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Bernie Weisz "a historian specializing in the Vietnam War" RSS Feed (Pembroke Pines,Florida U.S.A.)

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by Kent White
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.95
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 20 Year Vow of Secrecy to the U.S. Government after the Vietnam War Ended Prevented this Book’s Release!, April 5, 2015
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This review is from: PRAIRIE FIRE (Paperback)
Former Special Operations Group member Kent White turned author thinly veils “Prarie Fire” as “fiction,” yet it is all too obvious from the details within this story that this is anything near concocted drama. SOG, or more accurately deemed “Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG)” that White was a member of was a highly classified, multi-service United States special operations unit which conducted covert unconventional warfare operations prior to and during America’s 1964-1972 military involvement in the Vietnam War. SOG units conducted strategic reconnaissance missions in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and were tasked with the capture of enemy prisoners, rescuing downed pilots, sabotaging enemy munitions caches as well as conducting rescue operations to retrieve prisoners of war throughout Southeast Asia. The author, or for that matter any American volunteering to serve in SOG signed an agreement with the U.S. Government for 20 years promising not to discuss or write about anything they saw, participated in or knew. Violation of this agreement would result in federal prosecution, fines and incarceration. White acknowledges this by asserting that while "Prarie Fire" was penned as a work of fiction, many of the events in this novel are only slight variations of actual occurrences.

The central theme of “Prarie Fire” concerns the revelation by a captured North Vietnamese Army officer under interrogation that a prisoner of war camp holding incarcerated Americans existed in supposedly neutral Laos, “off limits” by the rules of engagement agreed upon at the Geneva Convention, yet routinely used as a staging ground as well as a main artery of the “Ho Chi Minh Trail” for northern communist forces infiltrating into South Vietnam. Following the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, 591 American prisoners of war were returned during “Operation Homecoming. The U.S. listed about 1,350 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action and roughly 1,200 Americans were reported killed in action and their bodies were not recovered. Many of these were airmen who were shot down over North Vietnam or Laos. Investigations of these incidents have involved determining whether the men involved survived their shoot down; if they did not survive, then they considered efforts to recover their remains. Considerable speculation and investigation has gone to a hypothesis that a significant number of these men were captured as prisoners of war by Communist forces in the two countries and kept as live prisoners after the war's conclusion for the United States in 1973. A vocal group of POW/MIA activists maintains that there has been a concerted conspiracy by the Vietnamese government and every American government since then to hide the existence of these prisoners. The U.S. government has steadfastly denied that prisoners were left behind or that any effort has been made to cover up their existence.

Yet in “Prarie Fire” White explains the endeavor by a U.S. “Recon Team” to discover the validity of the captured NVA officer turned collaborator’s claims by going “over the fence," i.e. infiltrating a 6 man team with generic uniforms minus any indication of American affiliation into Laos to verify this. Did this ever actually happen during the war? In November of 1970, a force of 56 American commandos raided an NVA POW camp near Hanoi in a province called Son Tay. An estimated 70 captured US military personnel were held there during the middle of the Vietnam War, thus necessitating an attempt to rescue these POW’s. Prior to the raid, all POW’s were moved to another camp by the NVA. U.S. intelligence may have identified this the day before the raid, but the raid was sent anyway. Although one of the U.S. helicopters crashed, the raid succeeded completely in its technical objective of seizing control of the camp with no American losses. Although there were no POW’s present to rescue, an unknown number of North Vietnamese soldiers were killed in the raid. Despite any official documentation of this due to SOG’s clandestine methods, you can be sure this prison camp’s discovery and reconnaissance involved SOG teams. Methods that SOG used, their use of mercenaries and infiltration techniques are all discussed. “Prairie Fire” is a non stop nail biter that will keep your attention to the very last page! A must read!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 23, 2015 4:30 AM PDT

Duty Honor Sacrifice
Duty Honor Sacrifice
Price: $3.67

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Being a Brown Water Sailor in the Vietnam War: A Strange Land With Unknown Dangers Striking at Any Time., March 28, 2015
Ralph Christopher has done it again! Where his first blockbuster book “River Rats’ left off, "Duty Honor Sacrifice" picks up and then some. This book has many fascinating anecdotes of the Vietnam War while at the same time really delves into the historical information concerning the U.S. Navy's endeavors to take the fight to the enemy in the murky backwaters of the Mekong Delta. All the major operations from 1965 to the final U.S. pullout are analyzed, as well as the crafts, their attributes and functions are discussed. Needless to say, despite the Vietnam War being close to fifty years ago, Christopher succinctly mentions that the reason he wrote this book was to point out that other Vietnam Veterans that are still with us today will never forget the silent heroes of the past and that the ones that died will somehow know that they are not nor ever will be forgotten until the last Vietnam Veteran is gone. This book is Christopher's small way of letting the public know that it meant something very special to those that answered the call in that forgotten place called South Vietnam and survived, and always will. Aside from the naval war being thoroughly discussed, the author drives the point home that those that served did not go off to kill, but rather to stop communist aggression. Yet there is much pain and anger among Vietnam Veterans in light of the disgraceful welcome home they received. Christopher insists that unlike both World War One and Two, Vietnam Veterans apologize for nothing, only lamenting that they were not allowed by our government to finish the job or bring world peace as every previous generation of U.S. Veterans has tried to do.

