Some Gave It All by Danny Lane and Mark Bowser

516e2npdn-l-_sx324_bo1204203200_

Danny Lane is a Vietnam War Marine veteran whose decorations include two Purple Hearts. In his biography, Some Gave It All: Through the Fire of the Vietnam War (Made for Success, 230 pp., $16.75, paper; $8.99, Kindle; $24.95, recorded), Lane and co-author Mark Bowser write: “It was November 20, 1968, and Danny and his fellow Marines sat on the cold, wet tarmac in full combat gear awaiting liftoff.”

That’s a sentence filled with mystery and malice—foreboding, too.

Lane writes that he found himself wondering what he had got himself into. He was nineteen years old. Two days earlier he had been home, in total security. Now he and his fire team were about to enter the dense jungle of Southeast Asia where the Viet Cong would pursue them relentlessly.

It took Danny Lane forty-five years to decide to tell his story. Now here it is for all of us to appreciate and dwell upon, including those of us who served in the Vietnam War but never got near the jungle. Having your helicopter shot down is a decisive way to come into contact with the jungle and with the NVA.

This book reads like the draft for a blockbuster Hollywood movie, packed with action and adventure. The reader has a front-row seat to follow Lane and his comrades into the intense life of all-but endless combat that these young men endured.

The men were participating in Operation Meade River. It was late 1968, and Danny Lane was a grunt with the 3rd Battalion/5th Marines in the 1st Marine Division. His book ricochets back and forth between modern day and the war, and Lane tosses some curves that we could not begin to predict.

The book is smoothly written, and free from most of the usual Vietnam War memoir clichés. And it’s a spellbinder with a roller-coaster action plot.

Those of us who enjoy and seek out infantry stories filled with action have nothing to complain about with this fine book. Danny Lane has done himself proud. He and his co-author, Mark Bowser, have concocted a winner. I recommend you get a copy of this fine book.

There are some things in this book, though, that I’d never encountered before in any Vietnam War infantry memoir. Things that the authors ask us to believe on faith that sometimes are hard to swallow.

I had no trouble believing the book’s accounts of fragging, the showing of movie “The Green Beret” on the trip home, the singing of “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” the accusations of murdering little kids, the comparisons of the enemy to animals—especially rats—or the constant presence of mosquitoes, leeches, and jungle rot. But I believe the authors went too far in asking me to believe that the VC trained what they call rock apes in combat, specifically throwing hand grenades.

danny3

Danny Lane & fellow Marine Sotere Karas at Fire Base Tomahawk, March 1969

“The Marines hated these crazy, grenade throwing monsters of terror,” Lane and Bowser write. They go on to attest that the rock apes “are descendants of the mythological Big Foot.” The capper is this conclusion: “That was the kind of war that was being waged against us in Vietnam.”

Now I’ve heard everything. I’d love to see the movie, though. Sort of a “Planet of the Apes” meets “Full Metal Jacket.”  I’d buy a ticket. Plenty of others would, too. Americans love a show, especially if it features apes.

The author’s website is dannylane.com

—David Willson

Advertisements

Stingray by Alan C. Thomas

Alan C. Thomas’s Stingray: The Russians are Listening (America Star, 274 pp., $27.95 paper; audible.com, $27.81 audio book) reads like a memoir, at least for the first quarter of the book. So I am grateful that we are informed by the author that “All characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is coincidental.”

Thomas is a former U. S. Navy Corpsman who served in Vietnam with detachments of the 3rd and 5th Marines, including on POW pilot rescue missions in 1970 in Quang Tri Province. His first book, Flashback: Vietnam Cover-Up: PTSD, dealt with veterans’ post-traumatic stress disorder.

Stingray is a complex tale of apparent paranoia, industrial espionage, duplicity, and international intrigue. It was difficult for me to make sense of it all. Is Rob Thomas, the main character in this novel, crazy, as he is constantly accused of being? Or is there a vast web of plots against him designed to discredit his accusations of wrongdoing at Mare Island Shipyard?

This thriller has Kafkaeseque complexities that made my head spin. For those who see conspiracy everywhere they look, Stingray may be for you.  It contains much pill taking, beer drinking, and cold pizza eating. Also the consumption of hot dogs and chili dogs. The fast food eating alone would have made me crazy.

The hero goes to California at the behest of an old friend to take a job at Mare Island Shipyard, and one crazy thing leads to another. Everywhere he looks he sees plots thickening. He ends up in the care of a psychiatrist who is later killed, along with his shipyard boss, in a suspicious car accident. The shrink is convinced that Rob Thomas is a “wacko.”  Hard to argue with that diagnosis.

Alan C. Thomas

Thomas leaves his wife in Florida when he decamps to California. She “wouldn’t follow along the path that I needed to take.”

That “path” refers to the fact that she had been repeatedly raped by her father when she was a kid, so she was not interested in marital sex.

Thomas calls his father and tells him that he has discovered that the streets of California are not paved with gold. That is typical of the phraseology used in this book.

If you enjoyed Thomas’ first book, this one is more of the same, and I predict you will enjoy it. Security leaks at Mare Island and possible KGB operatives infiltrating America—this book has plenty of that.

The author’s website is alanthomasbooks.com

—David Willson