Fighting Viet Cong in the Rung Sat by Bob Worthington

Bob Worthington’s Fighting Viet Cong in the Rung Sat: Memoir of a Combat Adviser in Vietnam, 1968-1969 (McFarland, 283 pp., $29.95, paper; $13.99, Kindle) is not the usual Vietnam War combat memoir. Worthington was not a member of a ground unit fighting the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese Army; instead, he was an adviser to South Vietnamese militia units. 

Worthington had an unusual career prior to the Vietnam War tour of duty he writes about in this book. He was a police officer while in college; served in the Marine Corps and took part in the 1958 landing in Lebanon; was inadvertently commissioned as a Chemical Corps officer, and put in a 1966-67 tour of duty in Vietnam.

Arriving in Saigon for his second tour in August 1968, Worthington was assigned to the Hau Nghia Province Advisory Team as the Trang Bang District Adviser on the Cambodian border. He was responsible for working with his Vietnamese counterpart, a South Vietnamese Army major, on the team’s twofold mission—advising the local Vietnamese military forces and supporting pacification efforts. 

Working with some 500 Vietnamese militia soldiers in the district, Maj. Worthington’s team provided intelligence about Viet Cong targets and supported efforts to stop enemy infiltration of troops and weapons from Cambodia. Speaking fluent Vietnamese was key to his success as an adviser, but his identification with the Vietnamese led to friction with the more kinetic efforts of the nearby U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division units. Despite his successes as an adviser, Worthington was removed from his position in December 1968 and reassigned to another advisory job in Saigon.

In late January 1969, Worthington was reassigned to Rung Sat Special Zone, part of the extensive river delta area south of Saigon where VC units often attacked American ships.  The Vietnamese military units there had been taking bribes from the Viet Cong and the U.S. Navy advisers in the area did not have the expertise to support ground combat operations against them. Working with the Navy advisory team and Navy River Patrol Group, Worthington’s job was to support Vietnamese efforts to break the back of the local Viet Cong.

Worthington’s book—his second Vietnam War memoir—addresses the complexities involved with the U.S. advisers working with Vietnamese units. While advisers had access to intelligence, mobility, and firepower assets unavailable to the Vietnamese militia units, Worthington still needed to traverse jungles on foot or patrol the rivers in small boats. His ability to speak Vietnamese and his personal relationships made him a much more effective adviser.

Worthington describes shooting water buffalos carrying weapons across the Cambodian border from a helicopter and running snatch missions to catch Viet Cong officials. He also suffered a near-fatal hookworm infection and a gunshot wound during his tour.

Bob Worthington in-country

Worthington continued his unorthodox career after coming home from the war. He left the Army to attend graduate school and earned a PhD in Psychology, then rejoined as a psychologist and retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel.

While Bob Worthington’s account of his adventures in Vietnam was well worth reading, the real value of this book lies in his extensive descriptions of the American advisory efforts in the war. He addresses in detail the relationships between advisers and advisees and the role of the advisers in pacification efforts. 

If more U.S. military advisers had spoken Vietnamese as Worthington did, and had more personal relationships with the Vietnamese people, perhaps the war might have had a different outcome.

Worthington’s website is

–Marshall Snyder

From Darkness to Light by James E. Hackbarth

From Darkness to Light (152 pp. Mill City Press, $16.99 pp.) by James E. Hackbarth, is a book of poetry that focuses on one man’s journey with post-traumatic stress disorder. Hackbarth, a member of Vietnam Veterans of America, served as a U.S. Army Huey helicopter door gunner from 1968-69 with the 1st Cavalry Division’s 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, in Vietnam.

In “Destiny,” he writes:

“Am I living tomorrow today?

Have I been here before?

What is waiting for me behind

those doors?”

In “Men of War”:

War is not about men

Telling their story

Nor telling of past glory.

War is about a minute of one’s

Life filled with terror

It doesn’t go away because

You see it every day in replay.

The most memorable poem in this collection, “Soldier’s Wind Chime,” has this opening stanza:

Do you hear it?

Listen closely be still

Now can you hear it?

The soldier’s wind chime

It is whispering to me

Telling his story

A sad war story

Of a place, we know too well

Generously, Hackbarth includes a handful of poems written by friends. A stunningly gorgeous poem, by Joy April DeNicola, “I Wish I Were Vietnam,” includes this stanza:

If I were that place I would be seen by him.

I would be known if I were Vietnam.

