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One Day Too Long: Top Secret Site 85 and the Bombing of North Vietnam [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Timothy N. Castle
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 15, 1999 0231103166 978-0231103169 0

One of the Vietnam War's most closely guarded secrets -- a highly classified U.S. radar base in the mountains of neutral Laos -- led to the disappearance of a small group of elite military personnel, a loss never fully acknowledged by the American government. Now, thirty years later, one book recounts the harrowing story -- and offers some measure of closure on this decades-old mystery.

Because of the covert nature of the mission at Lima Site 85 -- providing bombing instructions to U.S. Air Force tactical aircraft from the "safe harbor" of a nation that was supposedly neutral -- the wives of the eleven servicemen were warned in no uncertain terms never to discuss the truth about their husbands. But one wife, Ann Holland, refused to remain silent. Timothy Castle draws on her personal records and recollections as well as upon a wealth of interviews with surviving servicemen and recently declassified information to tell the full story.

The result is a tale worthy of Tom Clancy but told by a scholar with meticulous attention to historical accuracy. More than just an account of government deception, One Day Too Long is the story of the courageous men who agreed to put their lives in danger to perform a critical mission in which they could not be officially acknowledged. Indeed the personnel at Site 85 agreed to be "sheep-dipped" -- removed from their military status and technically placed in the employ of a civilian company.

Castle reveals how the program, code-named "Heavy Green," was conceived and approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government. In spine tingling detail, he describes the selection of the men and the construction and operation of the radar facility on a mile-high cliff in neutral Laos, even as the North Vietnamese Army began encircling the mountain. He chronicles the communist air attack on Site 85, the only such aerial bombing of the entire Vietnam War.

A saga of courage, cover-up, and intrigue One Day Too Long tells how, in a shocking betrayal of trust, for thirty years the U.S. government has sought to hide the facts and now seeks to acquiesce to perfidious Vietnamese explanations for the disappearance of eleven good men.

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Editorial Reviews Review

From October 1967 to March 1968, the United States operated a top-secret radar system in Laos near that country's border with North Vietnam. This was a provocative move: Laos was a neutral country. Yet the air force desperately needed all-weather bombing capability in the region, and so the Pentagon decided to take a chance. When Communist troops learned of Site 85, they hit it hard. The result: "The largest single ground combat loss of U.S. Air Force personnel in the history of the Vietnam War."

The public still does not know what happened to nine of the men posted at Site 85. They may have been killed or captured, or perhaps fell victim to "some atrocity" perpetrated by the Communists. The military establishment isn't talking, and neither are knowledgeable sources in Laos and Vietnam. One Day Too Long combines scholarship, journalism, and detective work to learn all that can be known. Apparently there is plenty to hide. "It was criminal to leave the technicians and the other Americans and their security forces stranded [at Site 85]," writes Castle. Yet one conclusion is certain, he says: there is "an unseemly pattern of U.S. government duplicity" surrounding this forgotten incident. --John J. Miller