Brown Water Sailors or “River Rats” are what navy personnel were called who operated in the waterways of the southernmost part of South Vietnam, particularly the Mekong Delta and its backwaters. By using particularly suited river patrol boats and their crews, American naval forces were tasked with the difficult mission of keeping the fledgling democratic of South Vietnam's offshore waters, rivers and canals free so that the Viet Cong Communists could not smuggle munitions or troops into the south as well as protect the indigenous farmers and fisherman's abilities to move safely and bring their products of fish, rice and fruit to their markets without enemy intimidation or seizure. Aside from robbing and taxing locals, the VC would abduct and impress young men to serve in their army; objection would be met by execution at the hands of these brutal communists. Yet why now are Vietnam Veterans such as Christopher speaking out? The author makes it known that in the early, mid and late 1970’s, Vietnam Veterans were criticized, called names such as “losers, psychopathic baby killers and drug addicts,” totally untrue monikers. Being too hard to explain, Vietnam Veterans simply stopped talking about their experiences. In the 1980’s distorted movies such as “Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter and Hamburger Hill” came out showing anything but the real war that was fought. It was only in the 1990’s and onwards that Vietnam Veterans or the military are no longer condescended with the understanding that as with today’s terrorists in the Middle East who use similar tactics to the ones employed in Southeast Asia during the war, the men that served in Vietnam were in a bad situation, fighting a brutal, heartless enemy.

“Duty Honor Sacrifice” explains how the U.S. Navy endeavored to halt the flow of communist arms and supplies by sea and 1,200 miles of South Vietnamese coastline, developing a security system of coordinated surveillance and security called “Operation Market Time.” Similarly, river patrol boats were devised for patrols in the Mekong Delta, which would come to be known as “Operation Game Warden.” Riverine ships were produced by American ingenuity for this purpose such as “Swift Boats, PBR’s (Patrol Boat River), Monitors, Tango’s Strike Assault Boats (STAB’s) Landing Ship Docks, YRBM’s (Yard, Repair, Berthing and Maintenance) et al. As the war progressed, American naval assault operations were needed to stop the flow of insurgents and equipment infiltrating into South Vietnam from supposedly neutral Cambodia. Combined operations of naval task forces were launched for this purpose, an operation that was dubbed “Sea Lords” (Southeast Asia Lake, Ocean, River and Delta Strategy). The aforementioned operations as well as many others are thoroughly recounted by Christopher, all pointing out that prior to and during then President Nixon’s plan to turn the war over to the South Vietnamese (called “Vietnamization) America was winning the naval war. A superb description is included as to how the Navy and Army (particularly the 9th Infantry Division) combined to launch coastal river landings to place boots on the ground and take the fight directly to the enemy. Rules of engagement, methods of attack as well as the morale of the Brown Water Sailors are all discussed. The heroics of both naval helicopter attack units known as “Seawolves” and aerial attack units of the “Black Ponies” who flew their OV-10 Bronco’s are covered.

The pilots of these aircraft distinguished themselves by flying down and dirty, low and slow over the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, killing more enemy and saving more allies with close-air support during the years they saw action than all the other naval air squadrons combined. Christopher points out that after the Tet Offensive of 1968, there were drafted troops arriving in Vietnam with the attitude that they were not going to die for a war no one at home cared about and with the phased pullout and Vietnamization, the conflict would be over soon. The gap between fresh troops and senior noncommissioned officers widened with many refusing to perform their duties or go out on patrol. Despite America’s process of process of turning over our war machines to the South Vietnamese, they didn't seem interested in winning either. All these factors and more led to the decline of troop morale with domestic media showing people protesting, burning their draft cards, daily American “Killed in Action” reports and atrocities such as the “My Lai Massacre over exaggerated. On that Ralph Christopher laments that this was the first time our country had ever fought a war which was not designed for us to win but rather to support the South Vietnamese so they could win, which they didn’t….reminding him of what is going on today in Afghanistan and Iraq. Regardless, this is an absolute must read, a little known account of American bravery, heroism and savage combat in the swamps, canals and coastlines of South Vietnam that must never be forgotten!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 28, 2015 11:36 PM PDT