He would want to discern every way and why of me/

He would dream of me, feel me in the root of himself.

He would think me, drink me, breathe me in, if I were Vietnam.

Hackbarth’s “We Demand More,” with this gut-wrenching opening stanza:

Have I not bared my soul for you?

Have I not shed enough tears to please you?

Must I carry this weight upon my shoulders to make you see me

Did you not see the real person upon this stage?

Must I bleed, must I break down and beg for your approval,

your pleasure

Is it not enough that I have done as you ask?

Is there more you ask

That’s all you have they say

Have we used you up so soon?

We demand more we demand more tell us the truth.

It’s been said that poetry is the most personal form of writing. In this collection James Hackbarth digs deeply into himself and uses poetry to express all that his heart, mind, and soul are pouring out.

–Bill McCloud

Those Left Behind by Jack McCabe

Vietnam War veteran Jack McCabe is a good writer and determined investigator. In 2016, he heard about the crash of a CH-47A Chinook helicopter named “Love Craft” on July 10, 1970, near Cu Chi in which two crew members and seven passengers lost their lives. The survivors and the families of those who perished, he later learned, felt the effects for the rest of their lives.

That story and its aftermath fill the pages of McCabe’s new book, Those Left Behind (366 pp. $19.99, paper; $6.99, Kindle), which is based on extensive interviews with the survivors and the wives, girlfriends, and friends of men who died, as well as archival research.

We first meet these men as children turning into adults from the time they leave high school and shortly thereafter enter the military. They know they are going to end up fighting in a war, more than likely as infantrymen.

Facing a second tour, Elroy Simmons answers his wife Barbara’s questions, “Why are you going? Why do you have to go?” by saying, “I just have to go,” and walking away. He kisses his five-year-old daughter goodbye and tells her, “See you when I get back.” She replies, “You’re not coming back.” That exchange reflects the mood of the entire book and every thought in it rings true.

McCabe—a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America who served two tours with the Army’s 1st Aviation Brigade in Vietnam in 1970-72—shifts from telling one man’s story to another’s with short accounts of their lives, including their tours in Vietnam. The grunts who perished, who served in the 14th Infantry Regiment, came to realize that there was no way they were going to change things in Vietnam, so their focus shifted to taking care of each other—and coming home alive.

Midway through the book, three men who are part of a helicopter crew join the story. By then it is July 9, 1970, and the reader has developed a relationship with the seven enlisted men who would climb aboard as passengers on “Love Craft” the next day.

McCabe describes the destruction of the helicopter with grim detail in a chapter titled “Inferno.” The aircraft carried twenty men and had just been refueled to capacity. North Vietnamese soldiers attacked it with a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades. Nine Americans were killed, and the survivors suffered severe injuries.

2nd Platoon, D Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, Cu Chi, 1970

The second half of the book focuses on what happed after the crash with the dead and wounded. McCabe discusses every step in the process of treating casualties during the Vietnam War. His details transcend anything I have read about the casualty system.

He covers multiple duties expected to be carried out with precision: mortuary activities related to identifying remains of shattered and burned bodies; evacuation of the critically injured to Japan for stabilizing treatment; casualty notification of next of kin (“probably one of the most difficult assignments in the service,” McCabe says); transportation home; funerals; returning to duty; and living with loss. In doing so, McCabe fills over a hundred pages with respect, sadness, and grief.

Those Left Behind bluntly reminds the reader of the high price of war paid by combatants and those dear to them on the battlefield and afterward. The book should be on library shelves in every American high school—even in Texas where I live.

McCabe’s website is

—Henry Zeybel

Shadebringer: Book One by Grayson W. Hooper

Grayson Hooper’s Shadebringer: Book One: The Land of Irgendwo (River Grove Books, 300 pp. $15.95, paper; $7.99, Kindle), is a work of high fantasy with a strong Vietnam War theme. Hooper is an active-duty Army Major and a physician.

In this, Hooper’s first novel, main character Clyde Robbins is killed during the war, then wakes up in another world. If you can buy that premise—as I had no trouble doing—then you will most likely enjoy this story.

Robbins was a baby-faced teenager in Philadelphia when he enlisted in the Army and, after attending NCO school “in hot-as-balls Georgia,” he rose up the ranks quickly, eventually becoming an E-6 Staff Sergeant. In February 1969, less than two weeks after he arrives in-country, Robbins gets his first kill.  