From Library Journal

Castle, who served two tours of duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, teaches national security studies at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama and is a frequent MIA investigator for the Department of Defense. His book concerns the deployment of a radar site (code-named "Heavy Green") in the supposedly neutral country of Laos. In theory, the site was to provide round-the-clock bombing capability to planes attacking North Vietnam. In fact, the site had hardly been operational before the North Vietnam forces knew of it and took steps to eliminate it. It thus became "bait" to lure the enemy forces where they could be attackedAalbeit in a neutral country. The men who volunteered to man the site gave up their military commissions, becoming employees of a private military contractor, and were exposed to great dangerAall for a mission that could not even be acknowledged. Castle does an excellent job of telling the stories of the doomed radar personnel, using interviews with their widows and with surviving servicemen. This is a story that has waited 30 years to be told. Recommended for public and academic libraries.AMark E. Ellis, Albany State Univ., GA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 371 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (March 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231103166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231103169
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #951,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than 5 stars June 5, 1999
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a extraordinarily powerful, interesting and well written book. It covers the entire history (1965-date) of an obscure (to some) chapter in America's war in Southeast Asia -- the loss of Lima Site 85 in Laos to communist attack. The whole history is fascinating -- from the decision to set up this site, to what it (briefly) did, the decisions from the squad level all the way up to the US Embassy in Vientiane and the President in Washington about its mission, operation and defense, to the current efforts to get the truth out of the Lao and Vietnamese governments about MIAs. The author has the background to write this fascinating history and writes compellingly. He's not afraid, where appropriate, to use blunt language like "shameful toadying" and "fraud". I've been a sceptic in the past of some of the distrust of the US government shown by POW/MIA families and partisans, but this book opened my eyes. Phou Pha Thi should have been better defended or abandoned earlier. A great account of (mostly) good intentions and (too often) flawed execution. The author writes convincingly of 1960's combat and 1990's political maneuvering. The treatment of COL Clayton, the commander of the site when it was overrun, by the current "investigators" was particularly revealing and chilling. I was a US Army Signal Corps officer during the Vietnam war and know all too well what it's like to have to be visible on a mountaintop to perform your mission and the need for good defense. I've spent the last 4 years as a civilian in Cambodia. So I have some parallels with the authors' experiences. A great book no matter what your view on the war.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I WAS THERE. January 8, 2001
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As one of the pilots of Jolly Green 67 I simply want to thank Dr. Castle for his comprehensive and historical accurate account of the events at Lima Site 85. This is a story that begged to be told; Dr. Castle pulls no punches, providing a riveting and revealing account. His work was a key factor in the eventual recognition of the heroic efforts of Sgt. Etchberger at the Enlisted Hertiage Hall, Maxwell AFB Annex (formally Gunter AFS), Montgomery AL. A great read.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American tragedy in Laos. March 20, 2000
Congratulations to Dr. Castle for this fine book. A meticulously researched historical work of the finest order that reads like a Tom Clancy action novel. A bombshell that exposes one of the most egregious and hitherto publicly undisclosed tragedies of the Vietnam War. In March 1968 an NVA sapper team avoided detection and attacked a top-secret radar bombing facility (code name Jolly Green) which was manned by sixteen "civilianized" Air Force technicians. The site, LS 85, was located on a mountain top in Laos less than twenty-five miles from the North Vietnam border. The attack caught the technicians off guard and resulted in the loss of the site to the communist forces. Two of those dedicated volunteers manning the site were confirmed killed, five were rescued alive (one died on the evacuation flight) and the remaining nine have never been accounted for and their status remains unknown. This incident holds the distinction of being the largest single loss of Air Force ground personnel during the entire Vietnam War. Why did the Air Force continue to operate this site in the face of considerable evidence the site would soon fall under bombardment and attack by large NVA forces gathering in the area? Was it incompetence or was the site considered so essential to the North Vietnam bombing effort that the loss of the men was an acceptable risk? Dr. Castle looks at these questions in detail. One Day Too Long chronicles the history of Site 85 from its initial concept of operations through the tragic consequence of this miscalculation. But the story does not stop there. It also relates the stoic efforts by one widow to find answers to questions about her husbands death at this site the government was unwilling to provide. This book should be mandatory reading for all future military leaders.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The classic research book on Vietnam Era POW/MIA's March 28, 1999
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Meticulously researched and profusely documented, Dr. Castle has set the standard for all other books on this subject. His skill as a renowned researcher, academic, and archivist has produced the best Vietnam era book written on the subject of POW/MIA's. If you want to know why we have never recovered a living MIA from SE Asia, and never will, read Chapter 14 and the conclusion chapter to understand why. This book exposes the myth of "The Highest National Priority", and shows how the US Government has mismanaged the issue for years. This book took a lot of courage for someone of Dr. Castle's stature and position to write, because it is going to upset a lot of important people with the truth.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exposure of a shameful episode in US history. June 26, 1999
I have a very personal reaction to "One Day Too Long" in that Mel and Ann Holland were our military sponsors when my family and I were first assigned to an AC&W squadron in southern Spain in early 1961, and I worked with Mel until he rotated to the States. It is embarrassing and shameful to learn how both the military and civilian authorities were willing to sacrifice those men in order to cover up their own mistakes, but I suppose if ALL the truth were known about SE Asia operations, we would not be able to stand it. Dr. Castle has perfomed an invaluable service for democracy. EVERYBODY should read this book! (Ann, we'd love to hear from you!)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Great book and easy to read. Tim Castle has done exhaustive research and it's all factual. I know, I was there.
Published 1 month ago by Ken Wood
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing!
A story that needs telling. As a 'Nam Vet, it left a bad taste in my mouth for those that were in control. Read more
Published 2 months ago by William R. Moeglin
4.0 out of 5 stars The true service and sacrifice
It unveiled many things I did not know even I was born there, experienced, witnessed and survived the war. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Pao Xiong
5.0 out of 5 stars The impossible attack
The LS 85 was a "fortress", but the NVA didn't care, the "primitive" air attack failed, but the US didn't care, the NVA send infantry, the US didn't care, when the special forces... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Alejandro Casalegno
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
The story told in this book means a lot to me. The men who served and lost their lives at LS 85 had the same job as me in the Air Force. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Joseph Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars True Story
I found it very interesting because I was stationed at Barksdale . I didn't know all that was going on while I was there. Read more
Published 16 months ago by gloria makowski
4.0 out of 5 stars Secret war
A revealing and thorough book about operations in SE Asia during the Viet Nam War. Reports on a series of decisions leading to a raid very similar to what happened in Benghazi.
Published 18 months ago by jim_k
5.0 out of 5 stars One Day Too Long
One Day Too Long
I am a Viet Nam vet and have just recently been able to allow myself to research, by way of reading objective accounts, as to why we failed at some of the... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Larry
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read.
It's amazing the sacrifices warriors make for their country.
In this story, guys give up military careers (and benefits for their families) to undercover on a deadly... Read more
Published 19 months ago by J. F. Lamont Jr.
3.0 out of 5 stars Please Kindle Version
They men at LS 85 were doing the same basic job that I did stateside from 1974 -80. I have read several books (the "We were Crew Dogs" series) that have brought fond memories of... Read more
Published on January 29, 2012 by NR2D
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