It Wasn’t Like Nothing by Thomas J. Hynes

Clearly the double negative in the title is a clue to expect a no-nonsense chronicle about the hazardous realities of Vietnam War combat through the eyes of a United States Marine. It Wasn’t Like Nothing: One Marine’s Adventure in Vietnam by Thomas J. Hynes (iUniverse 270 pp., $20.95, paper; $3.49, Kindle) covers the author’s path from enlistment to fighting the Viet Cong and and NVA.

Hynes’s rapid change of venue after graduating from Georgetown Law School in September 1966, then taking the Marine Basic Course and Officer Candidate School and his subsequent assignment to Lima Company, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines near Da Nang all happened in less than a year. 2nd Lt. Hynes even somehow managed to fit in his marriage during a two-week leave.

A Catch 22-like assignment was the new Lieutenant’s introduction to Lima Company. Introducing himself as Captain K, his CO said, “Lieutenant, we have a problem. I already have three platoon commanders, and I don’t have a place to put you except as weapons platoon commander.” Captain K then told Hynes that there wasn’t a weapons platoon. A temporary mortar team was created and Hynes began “learning the hard way.” Talking to experienced members of Lima Company was more valuable than most stateside training.

This OJT often took place during platoon sweeps, patrols, and battalion-wide operations. Calling in artillery strikes and air support requires full knowledge of where your unit is and where the enemy is. “Just as the rifle was the basic tool of the infantryman, the map and compass were the basic tools of the platoon commander,” Hynes writes.

Responding to a firefight, another platoon commander “intentionally called in the mission on top of us. He thought we would get out of there in time and we would catch Charlie sneaking in behind us. He didn’t give us enough time to clear the area before the artillery came in.”

Hynes offers his opinions on the South Vietnamese military and civilians. “We went from village to village,” he writes. “The reaction of the villagers was one of studied indifference. The peasants were caught in the middle of this war. All they wanted was to tend their fields in peace. Regardless of who ruled their country, they had to raise enough crops to survive another year.”

One battle in which a Marine platoon advanced on a treeline responding to small arms fire from Viet Cong inside the forest did so without support from the the ARVN squad they were working with. The Vietnamese later explained, “we do not attack treelines.”

Although the book’s photographs are of poor quality, the author’s descriptions of his platoon’s combat actions are as vivid as any images on film. One such account describes a ground action that could have caused many friendly casualties.

A battalion operation was winding down as two companies were returning to their base camps. Lima Company detected incoming fire from the woodline in front of them and laid down a field of fire into the woods. Delta Company, advancing on the other side of the woods, returned fire toward Lima Company’s position. Miraculously, none of the thousands of rounds fired resulted in friendly fire casualties. The din of rapid firing drowned out cease-fire commands until radio transmissions halted the gunfire.

Operation Swift was among the most critical enemy engagements Second Platoon was involved in during Hyne’s year in country. His report on this series of battles reveals a startling action that had the Marines and their lieutenant thinking about the futility of such operations over a few kilometers of The Que Son Valley.

Marines ready for action during Operation Swift

Official reports often conflicted with what the grunts actually experienced. Lt. Hynes recalled: “I later read the after-action report on the operation, and it was my opinion the official version of Operation Swift was suspect.”

Hynes has written a remarkable personal journal enabling readers to appreciate the work of a group of brave Marines.

—Curt Nelson

Shandar: by Wrigley Brogan

In Shandar @KILLCONGRESS.COM (Ink and Lens, 218 pp., $10, paper; $2.99, Kindle), Richard Baker, writing as Wrigley Brogan, offers up a noir-ish detective novel with a hard-boiled cop, Walter Checkers, at the center of the action. Most of the characters are Vietnam veterans (as is the author). A group of young Vietnamese women who work as prostitutes also are a big part of the action.

Somebody is blowing up bad people using C-4, making quite a mess in the city, and Detective Checkers is asked to figure out what’s going on. As the detective puts it, people are being blown to bits and there are no leads, nothing to go on, except a woman must be involved.

The book is filled with philosophical asides, many of which seemed priceless. For instance, “Anyone that believed we were fighting for American freedoms around the world was a fool at worst, and naïve at best.”

Later, Doc, a Vietnam veteran medic, says, “Don’t forget what we learned in the war.  Every decision we make in life is wrong. Do you shoot this person or that person?  Do you go down this trail or that one?  Do you save Bill or Jerry?  The decision is always wrong.”