After six months of fighting, Robbins thinks, “War did not make sense to me. So why am I here? Why do I thrive? Is my sole purpose to engender pain and chaos? Can I bring nothing else to those around me besides suffering?” In response, he hears a disembodied woman’s voice say, “We will give you purpose, Clyde.”

Robbins wakes up as if from sleeping not knowing where he is. Before long, he’s running from danger, possibly monsters, and wondering if he is dreaming. Being told that he’s in a totally different reality, “in a different world now,” he has flashes of memory involving a hunt for a downed pilot and running into a ferocious, deadly ambush.

After making a long climb up a mountain he thinks, “My legs burned over the final step, and I wheezed like a wheelchair-bound vet with a tank of oxygen on my ass.” He learns this new world is based on continuous conflict and thinks, “Funny, the similarities of this world and the previous one.” Robbins becomes the long-prophesized Shadebringer, who will help the good guys win.


Hooper presents this book in the first-person so we’re constantly aware of what Robbins is thinking. One time it’s, “Prayers meant nothing on Earth, and I assumed they fell on deaf ears here, too.” Other times, it’s, “What exactly happens after death in a place after death?” and, “I’m done fighting for other people over things I couldn’t care less about.”

When Robbins asks what the people want from him, he is told, “Become hope. Become even the smallest candle in this darkness, and you will have our eternal gratitude.” When a short sword is placed in his hand, we realize this interesting story is about to get even more exciting. Bring on the re-animates and the “dreadicans.”

I enjoyed this novel, which put me in mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ work. I highly recommend Shadebringer for fantasy fiction fans, and encourage all adventure-minded readers to give it a try.

The author’s website is

–Bill McCloud

America’s National Treasures by Rodney L. Kelley

In America’s National Treasure: Biographical Sketches of the United States Military Personnel Killed in Action on the Deadliest Day of the Vietnam War—January 31, 1968 (262 pp. $15, hardcover; $10, paper, $7, Kindle) retired U.S. Army Col. Rodney Kelly has produced a tribute to the 247 American servicemen who died in Vietnam on that bloody day—the first day of the 1968 Tet Offensive. American losses that day were the highest in any twenty-four hour period during the Vietnam War.

Kelley served in 1970 in Cambodia and later as MACV senior advisor for a Mobile Advisory Team in Phu Yen Province in South Vietnam. His military career stretched from 1969-99.

America’s National Treasure honors 12 airmen, 164 soldiers, 59 Marines, and 12 sailors. Each man’s life story is set down on a single page and each story captures something important and interesting about the man’s life. There also is a photograph and comments from family and friends for each entry. I applaud the effort that Kelley put into gathering the men’s biographies. Each one tells a story of innocence and dedication; altogether, they America’s citizens at their very best.

Five Security Policemen at Tan Son Nhut and Bien Hoa were among the twelve Air Force personnel who died that day. They were the first line of defense confronting a surprise attack by overwhelming numbers of North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong troops. Their actions delayed the enemy until additional units responded to defend the airfields they defended. I was in-country during Tet, and turning the pages of Kelley’s book brought back memories of how much Air Force members at all levels admired the valiant response of the Security Police. One of those men, Reginald Victor Maisey, Jr., received the Air Force Cross for his courage under fire that day.

Seven corpsmen stood out from among the twelve Navy casualties. They selflessly gave their lives caring for Marines locked in battle at Hue. The reflexive spontaneity of their responses also became a topic of great admiration among my peers. Navy Cross recipient Daniel Benedict Henry was one a corpsmen casualties. Only one of the men was older than twenty-three.

The youngest Army and Marine men bore the brunt of casualties suffered on that day in battles throughout South Vietnam. Forty of the fifty-nine marines were killed in action, generally by small arms fire, lost their lives in Hue. The majority were nineteen years old.

Turning the pages of the book and reading the biographies turned into a distinct lesson in humility. The section devoted to the 164 Army casualties seemed endless. Most were nineteen- or twenty-years-old and many had been in the service less than a year, rushed through training and sent to battle.

Most died while fighting in small groups overrun by enemy forces of superior size. They experienced everything (arguably more) that happened to men from other services, including ambushes, helicopter shoot downs, and death by friendly fire. The vast majority were shot by small arms or shattered by mortar shells or rockets.

Half a century after the event, reading about so many deaths in such a short time offers a lesson in self-sacrifice. Even opponents of the Vietnam War should be impressed by the devotion of so many young men to their nation, right or wrong. With America’s National Treasure, Rodney Kelley has produced a guide for future employment of forces if the right people read it.  

