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Spite House: Last Secret Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This book uses impressive spadework to tell the story of what its subtitle calls "the last secret of the war in Vietnam," namely, what really happened in the case of Marine Private Bobby Garwood, the last soldier to return from the war alive. He returned in 1979, after 14 years missing in action. Jensen-Stevenson, a former Sixty Minutes producer, managed to get on the record people who have spent years staying off it: several well-placed military intelligence figures and Garwood (court-martialed for consorting with the enemy upon his return) himself. The main contentions of the book are that Garwood didn't desert but was captured after a firefight, that despite the sorts of lapses that virtually all Vietnam POWs fell prey to from time to time, he remained a loyal American throughout an incredibly arduous captivity, and most explosively of all: that before his return, based on the idea that he was a defector, there was an organized effort by U.S. forces to assassinate him. Readers will conclude that the Garwood case needs re-opening. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

While every American prisoner suffered under Viet Cong and North Vietnamese control, few can lay claim to the physical and mental duress endured by Robert Garwood. This young Marine driver was captured only ten days before the end of his tour of duty in 1965. He spent the next 14 years as a POW and, when finally repatriated in 1979, was immediately arrested by the U.S. military and charged with collaborating with the enemy. The charges against Garwood were never substantiated but were widely believed by U.S. intelligence officers in Vietnam. Jensen-Stevenson (Kiss the Boys Good-bye, NAL Dutton, 1991, pap.) describes Garwood's ordeal both from the standpoint of the hapless Marine, caught up in events far beyond his understanding, and from that of Col. Tom McKenney, a Marine officer obsessed with killing the man he was told was a traitor. A fascinating and disturbing story, it is a useful addition to Vietnam War collections. Recommended for academic and public libraries.?John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib., Loudonville, N.Y.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Avon; First Thus edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038073169X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380731695
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #301,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
When I met my husband in 1979. He had just escaped Vietnam the year before. He was one of the boat people. He told me way back in 1979 that he had seen American POW's as late as 1978 with his own eyes on more then one occasion. He was riding his scooter far out in the country side and saw a group of tall, long haired and bearded Caucasion men working the rice paddy fields under Vietnamese armed guard. When he looked a little too long and too hard the guards aimed their rifles at him so he looked away and kept driving.
He said the Caucasian mens faces were very sad.
My husband wouldn't lie to me. He still insists it true and we have told many people about it
Since then I made it a point to question every Vietnamese refugee I met. Several had told me they saw them with their own eyes as late as 1982.
I was also told that it was common knowledge in Vietnam that American POW's were still there.They were surprised that most Americans didn't know about it. They just figured maybe we didn't want them back or didn't care.
I don't know the real truth about Bobby Garwood. But, I beleive what my husband and other Vietnamese have told me
I don't know if there are any POW's left alive now. It's been so long. But, I believe there were as late as 1982 and I pray for them every night.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Sossaman, ssossaman@wisdom.wsc.ma.edu on September 6, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
OK, footnotes might seem boring, and they might frighten some potential book buyers, but any book concerning the controversy over Robert Garwood needs rigorous footnotes identifying the source or sources of various assertions. In Spite House, the few footnotes are really odd; some minor matters are footnoted, major matters are not. The footnotes appear to have been tacked on, not by the author, and clearly not scrutinized by any editor. The primary source appears to be Colonel Tom McKenney. Now, he is probably a fine and honest man, but I suspect his assertions need double checking because of his apparent need to believe in one system or another 100%, first the Marine Corps and then, once disillusioned with the USMC, with his church. The leaps of illogic attributed to him and others are frightening. One final note: it strikes me as absolutely absurd that the Vietnamese communists, fierce and proud soldiers and adamant nationalists (and contemptuous of south Vietnamese "puppets") would allow American deserters to "lead" their tactical units (as the book several times says American intelligence officers believed). If American officials did actually believe that, we have, I would guess, yet another example of our fatal, egotistical ignorance of Vietnamese history and thought.
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34 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Smoten on March 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In late 1999 Ms. Jensen-Stevenson settled the libel lawsuit filed against her and her publishers by Dr. Harold Kushner for the scurrilous allegations she had made against him in "Spite House". Dr. Kushner was a P.O.W. in several of the jungle camps where Robert Garwood acted as guard and interrogator for the Communists. Ms. Jensen-Stevenson agreed to a monetary settlement (which Dr. Kushner promptly donated to charity) and also agreed to publish an apology to him in both the New York Times and Dr. Kushner's local paper; she admitted that the only source for her charges was Robert Garwood and that none of the other surviving P.O.W.'s would buttress her assertions.
The facts of Robert Garwood's case, as opposed to the fiction of "Spite House", are well known and easily summarized: Garwood was captured in or near Da Nang in 1965 and for approximately the next eighteen months he was a P.O.W., a status that changed when he was offered release but refused it, electing to stay with the Viet Cong as a lieutenant. Now calling himself Nguyen Chien Dau ("Nguyen the Freedom Fighter"), Garwood became fully integrated into the Viet Cong infrastructure. He carried a standard-issue AK-47 and used it to guard fellow Americans. He also interrogated them and encouraged them to write and record anti-American propaganda. He assaulted at least one P.O.W. (he was later convicted of this), lived in the guards quarters and made pro-Communist loudspeaker broadcasts near Marine positions. He may even have participated in combat assaults on Marine patrols and bases, although it seems ludicrous to imagine that the Viet Cong, fierce warriors with an intimate knowledge of the land, would have actually allowed a motor pool private to lead them into battle.
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20 of 30 people found the following review helpful By ra doyle on June 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the author's second book touting convicted traitor Garwood as a hero. (" Kiss the Boys Goodbye" was the first.) In first book Marine General Lewis Walt is not even in the index, however in "Spite House " he is on fifteen pages and becomes Garwood's father confessor and mentor. The reason is Walt had died. The author conveniently never has a word from the former pows from the camp they were all in in SVietnam and who testified against him at his court martial. Of course she quotes dead pow Eisenbraun and Grisset ad nauseam. Tell the Bruce Womack story ( pgs 212-223) to any Marine Sergeant Major and you will have him on his knees laughing-it did to me and my retired Marine buddies. The author has Sam Owens commanding a Force Recon company. The Recon Association lists all their former company commanders and Owens isn't one of them. If you really want to know if Garwood was a traitor read Col Gary Solis' work on Marine Law in Vietnam-it will tell you all that Jensen-Stevenson purposely omits. Semper Fi, RA Doyle USMC retired
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