There are many other references to the Vietnam War. The novel is permeated with the them. Keeping track of them was like trying to register snowflakes in a snowstorm. This is done with wit and intelligence, however, and is never cumbersome.

I highly recommend this mystery novel to all readers, especially Vietnam veterans who are hungry for a good read that is a salute to that dirty little war that most of us can’t seem to get out of our systems.

There’s lots to love in this book. At one point, it is said that the most worthy candidate for political office is the one who raises the least money. I immediately thought of Jim Webb.

Baker has respect for the American teenagers who trudged through the Vietnamese jungle during the war. Books that demonstrate that respect are needed in our literature.

—David Willson

Memoir of Vietnam by William S. Fee

A memoir normally has a purpose beyond simply recounting what the writer did over a given period of time. William S. Fee follows this pattern in Memoir of Vietnam 1967 (Little Miami, 122 pp. $15) by describing how military training and combat turned his infantry squad into a family.

Fee took part in search and destroy missions as a member of Delta Company, 1st of the 18th in the 1st Infantry Division from July to November of 1967 in the Iron Triangle. During the battle for Loc Ninh, he suffered a crippling shoulder wound that led to an early discharge from the Army after four complicated operations.

At age nineteen, Fee gave up the “inanity” of college and enlisted as an infantryman. He felt obligated to serve his country because, he says, “So many young men were drafted against their will to fight this war.” Fee believed his participation would “make a difference” and influence “friends who seemed not to care about the war.” He also sought the “intoxication of a dangerous adventure.”

Fee found himself in an unusual situation. The men he trained with in basic at Fort Knox and Infantry AIT at Fort Polk and Fort Lewis remained together after schooling. Aboard the USNS Geiger, they sailed to Vietnam and formed a new company in the Big Red One.

Fee fondly recalls all of his squad members, living and dead. He describes the high level of camaraderie that evolved from spending so much time together. The climactic event for him was the fighting at Loc Ninh during which a rocket propelled grenade nearly tore off his right arm. He credits his survival to the special care he received because his squad mates were long-time friends.

Based on his experience, Fee believes that the practice of sending single replacements to rifle companies in the field in the Vietnam War was a major cause of PTSD. Men treated in this manner were victimized by being alone, both during and after the war, he believes.

In the post-war world, Fee faced survivor’s guilt and his life lost purpose. He married but soon divorced his sweetheart—Sally—who had waited for him throughout his time in the Army and in hospitals. Psychiatrists and the VA were unprepared to deal with PTSD in the mid-1970s and provided no help in curing his illness.

By talking to himself in mirrors, Fee overcame his disorders on his own, but retained residues of fear. He tells us that in battle he developed “the sensation that an enemy soldier had me trained in his rifle sight. It is a fear I carry with me to this day.” Regarding death in combat, he still frequently wonders, “Why not me?”

Following his rehabilitation, he and Sally remarried. Fee began a long career in the television industry. And had children. He also had a second family— the men from Delta Company who periodically hold reunions and remain close.

A 1st Infantry Division soldier cleaning his weapon in the field

Fee pays great tribute to his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Richard Cavazos, who later became a four-star general. Cavazos fought shoulder to shoulder with his men on the battlefield. Today, he still maintains friendships with Delta’s veterans.

Fee presents a viewpoint new to me related to search and destroy strategy. He says: “Colonel Cavazos was a conservative war tactician. As soon as our patrols were ambushed, he ordered our retreat back to the perimeter, and immediately called in air strikes and artillery on our positions as we withdrew” (italics added).

In other words, Cavazos did not require his undermanned units to duel with superior forces while awaiting massive fire support, as virtually everyone else did. Overall, Fee shows that Cavazos’ tactics saved many lives, including the author’s.

—Henry Zeybel

Retreat from Cao Bang by Richard Baker

Richard Baker’s Retreat From Cao Bang: A Short History and Guide for Tourists (Ink and Lens, 92. pp., $8.50, paper; $2.99, Kindle) is just what the title and subtitle claim: a short—pithy, even—guidebook. Baker, who served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Band, packs a lot of information into fewer than a hundred pages. There are many photographs in this small book, and they give a good sense of the history of Cao Bang in far northern Vietnam, where the Viet Minh defeated the French in a large battle in 1950.

Baker’s information is detailed and helpful. For instance, when he tells the reader about a war memorial worth visiting, he says, “Do not arrive between noon and 2 pm. Like everything in Viet Nam, the entire country shuts down at this time causing great frustration to tourists who are most active during these hours. Not even a bottle of water can be bought.”

