Savage Sky: Life and Death on a Bomber over Germany in 1944 by George Webster
Semper Fidelis by Johnnie Clark
Shadow Soldier: Kilo Eleven by Raymond J. Ormond
Snipe Hunt by David Allin
Solo Vietnam (Flying Solo Series) By Jeanette Vaughan
Singing to the Lions: A Vietnam War Novel by Robert Gisclair
Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina by Bernard Fall\
Strength & Honor: America’s Best in Vietnam by Terry Garlock
Stupid War Stories by Keith Pomeroy
Thank Sophia for Sam by R.D. Power
The Ba Nha Incident: A Vietnam War Novel by David Allin
The Beast: Vietnam 1969 by Raymond Hunter Pyle
The Best Of The Best The Fighting 5th Marines Vietnam: Dying Delta by Paul McNally
The Crescent by David Allin
The Foot Soldier by Mark Rubeinstein
The Hill by Leonard B. Scott
The Kansas NCO by Joe Campolo, Jr.
The Parrot’s Beak – A Vietnam War Novel by David Alllin
The Pipes Were Calling: A Vietnam War Story by David Flaherty
The Second Tour by Terry P. Rissuti
The Shake ‘n Bake Sergeant by Jerry S. Horton
The Vietnam War Trivia Book by Bill O’Neal
The Wall Of Broken Dreams by Duke Barrett
The War Within by Donald Tate
Thirty Days Has September: The First Ten Days by James Strauss
Thirty Days Has September: The Second Ten Days by James Strauss
Traces of a Lost War by Richard Barone
True North by Roger Rooney
Savage Sky: Life and Death on a Bomber over Germany in 1944 (Stackpole Military History Series)
By George Webster
Terror in the Sky, February 16, 2014
“Savage Sky” is a coming of age story which follows the exploits of a nineteen year old American B-17 radio operator and his indoctrination to both war and love. The authors’ writing style makes me feel like I am part of the ten-man crew inside a massive bomber – one of hundreds flying in a fixed formation that spreads across the sky for miles. The planned invasion of Europe is only a few months away and each mission takes this group deeper and deeper into the continent to bomb factories, airbases, rail yards, submarine pens and petroleum storage tanks. As a result, the Allied bombings deep within Germany are successfully limiting Germany’s ability to continue the war. However, the cost is enormous as only 16% of these crews survive the required 30 missions to complete their tour of duty. German fighter planes zip through these formations like hornets, spewing lines of red tracer rounds into targets of opportunity…well beyond the range of support fighters, these behemoths must fend for themselves. If fighters aren’t enough, each target destination has black clouds of anti-aircraft fire and flak awaiting them. German fighters will drop in again on the formation during their return flight to England.
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!!!
by Johnnie Clark
I’ve read Johnnie Clark’s first book, “Guns-Up” maybe about twenty years ago and loved it and was surprised when I saw “Semper Fidelis” offered by the same author and quickly downloaded it. I wasn’t disappointed!
This is a story about three high-school friends who join the Marines on the buddy plan right after graduation. It’s 1967 and Shawn is the main character. All three end up in Vietnam, in fact, Shawn and Luke went to the same squad in the 5th Marines and were quickly assigned as the Machine gunner and assistant. Their other friend, Joe went to another unit.
Right from the start, both are alienated and basically ignored by their fellow squad members and it didn’t take long before the call for “guns-up” echoed through the line of soldiers when the enemy was spotted. Shawn was quite religious and soon befriended the division chaplain. The platoon is guided by a North American Indian sergeant referred as “The Chief” and a formidable lieutenant as they hump endlessly through the jungles looking for the elusive enemy. The author’s writing made me feel as if I was right there with the platoon – characters are well developed and readers will chose their favorites as time goes on. As the lunar New Year (TET) arrived, readers follow the platoon to Hue where they participate in house-to-house fighting and learn of the atrocities by the communists.
After six months, the three friends meet in Australia for R&R that doesn’t work out quite the way they intended. Nevertheless, they all return to Vietnam refreshed and renewed for the second half of their tour. It is a difficult time for all of them – they’ve already been wounded twice and one more time was an automatic trip out of the war. However, their exit may not be as they hoped. They patrol through the An Hoa Valley, Khe Sahn, Phu Bai, and finally in the “Arizona Territory” for a showdown at “Dodge City” where firefights become the norm every day and night.
