligence and to locate an NVA Regimental headquarters. A program cadre member accompanies each team – failure for individuals to demonstrate skills from their first two weeks of training will result in expulsion from the class.
Chambers and his team climb mountains and near the end of the week find themselves in a situation that was almost unbelievable; this hill was later immortalized as Hamburger HIll by the 101st grunts after their 10-day battle to take the mountaintop. As a former 101st grunt myself, I could relate to much of what the author wrote. I was familiar with the mentioned firebases and also patrolled through the Ashau Valley. We also learned that holding blasting caps during a thunder storm could be hazardous to our health, and especially, if they were already installed in grenades, claymore mines, C4 or carried loose in somebody’s pocket – my unit experienced that same thing that Chambers LRRPs did during a storm, but without the same consequences. I also enjoyed the author’s wit and sense of humor; many of the comments he made during the story made me laugh out loud.
“Recondo” flowed nicely and kept my interest from beginning to end. It would have been an added bonus if the author might have touched upon his R&R to Australia…showing what these soldiers experienced and why the trip was so important to them. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about these small LRRP teams – their missions and training to survive. Great job, Mr. Chambers. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. Welcome home, bro!
By Ralph Christopher
Enlightening Read, January 16, 2013
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!
by Nelson DeMille
t’s OK, but…
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.
ROLLING THUNDER (Wings of War)
By Mark Berent
Exciting and Educational read, January 19, 2014
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!