Wesley Hoch graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy in 1953, served for a year in the Merchant Marines, then joined the U.S. Navy. He went to Vietnam in 1962 and served for eighteeen months as an adviser to the South Vietnamese Navy’s 4th Coastal District Junk Force in Phu Quoc.
“He is a strange mixture of soldier, sailor, dentist, mechanic, linguist (he speaks a fractured Vietnamese), doctor, and teacher,” the journalist Orville Schell wrote in the Boston Globe in 1963. “This rare dedication has one visible side effect among the sincere and grateful Vietnamese: to them, Dai Wei Hoch already is a living legend.”
Dai Wei (“chief”) Hoch died in 2004. He had been working on a book about his experiences in Vietnam. His brother David and his wife Isobel worked with that manuscript and in 2009 produced Dai Uy Hoch: “A Legend in Remote Seas” (Xulon Press, 444 pp., $22.99, paper), Wes Hoch’s memoir that also contains quotes from other Vietnam veterans who served with him.
It’s a readable book, filled with a good deal of reconstructed dialogue, that reveals a deeply religious man who was dedicated to the Vietnamese people, and who worked during his entire tour to better their lives.