Johnnie Clark also shows readers what it was like when veterans returned from Vietnam. Protestors met the Marines upon their arrival in the U.S. – shocking most as they were blamed for everything that happened during the war. It was an extremely difficult time for all. This is a book that everyone should read to get an understanding of what these young men experienced and the sacrifices they endured.
Johnnie Clark – thank you for this story…thank you for your service…Welcome Home!
Shadow Soldier: Kilo Eleven
by Raymond J. Ormond
An Engaging Tale
I have to admit that I became hooked on this story right from the start. “Shadow Soldier: Kilo Eleven” by Raymond Ormond, kept my interest and I found it difficult to put down. The protagonist signed up for all the military training he could take after Basic Training in order to delay his deployment to Vietnam. But after a year, the Army finally cornered him and issued the dreaded orders. He went home on a 30-day leave to be with his wife and newborn son, but couldn’t relax, and proceeded to the West Coast Replacement Depot after only two weeks. There, he managed to “hide” from the other sergeants to avoid the many work details issued to waiting soldiers and then spent a few days alone in an old WWII barracks – further delaying the inevitable.
His solitude was ruined when a squad of Green Berets took over the barracks – one of them was injured and an ambulance took him to the base hospital. Now, short a man for a critical clandestine mission in Laos, the protagonist is hijacked and becomes the team’s 12th man – “Kilo Eleven.”
The rollercoaster has just started and it’s time for readers to hold on to their hats. What’s the mission? Why him? Will he survive? The mission is filled with twists and turns – readers will hold their breath until the outcome.
The story is filled with numerous typos, but they are by design as the author wanted the story to have a rough edge as if the main character was telling his story over a couple of beers at the bar. Great story and worth a read! Great job Mr. Ormond!
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!
By David Allin
Well worth a Read
I thoroughly enjoyed reading David Allin’s “Snipe Hunt”. It gets off to a slow start but once the enemy is seen the action never ceases. Two snipers, two spotters, and a Chu Hoi (a questionable character who soon proves himself trustworthy and valuable) depart on a five-day mission within the Michelin Rubber Plantation in III Corps. Having patrolled the plantation myself with the Wolfhounds of the 25th Division, I found all references true and memorable.
The team’s mission is vague, but when they discover a secret cache and take it for themselves, they find themselves hunted by both the NVA and the ARVN (supposed allies of the South Vietnamese Army). Without communications Radio is destroyed during a firefight) or support, and a severely wounded team member, they find themselves in a game of cat and mouse while attempting to reach friendly lines.
Although fiction, the premise is feasible and the writing style of the author makes it easy to read. Great job Mr. Allin! I’ve read a couple of his other books on the Vietnam War and will follow up on the others. Keep them coming!
Solo Vietnam (Flying Solo Series)
By Jeanette Vaughan
Solo Performance, October 11, 2013
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 Vaughan 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!
is always something happening to one or the other that keeps the reader flipping pages.
Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina
by Bernard Fall
A Fascinating Read
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.
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!
Stupid War Stories
by Keith Pomeroy
A Great Read
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!
Thank Sophia for Sam
By R.D. Power
Does persistence work?, November 22, 2013
Daniel Beaton, a Canadian, had recently completed his fourth year of a five year medical program in Australia and dropped out for lack of funds. Jobs were difficult to come by, so Danny made a deal with the U.S. Army: Committing to serving two years as a medic in Afghanistan in exchange for Uncle Sam financing his final year of medical school. After training, he is sent to fulfill his part of the bargain.
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 Ukrainian) 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!
The Ba Nha Incident: A Viet Nam War Novel
By David Allin
Another David Allin Gem
Lt. Carr and his mechanized platoon is to provide security for a Phoenix mission in the village of Ba Nha in the Boi Loi woods. While at the village, VC snipers continue to harass the team from a nearby treeline. They also notice that the Phoenix team is abusing the villagers during their interviews to locate a red-headed VC officer. The CIA officer tries to order the platoon members to do his bidding – Lt. Carr steps in and puts a stop to that immediately. Thus, begins a clash between the two officers that last through the story.