A story of boyhood friends—Owen Garnet, 20, and William Goldberg, 21—typifies the core of the book. One enlisted in the Army while the other was drafted. Their Army service numbers were sequential. Owen Garnet died at Long Binh on the first day of Tet; nine days later, Billy Goldberg was killed in action in the Mekong Delta.

They were buried in Miami on the same day.

—Henry Zeybel

MAT 111 Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1971 by Jim Roberts

Jim Roberts’ MAT 111 Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1971: Stories from 33 Quebec’s Tour of Duty, (366 pp. $29.98, hardcover; $17.87, paper; $6.99, Kindle) is a collection of stories by a patriotic, brave, and humble man about his service in the Vietnam War during Vietnamization.

Roberts was a deferment-carrying high school science teacher who quit his teaching job, gave up his deferment, and enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1969. He signed up for Infantry OCS and volunteered to serve in Vietnam. 

The new lieutenant arrived in Dong Xoai in Phuoc Long Province on the Cambodian border in April 1970, and he was assigned to Mobile Advisory Team 111 as Senior Adviser to local South Vietnamese Army Regional and Popular Forces (sometimes known as Ruff-Puffs) military units. Roberts and four U.S. soldiers lived among the Vietnamese. By 1971, with Vietnamization in full swing, departing American troops were not replaced, and Roberts eventually found himself as the only American left in camp.

33 Quebec was Roberts’ radio call sign. As part of the five-man MAT team, he and 33 Tango, a sergeant first class, formed a two-man unit advising local Vietnamese Regional Force soldiers on combat operations in the jungles and hamlets. His book tells about his war experiences during this turbulent period of the Vietnam War.

MAT 111 Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1971 is very well written. Roberts presents his 42 true stories in a way that put me at his side through much of it. His penchant for explaining everything works well as a primer for those with little knowledge about the war, as well as a refresher for veterans and others who are familiar with the U.S. advisory effort in Vietnam. The book includes a good number of maps and photographs.

Roberts shares everything in a relaxed manner as he relates his joys and sorrows, his bravery and fears, and his knowledge and ignorance. Throughout the book he displays a high degree of maturity and fairness in his wartime thinking and decision-making. He also describes quite a few dangerous situations which he jokingly refers to as, “A Walk in the Woods,” along with several fast-paced moments of combat.   

I highly recommend this book.

–Bob Wartman

Honor through Sacrifice by Robert E. Lofthouse

The question, “Where does America get such gallant men?” resonates repeatedly in Honor through Sacrifice: The Story of One of America’s Greatest Military Leaders (Koehler Books, 206 pp. $25.95, hardcover; $16.95, paper; $7.99, Kindle) by Robert E. Lofthouse. The answer focuses on Gordon Lippman, who fought in more than twenty battles in eleven campaigns in a twenty-two-year military career extending from World War II to the Vietnam War.

At the age of eighteen in March 1943 Lippman quit high school and enlisted in the Army. By the time he completed advanced training, Lippmann had been promoted to staff sergeant based on his leadership qualities.

In 1944, as a member of the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, Lippmann saw action in Italy and, soon afterward, parachuted behind German lines into Southern France, a surprise operation that sent the German Army fleeing from the coastal region. Continually advancing northward, the 517th eventually fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Lofthouse presents a great amount of historical detail in addition to telling the story of his first cousin’s life. After describing the turmoil of the pivotal Battle of the Bulge, for example, he analyzes events twenty-one miles north of Bastogne that Lippman took part in. For his leadership and daring under fire during the Battle of the Bulge, Gordon Lippman earned a battlefield commission to second lieutenant at the age of twenty.

In his account of cousin’s actions in the Korean War Lofthouse follows the same historical pattern, but tells more about the man who led the all-Black 24th Infantry Regiment platoon. Although Lippman unhesitatingly risked his own life, he always kept his men’s survival in mind. In Korea, he received a Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart, and a promotion to captain. Following the war, Lippman advanced through the ranks. As a lieutenant colonel, he joined the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division at Lai Khe inside the Iron Triangle in 1965.

Lofthouse writes that political machinations led to the U.S. military failure in the Vietnam War. “Civilian control of the military does have its consequences,” he writes, noting that “the U.S. military had long been schooled in offensive warfare and was very good at it. Regardless of political policies, U.S. commanders were institutionally and psychologically unsuited to a defensive mission, which is what was called for in Vietnam by successive presidential administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson.” 