Tracks Memoirs of a Vietnam Veteran
Tracks Memoirs of a Vietnam Veteran
by Sergeant Clyde D Hoch
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.99
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Vietnam War: the only way to really find out what it was like to be there is to sit down and listen., January 3, 2015
This is a rare Vietnam memoir indeed. The majority I have dealt with are catharsis oriented, with the Vietnam Veteran wishing to get rid of the old cliche: "You are only as sick as your secrets." That was not Clyde Hoch's goal. Nor was it to tell his children his life story before his final demise. Neither was it to settle an old score and set the record straight. Completely selfless, Mr. Hoch declares it in his dedication as such: "This book is dedicated to all of my brothers who fell and rose back up, but we were never whole again." Although the reader is treated to a historically rich memoir of Hoch's tour of duty at age eighteen in "C Company, First Tank battalion, First Marine Division from February of 1968 to April of 1969, the realization of the injustice doled out to these brave, patriotic warriors that never received credit becomes readily apparent. He makes it abundantly clear how unrealistic Hollywood's portrayal of Vietnam truly was, and that the only way to really find out what it was like to be there is to sit down and listen to a Veteran that was really there. Most importantly, Mr. Hoch cogently elucidates to the reader that despite being in the sweaty jungles, leech ridden swamps and mosquito laden rice paddies risking his life and made to feel important, he returned to a stateside society that indignantly viewed Vietnam Veterans as homicidal, unsociable baby killers. Elaborating as such, Hoch asserted the following: "I was 21 and responsible for 2 to 3 tanks and 8 to 12 people, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, in high stress combat situations. It was really a lot of responsibility for someone that age." However, the author compellingly summed up his feelings upon return by the following: "When I returned to civilian life, I was just one of many punk kids who just got out of the military. I received no respect and worked very hard to fit back in civilian life. I was told once, "you lost that war. It was the only one that the U.S. has ever lost." The men and women who served in Vietnam never lost a major battle. In my mind, our politicians and the American public lost that war."

The exasperation of his inexcusable mistreatment upon his return from Vietnam can historically be contrasted to the ticker tape parades, ballroom dances and the camaraderie of Veterans of Foreign War meeting halls returning World War II Veterans experienced. Vietnam Veterans experienced none of that. Commenting on this, Hoch lamented: "I risked my life for the our government, only to come home and be treated like dirt. I was not allowed to talk about Vietnam, but in some ways, it was a nightmare that I cannot forget to this day. Some people had it far worse than I did, and some much better." In a typical paradox common to many returning Vietnam Veterans, they counted down the months, weeks, and eventually days to return to the U.S. to conclude their tour (known as "Date of Estimated Return from Overseas Service or the acronym DEROS). However, either as a consequence of "adrenalin withdrawal," or societal mistreatment, there were those that shortly after their return couldn't wait to go back to S.E. Asia. Clyde Hoch, for reasons of his own, was part of that group. Explaining his rationale, he elaborated as follows: "It was extremely hard for me to get used to coming back to the states where there was so much backstabbing, selfishness, and arrogance. I almost felt like going back to Vietnam." Ending his military career in Vietnam as Marine Corps Platoon Commander, his adjustment to being an insignificant, unappreciated ex Veteran was arduous and painful. Explaining why, Hoch wrote: "I left Vietnam feeling important and useful to society, even though I felt as though society did not like me. Society hated us because we were trained killers." Again and again, upon his return from S.E. Asia, instead of the public expressing gratitude and appreciation for his contribution in the war effort, he was asked to his chagrin: "What was it like to kill women and children?"

While Hoch's mistreatment as a returning Vietnam Veteran is a primary theme of this memoir, there is so much more to this historically speaking concerning the American conduct of the war never to be found in high school or college textbooks. Another theme that runs right through the book from the beginning to the end is immortality. In his introduction, Hoch asserted a chilling statistic: "Statistically, I am one of 2,709, 918 Americans who actually served in the Vietnam War. We are dying at a much higher rate than the average person who did not serve in Vietnam." For the entire fourteen months Clyde Hoch was in Vietnam, he was faced with death virtually every day until he became filled with the following belief that fortunate for this memoir, it did not become a self fulfilling prophesy: "There were so many times I went to sleep thinking that I would not last the morning sun come up. There were so many days I woke up and said to myself, "This one will surely be my last day on earth.". Surprisingly, even on his last operation before he returned home he expressed similar sentiments: "I had it in my mind I would never leave Vietnam alive. I felt that if nothing else happened, the plane would get shot down on the way home." However, this book is not only about Vietnam, death and societal rejection. It is also about the "tracks" in his life, hence the title of his book. Not only are the treads of his tank's imprints left in the Vietnamese soil covered, but this is a memoir of Clyde Hoch's accomplishments, failures, emotions, memories and lessons learned. Written 41 years after he left Vietnam, Hoch explained the time lapse: "I did not write this book earlier in my life because no one wanted to hear about Vietnam. I write this now from memory, in the hopes that someone reads it, gains knowledge, and maybe understanding from it. With the current plethora of "Fake Warrior Vietnam Veterans" that claimed they were there when they actually weren't, it is now fashionable to be a Vietnam Veteran. However, Hoch explained: After coming home from Vietnam we seldom mentioned being there at all because it usually broke out into an argument or a fist fight. As everyone knows, we Vietnam Veterans were considered the scum of the earth by most civilians of the U.S." It is truly sad that a memoir as important and revealing as this almost didn't find the light of day. Furthermore, we must ask, how many Veterans had historically important stories and experiences to tell which they tragically brought with them to their graves?