Tired of the sniping, Lt. Carr finally sweeps his platoon toward the snipers and uncovers a tunnel entrance just inside the woods. A linguist that Lt. Carr requested on this mission volunteers to go down and investigate. What he discovers peaks everybody’s interest – especially the Phoenix team members. A second trip is planned to photograph findings and then to destroy everything. However, not everyone wants to abide by the plan.
A real nail biter – as are the other books by this author. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and found the tunnel of special interest as while I served with the 25th Division, too, I also had the opportunity to enter an enemy tunnel complex and found it to be similar to my experience. Well worth a read!
The Beast: Vietnam 1969
by Raymond Hunter Pyle
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!
The Best Of The Best The Fighting 5th Marines Vietnam: Dying Delta
By Paul McNally
An Incredible Story!, February 3, 2013
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 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!
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.
SSgt. Samples is a good leader and takes care of his men but now circumnavigates the new LT to continue running the platoon. Lt. Carr is a fast learner and soon gains the respect of those soldiers in the First Platoon. When SSGT. Samples is wounded and medivaced to the rear, Lt. Carr takes over and does well without the platoon sergeant during the next few patrols. Samples’ stay in the hospital short-lived when he shows up at the firebase gate after hitchhiking from Dau Tieng – surprising most everyone.
There is some head butting, but it seems like Carr is patient. However, the final and vicious battle in the Crescent causes them to get separated from their unit deep inside of Injun country. Left alone, they have no food, very little water and ammunition and are surrounded by enemy soldiers. If they are to survive, they must work together during the next days, evading the many enemy patrols, bunkers and U.S. artillery that lands in their midst.
During this time, the LT learns why the Sgt. dislikes lieutenants as he shared the experience with Carr. The Lt, too, shares some of his experiences, letting the Sgt. into his innermost secrets. Thus allowing the bonding to begin. Both men were considered KIA when their track exploded from and RpG and burned so nobody was out searching for them…except the NVA who were always nearby.
Readers will sympathize with the two men during this trek. If they are to survive, they have to work together for the common goal. Readers will continue turning pages to see how the men fare against overwhelming odds. Only one criticism: I’m not sure if it’s because of the conversion when uploading your book, but in many places, letters are falling off of words. I.E. Car vs. Carr and many others. Please check into this…
Great job, Mr. Allin! Thank you for your service and Welcome Home, Brother!
The Foot Soldier
By Mark Rubeinstein
The Foot Soldier, January 29, 2014
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 Leonard B. Scott
A Tale of Two Brothers
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!
The Kansas NCO
by Joe Campolo, Jr.
A great find
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!
The Parrot’s Beak – A Vietnam War Novel
by: David Allin
A Pleasant Surprise
I thoroughly enjoyed “The Parrot’s Beak” by David Allin! A rear echelon Spec. 4, Tom Daley, who interviews enemy soldiers after they surrender to U.S. forces, finally gets some exciting news from one of the defectors. He is told of an old French fort in the nearby jungle that had both Chinese and Russian advisors. The youth didn’t know how to read a map but was willing to lead a U.S. patrol to the location. After reporting the news to his superiors, a mission was planned and Tom was to join the defector on the patrol. Tom complained that he was not infantry trained and hadn’t shot a rifle since basic training. However, his boss told him that since he was an interpreter and the former VC soldier could not understand English – Tom had no choice in the matter and was going out into the bush to locate and recon the fort.
Tom is assigned to a group of misfits – this same group continues to be picked on by the battalion commander because he is prejudiced against the black lieutenant leader and assigns them the worst duties. The Parrot’s Beak area where they are heading borders Cambodia on the west near the Black Virgin Mountain and jutes into Vietnam in the shape of a beak. There are no border markings, their squad’s maps were stolen during the night by a Kit Carson Scout who wants to sell them out, and they have no idea where they were. Yet the defector was confident that it was nearby.
The small group finally locates the old French fort and find the circumstances much different than what they thought they’d find. The group discovers that they are 5 kilometers inside Cambodia and therefore have no support. It will be a miracle for them to make it back to the base camp on their own. Once they are discovered, the NVA attack and then take chase, doing everything in their power to kill everyone in the U.S, reconnaissance group. Now Tom and the others must fight for their lives while evading the NVA troops who’s size could overwhelm them at any moment.
