351 Days in Da Nang by Ray Norton

In 351 Days in Da Nang: Memories of a Navy Investigator (CreateSpace, 116 pp.,  $23.75, paper) Ray Norton tells us he never says he “fought in Viet Nam (because I didn’t). I do say I was stationed in Da Nang or land based with the Navy in Da Nang.” Norton, in fact, served as a security guard and Naval Support Activity (NSA) investigator. “Just because you are in the Navy,” he goes on to say, “does not mean you were on a ship.”

In his book Norton relates his experiences in Viet Nam, using that spelling to hearken back to the days before American intervention. He includes insightful contributions from two life-long friends, Bill Sanderson and Richard Madison. The three served at Da Nang at the same time, from August 1969 to July 1970, working in different fields.

Cheryl Norton also gets space to express her feelings about the year-long separation from husband Ray, during which she gave birth their daughter, Rebecca.

Ray Norton spent  only fourteen months on active duty in the Navy after joining the Reserves, opting to do so rather than being drafted into the Army. His basic training lasted two weeks; his account of it is a masterpiece of dry humor. Norton’s sense of humor unexpectedly pops up in other places in the book, too.

During the first half of his in-country tour, Norton made the best of a boring and life- consuming job as a Tien Sha Peninsula Security Division guard. He finished his tour with detective work as one of six NSA investigators at Camp Tien Sha, adjacent to Da Nang. He reviews a dozen of his most interesting investigations, which provide excellent reading.

At Monkey Mountain. The author is on the left.

The book contains sixty-seven photographs, including two of Military Payment Certificates and one of C-rations, featuring an open can, a plastic spoon, and a P-38. Norton occasionally explains what is common knowledge for old timers, but does not overdo it.

Of course, part of his motivation for writing this memoir was to pass on his experience to his five grandchildren, “who someday may actually read this thing.”

The author’s website is http://raynorton68.wix.com/351days-in-da-nang

—Henry Zeybel

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