Clyde Hoch's Vietnam experiences are memorable and a historian's treasure chest of facts. Hoch starts the book with a saying in the Nam: "If you were rich, you went to college. If you were poor, you went to the Nam." From a poor family in Pennsylvania and goalless after high school, the draft for Vietnam was in full gear. Knowing that he would be conscripted, Hoch volunteered at age 18, in March of 1965 for the U.S. Marine Corps. He described the rigors of boot camp and basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, and later infantry training at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. Following his graduation, and a cruise to the Mediterranean, where he described hilarious hi jinks, he was assigned as a tank driver. Hoch commented: "I am not quite sure how I ended up on the tanks, but I was not upset about it." Incredibly, Hoch was promoted to Sergeant, and was offered a way out of going to Vietnam, as part of the "Military Drill Team" in Washington, D.C. Hoch responded to that offer as follows: "I joined the Marines to go to Vietnam and fight for my country." He was transported to Vietnam on a commercial airliner like scores of other veterans described in their memoirs. However, his initial impressions upon landing at Danang in the northern part of South Vietnam designated "I Corps," is memorable: I had seen poverty before but nothing like the poverty in Vietnam. When we think of poverty in America, we think of people on welfare that might not always have heat or food. In Vietnam, some of the people literally had nothing but the clothing that they wore. These people did not go to a local food shelter. They scavenged for food in the jungle. As detailed in Mark Purdy's book "The River Rats of Vietnam," Hoch asserted:"The "Black Market was very prevalent. Sometimes we bought military equipment from them." Ignoring the sage advice of never volunteering for anything, Hoch immediately acquiesced when asked by a Warrant Officer the following: "I need two more people to man a tank." The die was cast in Vietnam for Clyde Hoch.

In his third day in Vietnam, the author was sent on a mission he would never forget. Usually accompanied by anywhere from 2 to 5 other tanks, Hoch commanded his lone tank and was sent to a communications tower that was manned by a dozen grunts. The tower overlooked a hill, and Hoch's tank was to guard it in a support role. Unbeknown to him, he was about to square off against an entire North Vietnamese battalion heading right his way. When informed of the odds of one tank against an entire NVA battalion with no U.S. reinforcements coming, he wrote: "It is an odd feeling thinking that you know you are going to die in a couple of hours. I was barely old enough to drink in the U.S., but soon I was going to die for it." As the enemy shelling erupted, and the N.V.A. drew perilously close, Hoch thought about becoming a prisoner of war: "A statement from jungle training that stuck in my mind was "Always save one bullet. No matter what happens, don't be taken alive." However, Hoch was about to witness a scene that would save many American ground forces during the conflict: "Soon I heard a plane and saw a florescent red rope falling form the dark sky. What the hell is that? I was told it was Puff, but not to worry because it was one of ours." Hoch was referring to a converted C 130, with call signs of "Spooky and Puff, the Magic Dragon." This was a gun ship that was developed by the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. It was felt that more firepower than could be provided by light and medium ground-attack aircraft in some situations when ground forces called for close air support. The plane had three 7.62 mm mini guns that could selectively fire either 50 or 100 rounds per second. Cruising in an overhead left-hand orbit at an altitude of 3,000 feet, the gun ship could put a bullet or a glowing red tracer (every fifth round) bullet into every square yard of a football field-sized target in three seconds. And, as long as its 45-flare and 24,000-round basic load of ammunition held out, it could do this intermittently while loitering over the target for hours. When the North Vietnamese saw this, they smartly vanished. Unfortunately, as this memoir documents, there would be battles where Puff never came or was unavailable.