The story is suspenseful, a real page turner, and difficult to put down. The author does a wonderful job in developing the characters – I liked the young deserter and cheered him on – and in telling the story. One downside is that I found several instances within the book where the sentences had words that were either missing or extra and should have been deleted during an edit. A couple typos that I recall – the word “our” was spelled “out”. I would strongly suggest another read through to make these corrections. Otherwise, great job Mr. Allin!
The Pipes Were Calling: A Vietnam War Story
By David Flaherty
Compelling Read (Spoiler Alert), November 6, 2013
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!
The Second Tour
by Terry P Rizzuti
WOW – What a Ride!, September 3, 2010
This is the first time I’ve read anything like Terry Rizzuti’s “The Second Tour”. The way in which Terry tells his story – in fragmented segments – left me hanging, curious and anxious to read what happens next. However, in this format, the next tale may be about something entirely unrelated – maybe even at an earlier or a later date – I found myself in a time machine – not sure where I will be next, but it all seems to come together. Told through the eyes of “Rootie”, his nickname because fellow soldiers had a difficult time pronouncing his last name, The Second Tour is very descriptive and makes you feel like you are there with him and his company. It also seemed that as time went on in the story, a death was reported as a matter of fact. There were no more tears or emotions – they were used up much earlier. It is also easy to see how PTSD can result after experiencing such horror and chaos. I enjoyed the story and recommend The Second Tour to anyone who wants to know what these young soldiers had to endure to survive early in the Vietnam War and return home. However, the mental damage had already been done and unlike putting a book down and forgetting about it, this story will continue to play out over and over again in the heads of those men that had experienced it.
The Shake ‘n Bake Sergeant
By Jerry S. Horton
A Steep Price to Pay for a College Degree, June 5, 2012
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!
The Vietnam War Trivia Book
by Bill O’Neal
Should be required high school reading
I found “The Vietnam War Trivia Book: Fascinating Facts” offering readers a great overview of the war including some history of the U.S.’s involvement during and after WWI and then throughout the 20 year-long war. The authors tried to take a neutral stand when presenting the many facts of this war, but failed to mention the communist death squads who terrorized and killed many innocent civilians on both sides of the DMZ. I like the way the book is formatted and enjoyed the quizzes at the end of each of the six chapters. This is easy reading and I would recommend this book be mandatory reading for high school students – giving them much more to learn more about the war than is currently available in today’s history classes. Great job!
The Wall Of Broken Dreams
By Duke Barrett
An Incredible Story!, December 24, 2012
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!
The War Within
By Donald Tate
An Australian’s VN Tour
This is a complex, virtuoso analysis of an Australian life written by an unabashed and unrepentant author—an acidic dissection of the role that genes and environment have in developing a person’s character, as well as a sauntering chronicle of social analysis.
In turn, we follow the life of the author as he comes to terms with being a disaffected youth, a patriotic but naïve infantryman in the Vietnam War, and an alienated, disabled veteran struggling with male status anxiety—apparently inexhaustible in its capacity to cause suffering. Along the way, Tate examines the dark crevices of the male psyche as he battles inner demons and the unconditional love of his beautiful Christian wife, Carole.
Above all, this memoir is a celebration of the human condition and of a man with a can-do, cavalier attitude to life and his desire to rise above mediocrity.
An outstanding contribution to Australia’s rich heritage of memoir.”
Thirty Days Has September: The First Ten Days
by James Strauss
The luck of the draw
Second Lieutenant Strauss, Marine Artillery Forward Observer, is punished by his superior and sent to the bush in the middle of the night to lead a Marine Rifle Company through one of the most feared areas of the Vietnam War. He doesn’t have the training, finds that he is the only officer remaining in the company, and is pushed to the side by the Gunny who continues to lead the company. Upon arrival, he learns that the company is dysfunctional – one platoon comprised of only African American Marines, one with all rednecks, and the other two all but invisible in the battle for power. Soldiers from the two racial platoons die on a nightly basis as a result of the inner-company rivalry. This company of misfits doesn’t follow orders or work well with officers – those assigned to the company having been injured or killed during nightly attacks by the enemy. The L-T learns hears the undertones and learns that he has a bullseye on his back – his own men are gunning for him. However, he does have an ace up his sleeve. As the forward observer, he is highly skilled in map reading and using artillery to squash enemy attacks on his first night in the war. He develops a reputation and makes it known that the location of each troublesome platoon is also plotted each night with the firebase batteries to suppress fire from either direction. With any hint of aggression against him, the L-T is willing to call explosive rounds to drop right on his own people. His people don’t believe he’ll do it, but nobody wants to test that theory.