If you are a collector of hand-woven fish traps, this book tells you where such an item can be obtained. Baker also offers details on a park where you can see twenty species of bats and forty species of reptiles. I pictured those beasts peeking out of my boots.

Baker cautions the reader that few relics of the French and Viet Minh era remain visible along any route. This materiel has long since been melted down “for more useful purposes even as the bomb craters from the American war have been ploughed under.”

The point is made more than once to not drink the water. One of the reasons the French lost their war in Indochina, he says, was due to thirst that drove them to drink the water, which caused dysentery and other stomach and intestinal ailments. “Viet Nam is flooded with water, none of it potable,” Baker tells us.

The racism of the French that helped lead to their defeat is discussed; it reminded me of my time in Vietnam. “They never imagined the Viet Minh were capable of hauling guns through the jungle and into the hills,” he writes of the French, “so they had not prepared for such an attack.”  We did not learn from the failures of the French.

NVA Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap (pointing) following the Battle of Cao  Bang in 1950

The French wanted “set-piece battles” from the Viet Minh, who failed to oblige them, preferring to fight using hit-and-run tactics. Many memoirs and novels I’ve read by Americans complain bitterly that the enemy would not stand and fight like men. But, as Baker shows, the Vietnamese communists knew that fighting a European-type war would result in disaster. So they avoided it.

There is lots to appreciate in this little book.  I highly recommend reading it before you embark on a tourist journey of battlefields in Vietnam.

The author’s website is

—David Willson

A Stranger in My Bed by Debbie Sprague

I finished reading Debbie Sprague’s A Stranger in My Bed: Eight Steps to Taking Your Life Back from the Contagious Effects of Your Veteran’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder  (Morgan James Publishing, 360 pp., $24.95, paper; $9.99, Kindle) late at night. It had been a worthwhile, red-eye learning experience.

Sprague, a certified life and career coach, begins her book with a painfully raw narrative of life with her Vietnam War veteran husband. The reader is taken into a world of darkness and chaos, confusion and fear, anger and hopelessness. The possibility of financial disaster is always on the front burner, and infinite frustration grows with the turn of each page.

The most serious PTSD symptoms of the author’s husband began in earnest thirty years after he came home from Vietnam. It was as though he were pushing some kind of envelope, unconsciously crying out for help. Many will be able to relate to the author’s inclination to ignore small aberrations of behavior, hoping  they would go away.

The chapters describing the gradual dissolution of the couple’s marriage were heartbreaking. Little by little, Sprague’s husband would spend more time with friends where everything was fine, and less time with his wife where their marriage was one continual conflict. His purchase of guns added a serious threat. Daily life became so traumatic that the author herself was diagnosed with PTSD.

Why didn’t the couple simply divorce and start their lives over?  The answer to that question is what makes this book so different from other PTSD books I’ve read.

Sprague loved her husband deeply despite his faults, and she was very committed to her marriage vows. Her courage and tenacity to stick has similarities to what a soldier in combat goes through in order to not turn and run.

Perhaps it was prophetic that the couple’s turnaround began while they were on their way to church on June 6, 2010, the anniversary of D-Day. Her husband read aloud a warning sign telling of a dead-end street by saying, “Debbie’s a dead-end.” As the words echoed through her ears, Sprague said she silently screamed, “NO! I am not a dead-end! I am not a quitter.”

Thus began the turnaround in the life of a true heroine, and the fodder for an excellent PTSD reference book. Perhaps the most important thing Spraque explains is that while it is often impossible to change the actions of another person, it is always possible to change one’s own reactions to those actions. She also shares the sage insight that we can only make progress when we deal with reality and not illusions.

Debbie Sprague

Sprague’s use of biblical verses becomes more frequent as the book goes along. She uses sacred words in a realistic, practical way, though, and does not pontificate.

The final two thirds of the book consists of a well-organized PTSD textbook. It contains information on developing support systems and coping with fear and anger, shame and guilt, and sexual dysfunction, among other things

Were Debbie Sprague’s efforts to pull her much-loved husband back from the abyss worth it? Readers will undoubtedly concur with his response:

“I will be eternally grateful for Debbie and her commitment, not only to me, but to veterans, their spouses, and their families everywhere. God bless her, and God bless our veterans and their families.”

The author’s web site is

—Joseph Reitz

Fearful Odds by Charles W. Newhall, III

Throughout his life Charles W. Newhall, III has engaged the world with ferocious intensity. The son of a World War II Army Air Corps colonel, Newhall was raised to uphold his family’s military tradition, which extends back to the Civil War. That guidance and his reading as a student at military schools instilled an ethos encompassed by warriors from all of history.