The reader is put within the pages of "Track" on Hoch's M 48-A3 medium tank during his fourteen months of traversing his two primary bases of operation, "Battalion Headquarters, which was on a hill outside of Danang, and "Charlie Company Headquarters," south of Marble Mountain. Hoch teaches the reader the ways tanks were used in Vietnam, the type of ammunition tanks in Vietnam used, i.e. everything from white phosphorous, flechette, canister and what was called a "HEAT Round," to the different functions the crewmen of the tank would perform. Hoch noticed the children of Vietnam, who always hung out with the tankers. Hoch remarked "I thought to myself that I wish I could take some of the children home and give them a better life." He wrote that early in the book prior to witnessing the slaughter of innocent villagers as the result of an American artillery barrage. There are both horrid and vivid descriptions of what Hoch deemed "collateral damage, to which the author would react by writing: "I felt uncomfortable seeing women or children killed. It was one thing for men, but women and children made me feel worse. Women and children and children should not be involved in a war." As a truism throughout any of mankind's conflicts, Hoch quoted an African proverb which stated: "When elephants fight, it's the grass that suffers." Although it bothered the author, other Americans were hardened to the brutality, the killings and the stresses of war. Hoch, although it sounds suspiciously similar to the dreaded doctrine of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi's, wrote the following: "Many of the people I served with hated the Vietnamese. They felt that they were enemies and should be eliminated. They talked about the boat method. You take all the good Vietnamese and put them on boats, kill all the rest, and then sink the boat." There are two sides to this story. Although Hoch didn't mention it, an American solder also became polarized and inured against the enemy after seeing enough of his buddies step on command detonated NVA booby traps and land mines, U.S. captives skinned alive or units barely surviving a deadly, ruthless Viet Cong ambush designed not to leave a legacy.

There are many salient points about the war Hoch exposed. During the conflict, the term "Hearts and Minds" was a euphemism for a campaign by the U.S. military to win the popular support of the South Vietnamese people. Instead of being the "policeman of the world," it was hoped that one day, South Vietnam , though its army, the Army Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) could militarily stand alone against its aggressive Northern counterpart, and it's bellicose policies. In hindsight, this prospect of U.S/ARVN cooperation was doomed for failure based on Hoch's observation. Stationed in a small village called Nui Kim Sanh, Hoch wrote of his dealings with the ARVN: "There was an ARVN platoon stationed there. We did little socializing with them. They would stare at us as they went by, but they didn't seem to like us much. They were in and out of the village constantly. You could not help wondering which side they were on." In regard to winning the hearts and minds, there was an incident where Hoch's Battalion headquarters was raided at night by fifty North Vietnamese sympathizers. The next morning, the Battalion barber was found dead in the concertina wire surrounding the compound. The barber turned sapper was shot dead trying to kill Americans. Hoch recalled: "What a great spot to plant a spy, in the local barbershop to see and hear everything. I remember getting a shave from him when I was back at Battalion. When he was done cutting your hair he would wrap a warm towel around your face then lather it up and sharpen the straight razor on a leather strap. It felt good, but I didn't like him that close to my throat with a sharp razor. I guess my instincts were right on." Another point about winning the "hearts and minds" that Hoch elaborated on, was that the North simply did not play fair. Hoch elucidated: At times, the North would send executioners into a village friendly to the Americans, take young males for their military, and threaten to come back to kill their families if they didn't cooperate. The North would have the villagers plant mines and booby traps. Then, when the villagers harassed us, we would retaliate against them. The villagers were just like pawns to the North. It did not seem like fair game to me."

Clyde Hoch also patrolled an area called the "Mud Flats," which had an alias of "Little Khe Sanh." Also a Korean Marine area, Hoch found them attached to him, since they did not have tanks in Vietnam. Aside from John Culbertson's memoir "A Sniper in the Arizona" and Robert Blackburn's "Mercenaries and Lyndon Johnson's More Flags," very little is known about South Korean participation as America's ally in Vietnam. Aside from South Korea's payback for America's bailout in 1950 when they were almost overrun by the North in the "Korean War," it is not widely known that American taxpayer money completely footed the bill of the Republic of Korea's (ROK) military contribution. The first South Korean personnel to land in Vietnam was in 1964 with ten non-combatant Taekwondo instructors, along with thirty-four officers and ninety-six enlisted men of a Korean Army hospital unit. In total, between 1965 and 1973, 312,853 South Korean soldiers fought in Vietnam, killing 41,400 N.V.A. soldiers and 5,000 civilians. According to Blackburn, 4,407 ROK troops lost their lives during the conflict. Mercenaries and Lyndon Johnson's "More Flags." Hoch gives a rare account of his dealing and impressions with the soldiers of South Korea, eating with them "kim che and rice" with almost every meal. Included is the gory incident of two Korean soldiers obliterated in front of Hoch as they stepped on a powerful land mine. Hoch reports of N.V.A. psychological warfare they tried on the ROK troops that fought alongside Hoch: "On many occasions the North Vietnamese talked to the Koreans with loud speakers. Always during these sessions the Koreans had a strained look on their faces, a look of fear. I would sometimes ask the Koreans what the North Vietnamese said. They would tell me what they said, "We are the same type of people, don't support the evil Americans!" I would worry that we may have an uprising from the Koreans. The North Vietnamese would do this for hours. I was glad when they stopped."

