White Water, Read Hot Lead by Dan Daly

In 1967-68, Dan Daly served as the skipper of a fifty-foot-long Swift Boat in Vietnam. He delivers a highly personalized account of that experience in the new edition of White Water, Red Hot Lead: On Board U.S. Navy Swift Boats in Vietnam (Casemate, 413 pp., $32.95, hardcover; $9.99, Kindle), which was first published in 2015.

Swift Boats worked relatively unfettered by assignments from headquarters. Daly and his five crewmen primarily intercepted trawlers carrying supplies to NVA units in South Vietnam.

Daly describes Swift Boat life starting with training in California. In country, he and his men encountered frequent firefights, ferocious weather that once capsized their boat, and harassment from superiors who considered Swift Boaters too independent and macho. Daly also recollects the onset of his lasting love for a Navy nurse from the U.S.S. Repose.

His crew’s combat action mainly took place offshore near Da Nang. To fill out the Swift Boat picture, Daly describes in detail an operation in which one of his friends picked up Special Forces troops at the southern tip of Vietnam near the Cambodian border.

Daly holds a lasting fondness for his crewmen and fellow Swift Boat skippers. Through his eyes, his men saw themselves as elite sailors working hard to maintain that status. His book makes a strong case for an overwhelming sense of teamwork and dedication to duty among Swift Boat crews.

Daly and crew

Throughout the book, Daly has blended an excellent collection of photographs, most of which he shot, with the text.

The author’s website is whitewaterredhotlead.com 

The book is available for a 50 percent discount for members of Vietnam Veterans of America. To order, call 610-853-9131, or go to casematepublishers.com, tell them you are a VVA member, and provide the code VVA-50. The offer is good through September 30, 2017.

—Henry Zeybel

Good for One Ride by Gary McGinnis

Gary McGinnis served with the Army in Vietnam in 1968 as a Water Purification Specialist attached to an infantry unit. His novel, Good for One Ride (Editions Dedicaces, 120 pp., $16.50, paper; $8.25, Kindle), book deals with “the scourge of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome Disorder that curses combat veterans forever.”

This book gets a lot done and covers a lot of territory in just under 120 pages. Army Private Theo Garrett is assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division, 2nd Engineers in water purification during the Tet Offensive. The novel begins and ends in Cold River, Vermont In between, we learn an awful lot about the role of the watermen, those water purification people, in Vietnam. We get a lot of information about the erdulator, a mechanical device that purified hundreds of gallons of water at water points. We encounter much stupid, ill-informed leadership on the officer level, often checked and balanced by responsible work by the sergeants, the men who really ran the war.

I got so much detailed information on how to purify water that I felt I could pass a test on the subject. Certainly, I gained a lot of respect for the work of the waterman in the Vietnam War.

Gary McGinnis

We learn about drug use in Vietnam, including “grass, heroin, alcohol, darfons and benoctals.” We learn more about shit burning. We get the eternal question, “How many more gallons of water do we have to purify before we go home?”

The role of water purifiers is referred to as mid-level combat, which I think is justified as these men often were at serious risk and did get shot at. And some of them died.

Readers looking to learn about aspects of the war that are seldom respected or even commented upon should read this book. I enjoyed it, and I read it in one sitting.

—David Willson