Before reading his book—Fearful Odds: A Memoir of Vietnam and Its Aftermath (Bibliotheca Brightside, 260 pp.; $34.95, hardcover; $17.95, paper; $6.99, Kindle)—I studied its nineteen pages of photographs. They provided background that better prepared me to understand commitments far deeper than the accommodations that have guided me from day to day. The book is complex because Chuck Newhall continually poses provocative questions about values and leadership in war and peace.

As a platoon leader with 1/327 of the 101st Airborne Division, Newhall spent six month patrolling the ridge lines of the A Shau Valley in 1968-69. His normal order of march was “point man first, slack man (M-60 machine gun), me.” That was Newhall’s way of setting an example as a leader.

Helping to fulfill their part of America’s search and destroy strategy, his men were minnows on a fishhook to attract NVA forces camped in Laos. They often came under fire from, Newhall says, “Russian artillery guided by Russian and Chinese advisers located a mile away.”

When they did engage the NVA in South Vietnam, his platoon did not always get the firepower they needed to complete the destroy part. Instead, they shared air support with Marines at Khe Sanh. “The net result is that whoever is losing the most men gets air support,” Newhall says. The Americans were always outnumbered due to the proximity of NVA camps to the border. Air power, Newhall concludes, “is great when you have it.”

Despite Chuck Newhall’s superior military education and his strong desire to engage the enemy, twice within a week his platoon was decimated. The first time came on his third day as a leader. His Prologue describes this action, a lifetime worth of death and destruction. But Newhall seeks no solace and accepts responsibility for all that befell his men and himself.

Newhall does not filter what he saw and did. He admits that his men paid back for what they suffered. He speaks of mutilating, scalping, eating flesh, and bowling with a heads of the NVA dead. He himself cut the throat of a wounded enemy soldier.

Charles W. Newhall, III

The author candidly discourses on good and bad relations with superiors and subordinates. In the field, he learned and he taught. He recalled feats of historic figures such as Hannibal and Crazy Horse to guide his behavior. Like King Henry V, he strove to form a band of brothers within his undermanned platoon.

He overcame wounds and other hardships and rhapsodizes over love for battle: “Whoever has lived the life of a warrior can love no other; war becomes the incomparable mistress of your heart, an addiction of unimaginable intensity.”

During the last half of his one-year tour Newhall served as a staff officer. His highly personalized value system created difficulties in civilian life, including in his marriage. That dilemma is the crux of book’s last section.

Newhall earned an MBA from Harvard and attacked the world of venture capital as zealously as he entered combat. Living in Boston amid beautiful gardens, artfully decorated mansions, and upper-crust friends, Newhall’s nights were haunted by ghosts from the A Shau Valley. He enjoyed big business success, but it soon was negated by the transformation of his wife’s personality, the collapse of their marriage, her suicide, and the unraveling of his psyche.

Newhall has spent thirty years fighting PTSD. His closing chapters aim at helping others with the disorder. He emphasizes the necessity of having expert guidance—in his case, a noted psychiatrist. Most touching, he includes passages from his wife’s diary and her final note, which deal with his failures as a husband and father.

Beyond all else, sharing those stunning revelations shows the depth of Chuck Newhall’s courage as a man devoted to improving the lives of others.

The author’s website is

—Henry Zeybel

A Long Way Back by J. Everett Prewitt

J. Everett Prewitt was drafted into the Army, completed Officer Candidate School, and served in a supply battalion in Vietnam from 1968-69. He’s the author of the novel, Snake Walkers (2005).

The Introduction to his fine novel, A Long Way Back (CreateSpace, 388 pp. $16.99, paper; $6.99, Kindle), Prewitt sums up what takes place between the covers: “Anthony Andrews, a reporter for the Washington Post, watches as a group of bedraggled black soldiers believed to be missing or killed in action mysteriously reappear in Cu Chi, Vietnam, in 1969.  Andrews uncovers an Army conspiracy to conceal a story of soldiers ill-prepared for battle, yet sent on an illegal mission and not expected to return.”

The author thanks the late Vietnam War correspondent Wallace Terry (the author of Bloods) for the help he provided. This novel takes an important place on the small shelf of African-American Vietnam War novels.