The author both doled out and escaped death. Clyde Hoch watched a RGP (rocket propelled grenade) shoot right at him and narrowly miss killing him as well as watch 600 hardened, fully outfitted N.V.A. soldiers stand up and start walking towards his tank position. He wrote about that, describing: "It was probably what Custer felt like, seeing hundreds and hundreds of the N.V.A. stand up and start walking towards us." Out in the jungle, he wrote: "We got so used to drinking warm beer, that once we had a cold one, it didn't taste right." Shortly before his tour ended, Clyde Hoch was in for a surprise. Conversing with a soldier that just returned from "the World" (the U.S.) he was told the following: "They hate us over there. They spit at us and call us baby killers. They throw dirty diapers at us." Hoch's reaction: I could not believe what I was hearing! We were risking our lives every day, living in sometimes horrendous conditions so they could have their freedom. What the hell is wrong with those people? It was a great shock for us. I thought we were kind of heroes. Instead we were viewed as idiots and barbarians." As a foreshadowing of what Jane Fonda would later do when she toured North Vietnam in 1972, during which she cozied up to the enemy, posing for photo op's with communist troops and broadcasting anti-American rhetoric, Hoch wrote: "I had heard later that college kids and some actors were hoping for the N.V.A to kill all of us Americans. They were wishing for our death while we felt we were protecting them. They were actually supporting the North Vietnamese. This seemed so unpatriotic to me. They did not know me. I was there to help my country." The balance of this memoir underscores this ambiguity. It is actually impossible for the reader to not be in Clyde Hoch's tank with him, to watch the carnage, the bonds formed with his fellow tankers and to vicariously experience the anguish he felt when the very people he was protecting treacherously turned on him. "Tracks" is a memoir that reads like a novel but stirs your gut like very few others will. It is an absolute "must read" for every American to read, particularly with our forces now coming back from the Middle East. The disappointing return home to the country and people Clyde Hoch and others gave so much for will stay with you not only after you have finished "Tracks," but forever. An absolute essential read for any historian of the Vietnam War!

Almost Heaven: Coming of Age in West Virginia
Almost Heaven: Coming of Age in West Virginia
by Jerry S Horton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $21.95
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He Was Willing To Risk His Life In Vietnam For The Opportunity To Earn His College Degree, October 12, 2014
Jerry Horton's autobiography "Almost Heaven: Coming of Age in West Virginia" is an incredible testimony of the author's tenacity against incredible odds to graduate from college, survive Vietnam and become an engineer. This book will make anyone realize that if one sets their mind to a given objective, it can be obtained through courage, guts, determination and resoluteness. This memoir also expands on Horton's first book about his lifelong experiences and near lethal experience in Vietnam entitled "The Shake 'n Bake Sergeant." Most people take for granted the fact that they have a mother, father, a stable home and a guaranteed path to a college education. Horton, with the exception of his mother Ruth-had none of these. Although this is in some respects a coming of age story, the intestinal fortitude the author displays will not only make people appreciate what they have, but also make readers realize that anything is obtainable if one strives hard enough to obtain it. Horton's mother gave birth to the author in the Salvation Army. Horton viewed this as the Army being his humble beginnings.

Growing up in in Charleston, West Virginia, his mother would marry and only as a teenager right before he joined the army would the author find out painfully that he was adopted. As a child, Horton loved art with his favorite pictures being of armies and war. He would daydream about war, which would eventually turn into dangerous rock fights with other kids in his neighborhood. Needless to say, Horton felt that it taught him to fight and win, two qualities that would save his life in the near lethal Plei Trap Valley encounter in Vietnam. Needless to say, Horton was told at a young age by his father that if he set his mind to it, he would become a successful engineer. Emphasizing the subtle power of encouragement, this made Horton believe in himself and give him a formula to which he would eventually achieve. He learned other lessons as well. The concept of persistence taught the author that if he tried harder than the next person, he could equal and surpass them. Horton's parents quarreled and eventually divorced, and his escape from his familial problems as well as the stress of growing up he would escape from by his love of basketball, a game he thought would be good enough to win a scholarship thus paying for his college.

When he was 14 years old, he tried to run away to Florida, which turned out to be an unsuccessful foray in West Virginia's mountains during the month of March. Although he did not make it, Horton learned an important lesson from this experience; survival, being prepared and beating the odds. This would save his life on March 12, 1969. Sadly, Horton would never be taller than 5'10." Before graduating from high school Horton would find out that he was too short to interest any scout from professional basketball, thus no scholarship or money. This was 1966 and American involvement in the Vietnam War was becoming greater each year. Horton lived at home, shot pool for his spending money and used his winnings on girls and booze. Realizing he was causing his mother major grief, Horton decided to leave town and would go on an incredible journey that almost reads like Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test."