In this “caldron of contention,” Gordon Lippman served mainly as a staff officer, although he occasionally joined troops in the field. Once, he even took a turn as a door gunner on a helicopter. He also was a believer in hearts-and-mind programs, especially helping school-age children.

Lt. Col. Lippman

On the night of December 11, 1965, following dinner with his fellow officers, Lippman announced that he was going to check on “the boys.” He donned his web gear, left the quarters, and was shot. A helicopter immediately medevacked him to Saigon, but he died during the night.

In concluding Honor through Sacrifice, Lofthouse examines Lippman’s legacy, along with those of other military heroes. He also includes “Memories from the Family,” a collection of remembrances about his cousin from the people closest to him.

Between wars, Lippman lived a model life. Following his strong Roman Catholic principles, he and his wife adopted three children. He earned bachelor and master’s degrees and wrote articles about leadership, a few of which Lofthouse summarizes in the book.

Honor through Sacrifice rightfully lauds the life of an exceptional citizen-soldier and simultaneously offers history lessons about American involvement in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

I lived through those years and knew a lot about much of what Lofthouse writes in the book about those wars. On the other hand, he delved into minutia that reached a new and revelatory depth for me.

I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in infantry combat.

—Henry Zeybel

Portraits of Patriots by Tom Keegan

Tom Keegan’s Portraits of Patriots: Vietnam Veterans’ Tales of Duty, Courage, and Honor (Middle River Press, 232 pp. $20, paper) is a compilation of interviews with 24 Vietnam War veterans.

In 1970, Keegan’s draft lottery number was 261, and because of the big drawdown of troops from the war zone with Vietnamization, Keegan remained a civilian. After retiring many years later as an insurance fraud investigator with a burning admiration for veterans, Keegan began interviewing Vietnam War veterans for this book.

He chose two dozen Vietnam vets for the book, veterans whose MOSs run the gamut. They include infantrymen, helicopter pilots and crew members, USAF radar jammers, a post office officer, a WAC nurse, Navy SEAL, admin clerks, a Navy Corpsman, and a combat engineer. “The thread that is so pronounced in all of these stories,” Keegan writes, “is that of selflessness.”

Each chapter is the story, as told by the veteran, of his Vietnam War experience that also includes Keegan’s comments. For the most part, the stories follow the same outline: the veterans talk about how and why they entered the military, go on to describe their first impressions of Vietnam, add a story or two from their tour, and then tell what it was like coming home.

I know what I did as a Marine in Vietnam, and I enjoyed learning what others did. These stories taught me more about the many different things the troops did in Vietnam, a lot of which I took for granted at the time and had not given much thought to since.

It was very interesting reading about those “hidden” duties and responsibilities taking place simultaneously throughout the war zone. We all sort of know what helicopter pilots, grunts, and corpsmen went through, but to read their own thoughts about doing what they did was enlightening. Keegan has done a very good job combining these disparate stories into a single read.

I recommend Portraits of Patriots. With its short chapters and stand-alone stories, it is a great book to read in one sitting—or in 24 separate sittings. 

For ordering info, go to the author’s webpage:

–Bob Wartman

Humane by Samuel Moyn

“War is hell,” Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman famously said. “The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” But in the twenty-first century, technology has enabled some aspects of war to be far less infernal.

In Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 416 pp. $30, hardcover; $20, paper; $14.99, Kindle) Samuel Moyn argues that today’s forms of warfare, which do not involve indiscriminate killing of civilians and noncombatants, is paradoxically not a sign of human progress, but a guise for the continuation of endless war.

Because war is waged under the auspices of legalese and casualties are limited—in Sherman’s words, less cruel—there is no resultant significant public response to America’s actions, and therefore no incentive for policymakers to stop waging war.

Moyn, a Yale Law School and history professor, has written extensively on human rights, most recently in Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World (2018). His new, accessible tome of scholarly merit is divided into eight sequential chapters. Though the book curiously lacks a bibliography, Moyn’s work is supported by 47 pages of notes and a useful timeline.

Moyn starts and ends his book by looking at Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist (War and Peace, et al.) who disdained armed conflict and believed that efforts such as the Red Cross trying to make war more humane would only make war more likely. Tolstoy is an unlikely bedfellow to a diverse group of military leaders,including the Prussian theorist Carl von Clausewitz, Gen. Sherman, and U.S. Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, who believed in total war and the complete destruction of the enemy.