When Andrews arrives in Saigon on June 25, 1969, he’s assaulted by the sewer smell and the blast furnace heat, the first two things mentioned in most Vietnam War memoirs and novels. He’s there to write for the Post about the positive experiences of black troops. Experiences like that are thin on the ground at that time and place.

The men sent off to Cambodia on an illegal mission are clerks, cooks, truck drivers, and other support troops. There is one warrior in their midst, a sergeant who tries his hardest to give them a crash course in how to survive against the enemy. These rear echelon soldiers were sent on a mission they were told would take three days. They were in the field for eleven days.

The section of the book that deals with their attempts to become field soldiers is very strong and hit home with me, a Vietnam veteran who is glad he was never sent away from his typewriter at USARV Headquarters and into Cambodia. 

The book contains some of the usual stuff of in-country Vietnam War novels: returning soldiers being called baby killers and being spat upon; cold ham and lima beans C-rations; Vietnam being a stink hole of a country. But this book avoids going overboard with such images.

These black soldiers acquit themselves pretty well in Cambodia. It turns out that they were sent there with a one-way ticket because they were considered troublemakers. In part, this novel reads like an homage to Going After Cacciato, as the men wander in Cambodia encountering troubles they are ill prepared for.

J. Everett Prewitt

At some point, one of them thinks, “And with all the firepower in America’s possession, we can’t defeat a small, backward country like Vietnam? Was it some Supreme Being’s way of telling us we shouldn’t be there?” Good question.

The seven black soldiers who make it back alive are given other-than-honorable discharges and sent home in disgrace. They try to settle into life in the United States and forget about their Cambodian adventure. Andrews, being an intrepid reporter, does not allow this to happen. He keeps pestering away, trying to get to the bottom of what was done to these men.

I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that the book is well worth reading, as these African American soldiers get treated better than most did in real life.

The author’s website is

—David Willson

Compass and a Camera by Steven Burchik

Steven Burchik did a 1968-69 tour of duty in the Vietnam War mainly in the rice paddies northeast of Saigon as a forward observer with the Army’s First Infantry Division. He served as a sergeant in D Company, Second Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment. His memoir, Compass and a Camera: A Year in Vietnam (Sharlin-K Press, 286 pp., $15, paper; $4.99, Kindle) is about that year. Burchik used the daily letters he wrote to his fiancee as the basis for this book and included many photographs he took.

Because of the letters and the photographs, Burchik’s book has an enormous amount of detail, which I see as a good thing. He explains exactly how search and destroy missions operated and how night ambushes were set up. The ritual of Saigon Tea is explained in a way that makes it unnecessary to read another description of how that works in a bar.

Several times his unit is visited by Red Cross workers and their role is gone into in some great detail. Once again, I found myself wondering who thought it was a good idea to send hundreds of young women into harm’s way to play games with soldiers. Burchik says they all were college graduates.

Burchik’s descriptions of filling sandbags and sitting on a bridge at night on guard duty convey tedium effectively without being boring to read. He lists the many movies he sees (including In the Heat of the Night), and the television shows he watches such as Laugh In and Combat. The men enjoyed laughing at the stupid stuff the squads did in Combat, such as bunching up when on patrol.

He spends time at places that echo and pay homage to movie westerns such as Fort Apache and Fort Pawnee. Late in the book we even encounter John Wayne in his classic film, Hell Fighter. Burchik praises Corky Trinidad, the cartoonist for Pacific Stars and Stripes who created “Nguyen Charlie” for the enjoyment of the troops. The author’s eye for pop culture makes this book more interesting than most.

Burchik tells is about hurrying up and waiting, and about how war is an imperfect enterprise. He goes out on a limb and says that he didn’t believe that God was on our side. Leeches and red ants and ARVN troops appear and are commented on then vanish. The song, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” is heard.

Steven Burchik

No bands greeted Borchik when he returned to the United States. He was not spat upon or called a baby killer. He survived the boredom and drudgery of the Army and was eager to get on with his life, which he did. Steven Burchik became a successful marketing executive and continues to pursue his lifelong interest in photography. His many fine photos enrich this memoir.

If you are in the market for an infantry memoir, I highly recommend this one.

The author’s website is

—David Willson

Angels Flying Out of Hell by Bette Milleson James

In April 1975, as South Vietnam was being overrun and rapidly crumbling, a massive military and civilian humanitarian effort was carried out in Southeast Asia. Bette Milleson James has put together a heart-warming, compassionate account of that amazing and unprecedented feat in Angels Flying Out of Hell: The 7,000-Mile Journey of the Operation Babylift Orphans (Blueline Publishing, 248 pp., $24, paper).

