In The Nightmare of the Mekong: A True History of Love, Family, and the War in Vietnam 300 pp., $23.50, paper) Terry Sater shares his time in the service in great detail with the reader. The book is filled with personal vignettes and covers his experiences from boot camp to combat and home again.
Using letters he saved from family and friends—along with remembrances from his war buddies—Sater grabs the reader, inducts him into military service, and pulls him along on the journey of young man as he experiences the transformation from civilian to serviceman—from ballplayer and carefree youth to adult life—amid the grit and boredom of war in a foreign nation.
The book is full of details from that time of innocence as dreams were shattered and new ones emerged. Sater’s tender side shows in his letters home to his girlfriend Judi and to his family. Tedium and boredom leap from the pages—along with longing to be home again.
Sater, a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America, is a Navy man. Trained in several schools as an electrician, he ends up manning a machine gun on a boat in the Mekong Delta. The writing evokes the fear and sweat Sater and the other young Brown Water Navy sailors experienced. The smells of cordite and gunpowder seem real as he describes horrific experiences.
For example, this, from his diary entry of Thursday, August 22, 1968:
“ I just came off an op, fifteen or sixteen miles south of Saigon. Found three guys from my class in Riv Ron 11 were killed. That makes six. God, I am in a daze. The snipe on Freddie’s boat was blown off the boat. They haven’t found his body.”
Sater makes his personal story one any veteran can relate to. He writes descriptively and clearly and follows chronology to a tee. He also briefly addresses how the U.S. blundered into the war in Vietnam.
This is a good book full of details and photographs. It’s a complete recounting of a year in a full life that is dedicated to those who did not come home from that faraway and foreign place.
The author’s website is thenightmareofthemekong.com