Remembering his father's advice about setting his mind to becoming an engineer, Horton went to Chicago and worked as a steel worker. This earned him enough money to attend Louisiana Polytechnic Institute for a year. After attaining a 4.0 GPA, Horton was flat broke and had to withdraw from school for lack of funding in May of 1967. Almost surrealistically, Horton would first work for two weeks sandblasting the bottom of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Realizing this job was too dangerous, he quit to live with the hippies. Embracing the philosophy of "you could do anything you want as long as you didn't hurt anyone," Horton then migrated to San Francisco's Haight Ashbury during the "Summer of Love." He eloquently describes the scene there and was able to see famous bands such as "Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish and Big Brother and the Holding Company" in Golden Gate Park. Horton became edgy and disenchanted with this hippie lifestyle and with a quick stay at Yosemite National Park he returned to Chicago and took a job cleaning tar off concrete floors.

Finally, Horton snapped and decided that the only way he would obtain his dream of graduating from college and becoming an engineer would be to join the army and let the GI Bill pay for it. Finding out that out of the 400,000 troops in South Vietnam, only 70,000 were fighting in the jungles with one in thirty placed in a position of being shot at. As fate would have it, Horton would become one of those being shot at. Arriving at Fort Benning, Georgia in December of 1967, Horton began his military gambit. After he completed basic training, Horton was offered Non commissioned Officer School which was a three month course that upon completion would make him an instant "Shake 'n Bake Sergeant." Strangely enough, Horton was assigned to Fort Ord, California where during the day he would prepare himself for the Vietnam War and at night party hard with the hippies.

Wanting to get the Army and Vietnam over with so he could return to college, Horton was shipped directly to Vietnam. He was assigned to the Forth Infantry Division and would be in charge of a unit operating in the northern part of South Vietnam near the Cambodian border. The rest of this memoir takes off like a rocket ship. Horton laments on how the North Vietnamese moved men and supplies through Cambodia and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, yet American forces were never allowed to invade North Vietnam nor follow the enemy into Northern Cambodia. Horton also commented that the troops he saw when he first arrived looked paranoid, wild, dirty and dangerous, appearing as wild animals and staring at him as if he was just a piece of meat. Little did he know that he would soon take on that appearance. From being under-supplied with socks, ammunition, food and water to a bizarre anecdote of a soldier killed by a tiger, Horton would go through an ordeal that many readers might wonder if it was worth it to risk one's life on. Yet today, Horton holds a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in Electrical Engineering, MBA and MSEE from University of Tennessee and BSEE from Louisiana State University. Even though Horton came away from Vietnam with a ticket to college and a purple heart little did he know and he would find out 30 years later he was also awarded two Silver Stars for bravery in action. If there is one story about tenancy to achieve one's dream no matter what the obstacles were against him, Jerry Horton's "Almost Heaven" will hold a special place in the literature of both inspirational stories as well as a vital contribution to America's understanding of our role in the Vietnam War. A "must read!"
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 13, 2014 4:06 PM PDT

Unwanted Dead or Alive -- Part 2: The Betrayal of ASmerican POWs Following World War 11, Korea and Vietnam
Unwanted Dead or Alive -- Part 2: The Betrayal of ASmerican POWs Following World War 11, Korea and Vietnam
by Robert W Pelton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.95
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Military Men Are Dumb, Stupid Animals To Be Used As Pawns For Foreign Policy.", August 7, 2014
Henry Kissinger was born in Fuerth, Germany and came to the United States in 1938 and was naturalized as a United States citizen in 1943. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946 and then went on to graduate summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1950, receiving M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in 1952 and 1954. Furthermore, he was sworn in on September 22, 1973 as the 56th Secretary of State in the Richard Nixon Administration, a position he held until January 20, 1977. He also served as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from January 20, 1969, until November 3, 1975. However, in Robert Pelton's new book "Unwanted Dead or Alive", Kissinger is quoted as making the statement; "Military men are dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns for foreign policy."

Robert Pelton angrily writes of the unjust betrayal of American prisoners of war following W.W. II (1939-1945), the Korean conflict (1950 to 1953) and especially the Vietnam War. American involvement in Vietnam is historically viewed from the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" of August 4th, 1964 to the signing of the "Paris Peace Accords" on January 27th, 1973. South Vietnam ultimately fell into Communist control at the end of April, 1975. However, Henry Kissinger was a key player in America's exist strategy of this highly unpopular war. After the 1968 "Tet Offensive and My Lai Massacre" occurred, America's days in Vietnam were numbered. A mass murder was perpetuated by an American Army unit on March 16, 1968. There, approximately 500 unarmed citizens in the South Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai, all of whom were civilians and a majority of whom were women, children (including babies) and elderly people were innocently killed. Allegedly, many of the victims were sexually abused, beaten, tortured, and some of the bodies were found mutilated. While 26 U.S. soldiers were initially charged with criminal offenses for their actions at My Lai, only William Calley, a lieutenant, was convicted. Serving only three years of an original life sentence while on house arrest, Calley served as the scapegoat and the incident became public knowledge in 1969. It prompted widespread outrage around the world. This massacre, along with the events of Kent and Jackson State Universities (where student protesters were killed),the assassinations of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and the 1968 Tet Offensive debacle greatly increased domestic opposition to US involvement in the Vietnam War.