The NVA know their location and direction of travel…so does the battery of Howitzers in the rear – both will cause death. The L-T tries to outsmart the NVA troops and calls for extreme measures from his troops during that first week Seems that when things go right, Gunny gets the credit and when they fall apart it’s because the officer in charge is a poor leader. Lt. Strauss (‘Junior’) tries everything in his power to keep his people safe – including himself.
It’s a cat and mouse game…intense, terrifying and engaging. Who wins and who loses in this political game of chess in the jungles of Vietnam. When the story ends, readers will cry out for more! It is that good!
Thirty Days Has September: The Second Ten Days
by James Strauss
Junior learning his trade
This is the second book in the Thirty Days has September trilogy; each book covering a period of ten days. I would highly recommend reading book one before beginning this story. In this installment, Lt. Strauss (Junior) leads his segregated company of soldiers on a mission through the A Shau Valley to provide security for an ARVN company that plans to build a firebase in the area. However, the mission turns in to one of survival where he and his men have to outthink and outsmart a superior force of NVA soldiers who want nothing more than to kill them.
Junior and his men find themselves facing an NVA tank without a weapon to kill it. Survival required thinking outside of the box and a heroic feat by one of their fellow soldiers. The enemy is unseen and most of the story finds the company on one side or the other of a raging river without artillery support. Soldiers are dying and left where they fell until they are able to recover them later in the week. Junior takes it upon himself to walk point and take daring chances during this game of cat and mouse. His men are also beginning to believe he is invincible and fashion talismen of him for their own protection.
Junior continues to get the blame for the deaths of those around him, blamed for his mission’s failure, and threatened with possible Courts-Martial when returning to the rear area. Other officers arrive to take over the company but their bull-headed attitudes also result in their own deaths and many of their own men. Junior soon ends up being the only surviving officer of two rifle companies and goes about doing everything possible to keep them all safe. The book ends in a cliff-hanger leaving readers hungry to find out what happens next.
There were some areas in the book that seemed to drag on a bit and typos popped up occasionally. However, Mr. Strauss does an excellent job of bringing readers into his world of misery, fear, and hope. I’m looking forward to his third installment in the near future.
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.
by Roger Rooney
A Worthwhile Read
First, I want to say that I was given a free copy of this book in return for an honest review. Second, I just loved this story!
Hard to believe that the author had never been to Vietnam as the story reads like it was the author’s own experience. This story takes place in the 1962/63 timeframe. Lt. Jack Burns has some jungle fighter experience while in Malaysia with the Australian military and jumps at the opportunity to go to Vietnam to train South Vietnamese soldiers in the art of jungle warfare. Right off the start, he notices that these soldiers don’t pay attention and don’t want to go on the offensive, especially, patrolling during the night hours as Burns was training them to do. Trust was definitely an issue.
Meanwhile, another part of this story follows a teenage female NVA soldier as she makes her way down the Ho Chi Minh trail with thousands of other soldiers and supplies en route to the Delta of South Vietnam. Tran is accompanied by her brothers and becomes disillusioned about the continuous brainwashing and Communist doctrine she endures along the way. Her superiors must sense that she is having second thoughts and keep a close eye on her.
Finally, several months later, the first major battle between a large VC force and the ARVN takes place at the village of Ap Ba in the Delta; it is also where Burns and Tran come face to face for the first time. Tran was left behind by her group as they escaped and is eventually captured by Burns, who is later seriously injured from a booby trap that Tran had set up earlier.
Burns spends months in hospitals while Tran endures torture and the reeducation camps. Soon their paths cross again and a love affair develops. Unfortunately, both have crossed the wrong people – VC agents in the top echelon of the ARVN military – and death squads are fast on their trail. It is also a time when a military coup ousts Diem in Saigon and President Kennedy is murdered in the US. It is a time when you can’t trust anyone…even higher-ups in your own military – especially when there is money to be made.
This is a worthwhile read and keeps readers flipping pages. I highly recommend this story.