Landing Zone by Carlos L. Arce

 

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Landing Zone is the title of an illustrated serial novel about the Vietnam War by Carlos Arce, a disabled veteran who served in the war from 1969-70 with an Airborne Ranger Special Operations Unit of the First Cavalry Division. Landing Zone: The Beginning (HEDSA Publishing, $2.99, Kindle) is Arce’s first book on the war in Vietnam. He tells his story with words, photos, maps, and diagrams.

Arce’s choice to use an augmented text results in the clearest introduction to the life of a soldier in Vietnam that has yet been published. This volume is a tiny piece of the total story. We follow Pvt. Vida from the time he receives his orders to report to the Oakland Army Base on July 20, 1969. His alarm clock wakes him up at 5:00 a.m.

On page 95, we leave Pvt. Vida behind until we get the next volume in this novel.  Chapter 8, “The American Killing Machine,” involves the private getting in-country training in how to kill people. He is yelled at by Master Sgt. Scalia. To wit: “You are here to kill gooks. You are not here to feel sorry for anyone. Never mind what anyone tells you; you are not here to pacify people. You must understand you are here to kill, to kill—you are here to kill.”

So the novel goes. I enjoyed much of it. The illustrations eliminate all confusion about what a flak jacket looks like. We also are shown illustrations of American soldiers receiving “paid manual sexual favors.” We are told that girls were kept in closed, prison-like conditions. “The operations belonged to warlord Vietnamese generals and were run by iron-fisted Mama Sangs; they operated inside American military bases, as American slave brothels.”

My tour of duty took place too early to witness that, I guess. Certainly the scene that Arce describes is not what I saw when I was in Vietnam.

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The author

Acre also describes a war zone in which dope is easily available everywhere and most guys are using it. American fire power gets a lot of respect. Daisy cutters and Rome Plows seem to make it more than likely we will win the war against a corrupt people who lack our resources. Baby Killers are mentioned.

For those who wish to read a detailed, illustrated novel of the war, I suspect that no author will top this series in those respects, once all seven books are available.

Readers who are obsessed with commas and semicolons being used correctly will be bothered. But are there many folks like that even left in this modern world?

—David Willson

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