With the end of South Vietnam imminent, nurses, doctors and workers at orphanges loaded infants and young children into anything that could transport them to Tan Son Nhut Airport. Many of the children were racially mixed—half Vietnamese and half American—which in Vietnamese culture meant they were looked down upon and destined to be shunned and discriminated against.

The first flight out of Saigon on April 2, 1975, was a World Airways DC-8 jet that landed in Oakland, California, with 57 orphans. Government officials accepted the children without the normal paperwork. The next day President Gerald Ford, an adoptee himself, authorized Operation Babylift, a massive effort to save more children. This allowed U. S. Air Force aircraft to transport refugee children into the United States without visas and other red tape.

Two days after the announcement, the first Babylift flight, a C5A Galaxy, crash- landed shortly after takeoff. Tragically, 135 passengers and crew lost their lives. Initally, suspicions pointed to sabotage. However, subsequent investigation revealed that while climbing at 23,000 feet, an explosive occurred when the rear ramp and pressure door blew out, severing all flight control cables to the tail and several aft hydraulic systems.

The official investigation of the crash attributed the survival of anyone on board to Capt. “Bud” Trayner’s unorthodox use of power and his decision to crash land the plane while he still had it under some control. Traynor received the Air Force Cross for “extraordinary heroism and airmanship while engaged in a humanitarian mission.”

As a result of that tragedy, the C5A Galaxy was not used again. Other aircraft, such as the Air Force C-141 Starlifter, became the planes of choice as Operation Babylift gained momentum in the coming weeks.

Surprisingly, critics emerged from divergent sources. Some antiwar activists claimed Operation Babylift was a “political ploy” using orphans, and that the airlifts were “stealing Vietnamese children.” Some in the adoption industry griped about skirting official procedures. Ralph Nader’s health research group charged that some orphans brought to the U. S. were carrying hepatitis and other bacterial diseases. This was later proved untrue by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

The last Babylift flight to leave Saigon came on April 27. How many orphans were left behind is unknown. Of the children who made it out, some 2,700 came to the United States; 1,300 went to Canada, Australia, and Europe.

James’s tribute to the hundreds of volunteers and military personnel who made Operation Babylift possible has been a long time coming. Few know what a massive undertaking it was to give the gift of a better life to those Vietnamese orphans. Bette James has combined history and personal accounts to present a most remarkable story of compassion and heroism.

—James P. Coan

The Gomorrah Principle by Rick DeStefanis

Rick DeStefanis, a veteran of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, dedicates The Gomorrah Principle (CreateSpace, 432 pp., $17.95, paper; $5.99, Kindle) to all veterans, especially the paratroops of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne Divisions. The book is described as a “non-stop literary thrill ride. Stand back, Bob Lee Swagger.”  I’ve read all of the Swagger books, also about a legendary (fictional) Army sniper, so I was eager to find this thriller in the same league with the Swagger books.

The backwoods hero, Brady Nash, is notified that his boyhood friend, Duff Coleridge, has died in Vietnam under mysterious circumstances. Brady receives a letter that contains allegations that Duff was murdered and that a woman in South Vietnam, Lynn Dai Bouchet, knows how and why.

Brady Nash, who is characterized as “dumb as a brick,” “Country dumb,” and a “stupid hillbilly” by the villain, Jack Moxon, manages to join the Arm and become a Ranger. He gets sent to Vietnam to serve as a sniper, which led me to think that Nash was smarter than he looked.

Nash becomes a part of a special operations study and observation group, whose purpose is to go after VC cadre. This program is also called Phung Hoang, aka the Phoenix Program. Traps are set for Nash by Jack Moxon, who complains that Nash, that “stupid hillbilly, stumbled out of every trap set for him.”

When Nash arrives in Vietnam he gets orders for Headquarters Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade. He ends up at a firebase south of Ben Het in the Central Highlands near the Cambodian border where he serves from December 15, 1967, to January 28, 1968. Given than time frame, I figured that the book would show us Nash’s involvement in the Tet Offensive. I was not disappointed.

Rick DeStefanis

Moxon tells Nash that if we don’t stop the VC in Vietnam, we’ll be fighting them in California—in Santa Monica, no doubt. I won’t give away the ending, but there is a possibility of a sequel.

This thriller is well written and well plotted. It contains no clinkers or boring spots and it moves right along from start to finish.

I recommend it to those who have not had enough of reading sniper thrillers or books dealing with the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The author’s website is

—David Willson