Tolstoy yearned for peace, while Clausewitz and his ilk aimed for victory. But all believed that war should be brutal enough to prevent its reoccurrence. Moyn does not advocate brutality as Tolstoy did, but deems Tolstoy’s stance as prescient: American war has reached a level of efficiency, and even safety, that may be waged at virtually any time and in any place.

Moyn does not place the origins of easy on the World War II atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagaski nor on the September 11 attacks, but rather on the Vietnam War. He argues that the daily, televised violence; the use of chemical defoliants; and, in particular, the horror of the My Lai massacre forced American military policymakers to rethink their strategy of unrestrained warfare.

But it is difficult to prove this causation. Far from being unrestrained, American troops in Vietnam often were confused by contradictory rules of engagement. What’s more, My Lai sharply divided the American public, and Moyn discounts the importance of the draft in the mobilization of opposition to the war.

Moyn is correct that war has changed. Military engagements have been legalized to the extent that American leaders must consider humanitarian and international law before acting. Moyn decries this because he believes it has desensitized the American public.
The main problem, then, becomes government lawyers who have enabled the proliferation of war. This focus on legalism, however, overestimates its importance.

Professor Moyn

What’s more, Moyn neglects other factors that are more significant in the evolving norms of military restraint: the use of technology and specialized military units and the very nature of war involving non-state actors rather than nation-states.

Moyn’s conclusion is vexing. He says that the worst thing about war is not physical violence, but the assertion of American hegemony, claiming that “humane war is another version of the slavery of our times.” Since war cannot be abolished, Moyn takes the Tolstoian view that any effort to make it more humane is meaningless, and only becomes an inducement for further American domination.

Though Moyn chides President Obama for expanding America’s drone wars, he also calls him “brilliant, eloquent, and extraordinary,” an apt description of Moyn’s book. But as Obama’s eloquence could not mask his contradictory actions, all of Moyn’s erudition provides a provocative, yet flawed, thesis.

–Daniel R. Hart

U.S. Navy Special Warfare Units in Korea and Vietnam by Eugene Liptak

Eugene Liptak’s U.S. Navy Special Warfare Units in Korea and Vietnam: UDTs and SEALS, 1950-1973 (Osprey, 64 pp. $20, paper; $9.99, Kindle) is a well-illustrated, concise look at Navy Special Ops in the two wars fought by the U.S. following World War II.  

The first two chapters focus on UDT (Underwater Demolitions Team) operations during the Korean War. Those small units conducted missions that had been refined during the Second World War: beach reconnaissance and demolition of obstructions and marking underwater mines and other potential landing craft obstacles. 

The UDT frogmen also found themselves undergoing highly dangerous Korean War missions inserting agents and guerillas behind enemy lines. Adding to the risks of landing on enemy beaches, the lightly armed teams were minimally able to defend themselves. There also were unusual missions that included destroying fishing nets.

Why were we destroying and capturing Korean fishing nets and sampans? Simply put, the nets were destroyed to curtail fish as a source of food for the North Koreans.

In the Vietnam War UDT units supported U.S. Marine amphibious assaults on Vietnamese beaches that attacked Viet Cong enclaves. As always, frogmen were the first to hit the beaches to evaluate approaches and mark safe channels. They also fought VC in the vicinity.

UDTs in the Vietnam War operated independently and in support of a new concept in U.S. Navy Special Warfare ops: SEAL (SEa, Air and Land) teams. Military historian Liptak discusses the primary UDT and SEAL missions in Vietnam, including intelligence gathering, senior enemy official abductions, and night ambushes.The primary areas of responsibility were the Mekong Delta and the Rung Sat Special Zone, a difficult region of thick mangrove thick swamps east of Saigon. 

Other SEALs led paramilitary forces of indigenous anti-communists organized into Provincial Reconnaissance Units.They conducted missions similar to those of Operation Phoenix that targeted Viet Cong troops and sympathizers throughout South Vietnam. Another task was rescuing prisoners of war and downed airmen.

A SEAL Team in country ready to move out on an operation

This book discusses the SEAL teams’ weapons, such as the Stoner 63A1 squad automatic rifle and the Swedish K submachine gun, as well as the vessels used for water transport, and SEAL platoon and squad organization.

This abbreviated overview of UDT and SEAL operations provides an informed, interesting, and fact-filled account of their work in two wars. It should be read.

–John Cirafici