Whispers in the Tall Grass by Nick Brokhaus

Nick Brokhausen’s Whispers in the Tall Grass (Casemate, 216 pp. $32.95, hardcover; $19.95, Kindle) finishes the story he began with his 2005 war memoir We Few. In the new book, Nick, Mac, and Cookie continue to lead a team of Montagnard soldiers in recklessly waging war against the North Vietnamese Army.

They operate primarily in Laos as part of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG). They gather intelligence, destroy communication networks, and expose concentrated enemy forces to attacks by Army and Air Force firepower. A prisoner snatch is their ultimate success.

Brokhausen’s stories are highly detailed; their action is frantic; and three-day stretches of fear often prevail in enemy-controlled areas distant from normal combat. Usually the goal is vague. His team’s job, he writes, entailed “dancing in the dragon’s jaw.”

In reviewing We Few, I noted that Brokhausen mixes irreverence, perversity, and sarcasm with touches of gonzo journalism. He tempers that style in Whispers, which makes the book an enjoyable read. His command of language shows originality, particularly when he describes military feats and individual emotions. As in one of his best lines: “Arc Light will come in and turn the area into a new time zone.”

Off duty, Nick, Mac, and Cookie are certifiable enemies of civility. They challenge pettiness among officers, aggression by MPs, and a misguided tactical experiment of using HALO parachuting for SOG combat insertions. You have to admire Brokhausen and company’s fortitude as they ignored convention and accomplished formidable tasks on and off the battlefield.

Throughout the book, Brokhausen expresses strong feelings about comradeship between warriors, especially his relationships with the Yard fighters.

After being refused an in-country extension, he expresses closing sentiments about warfare with insights that brought back forgotten memories about how it felt at the end of my combat life.

Nick Brokhausen  definitely has his stuff together.

—Henry Zeybel

  We Few by Nick Brokhausen

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Nick Brokhausen’s We Few: U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam (Casemate, 360 pp. $32.95) reminded me of Dale Dye’s Run Between the Raindrops and Hunter Thompson’s Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga. Brokhausen mixes irreverence, perversity, and sarcasm with touches of gonzo journalism to recreate his 1970 tour with the Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), his second  of the war.

Guided by a captain company commander (a former E-7), Brokhausen, Mac, and Cookie (three sergeants) led Recon Team Habu, which was made up of Montagnard fighters. They helicoptered into areas controlled by the NVA, most frequently near Quang Tri and Phu Bai.

They also worked Laos, targets north of the DMZ, “and a few other places best left unmentioned,” as Brokhausen puts it. Primarily, Habu conducted secret missions to observe or disrupt operations behind enemy lines. Their most anticipated but unfulfilled goal was to capture a high-ranking NVA officer.

Brokhausen and his men considered themselves above the normal rules of social behavior. In the field, Habu displayed “pure aggression and murderous efficiency,” he says. Off duty the sergeants acted like members of an outlaw motorcycle gang. According to Brokhausen, they regularly got drunk; stole Jeeps and other equipment; outsmarted or bribed people; and fought or bullied drunken outsiders, MPs, rear echelon personnel, officers,  Air Force “zoomies,” drug users—and even Donut Dollies.

From its opening, the book’s negative intensity irritated me. Consequently, I read only a few chapters a day over the course of a week—cover to cover. Brokhausen provides a constant flow of outrageous figures of speech, quips, one liners, and bitches, along with lots of reconstructed dialogue. He leans heavily on superlatives. He categorizes people, places, situations, and events as the best or the worst with little middle ground.

Nevertheless, Brokhausen draws convincing pictures of his fellow Green Berets’ combat skills and idiosyncrasies and the areas in which they operated. He taught me lessons about Special Forces tactics and weapons—more than I learned from Ken Burns’ television saga on Vietnam, which I never finished watching.

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Brokhausen, third from left, with his Recon team

“A war zone encourages the eccentricities in all of us,” Brokhausen says. Overall, he recreates what he did and saw back in the day—for good and for bad, and far beyond bad.

Since his Army service, Brokhausen has had a successful civilian career in security and military-related businesses.

We Few was originally published in 2005. According to Brokhausen, “This [edition] is the first of two” detailing SOG operations.

—Henry Zeybel

 

The Quiet Professional by Alan Hoe

Alan Hoe, a retired British Army Special Forces soldier, was a close friend of  U.S. Army Special Forces Maj. Richard J. “Dick” Meadows. Hoe’s latest book, The Quiet Professional: Major Richard J. Meadows of the U.S. Army Special Forces (University of Kentucky, 253 pp., $29.95) is a tribute to his former friend and brother in arms.

This book, which Dick Meadows asked Hoe to write, contains lots of first-person testimony from Meadows, who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1947 when he was fifteen. He went Airborne and served in Korea with the 187th Regimental Combat Team. Meadows, at age of twenty, became the youngest Master Sergeant of the Korean War.

After Korea, he volunteered for the newly formed Green Berets, where Meadows wound up serving for more than two decades, receiving a battlefield commission in the process. That included more than three years’ service in Vietnam with the Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, the famed clandestine MACV-SOG operation.

Among many other things in Vietnam, Meadows led the first Bright Light mission attempting to rescue a downed U.S. pilot inside North Vietnam. He later went on to help plan and lead the ground assault team of the abortive Son Tay Prison Raid that went after American POWs.

Hoe (not to be confused with VVA member Alan Hoe of Hawaii, who did the Keynote Speech at the 2005 National Convention) also goes over Meadows’s many activities after the Vietnam War, including working undercover after he retired from the Army to help free the American hostages held by Iran and setting up a security business in Peru.

—Marc Leepson