With the false hope of enemy attrition, fruitless search and destroy missions and inaccurate body counts not equaling an American victory, the will to fight in Vietnam vanished. Indeed, military leaders themselves recognized a crisis among American soldiers in the war's last years. "Combat Refusals," where soldiers refused to obey orders of their superiors became rampant. G.I's objected not only to what they saw as suicidal missions squaring off against an elusive, tunneled in enemy, but to the war effort itself. In the last few years of the conflict, drug use amongst U.S. troops increased, and commanding officers saw their men wearing T-shirts and combat helmets with peace symbols. The general feeling of American ground forces were that they were fighting a war for a cause that meant nothing to them. "Combat Refusals" became increasingly common in Vietnam after 1969. Soldiers also expressed their opposition to the war in underground newspapers and coffee-house rap sessions. Some wore black armbands in the field. Others went further. When one American killed another American, usually a superior officer or an NCO, the term "fragging" came into use. Although the term simply meant that a fragmentation grenade was used in the murder, it later became an all encompassing term for such an action. It is known that "fraggings" did occur during Vietnam, but the precise number is uncertain.

From 1969 to 1973, "fragging" e.g. the shooting or hand-grenading of a GI's NCO or superior officer who ordered him out into the field increased dramatically. At least 600 officers were murdered, and another 1400 died mysteriously. By early 1970, the Army was at war not with the enemy but with itself. Desertion and Absence Without Leave figures were off the charts. Nixon, realizing American forces in a land war were no longer reliable, switched to both Vietnamization (handing the war over to the South Vietnamese) and to American aggression against the North Vietnamese strictly conducted by air. In December 1972, peace talks between the United States and the Communist-backed government in North Vietnam began to break down. Out of frustration, the Nixon administration responded by initiating "Operation Linebacker," the so-called "Christmas Bombings" of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh's capital in North Vietnam. From December 18 to 30, 1972, waves of American B-52's dropped nearly forty thousand tons of bombs on the mostly evacuated city. Although Nixon defended his actions as essential to the attainment of a cease-fire, domestic reaction from much of the country and the world was shock and outrage. Many accused Nixon and Henry Kissinger of enacting a policy of revenge and frustration. It is interesting to note that Pelton writes that Kissinger was seen as one of the most influential "Soviet moles" in American history. Nixon's domestic approval rating plummeted, but some three weeks later, negotiations between a divided Vietnam and the United States resumed in Paris, France. On January 17th, 1973 the Paris Peace Accord was finally signed, and America's long direct involvement in the Vietnam War at last came to an end.

However, this massive bombing attack on Hanoi in response to stalled peace negotiations created much shock and anger in the United States and was denounced as an immoral terrorist act against the North Vietnamese civilian population. Nevertheless, "Unwanted Dead or Alive" focuses on the plight of unreturned prisoners of war after the war was over. Following the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, U.S. prisoners of war were returned during "Operation Homecoming," occurring from February through April of 1973. Within this time period, 591 POW's were released to U.S. authorities which supposedly included a few captured in Laos and released in North Vietnam. Pelton points out that this is false, as no POW's (especially SOG forces, Air America and "Black Operatives") captured in Laos or Cambodia to date have ever been repatriated, despite Nixon's brazen announcement that all U.S. servicemen taken prisoner had been accounted for. Concomitantly, the U.S. listed approximately 1,350 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action and sought the return of about 1,200 Americans reported killed in action and their bodies were not recovered. The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office would end up investigating the fate of all missing service personnel. With the collapse of the Paris Peace Accord and the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, over the next ten years little progress was made in recovering missing POW's and finding unaccounted remains. During the late 1970's and 1980's, the friends and relatives of unaccounted-for American personnel became politically active, requesting the U.S. government to reveal what steps were taken to follow up on intelligence regarding live sightings of MIA's and POW's. Pelton lists the multitude of live sightings and how American authorities ignored them, deliberately sweeping them under the rug. Many frustrated families and their supporters asked for the public release of POW/MIA records and called for an investigation. Bobby Garwood emerged in 1979, the only POW to surface following the end of the war and the 1973 release of prisoners. Garwood was considered by the Department of Defense to have acted as a traitor and collaborator with the enemy after he was taken prisoner, yet Pelton argues he was an American POW abandoned by the military. It is interesting to note that Pelton calls Kissinger "Moscow Man Comrade Kissinger" who aside from working with the Soviets, practiced a career of Communist directed subversion, sabotage and sellout of America's interests.

This book is unlike any other you will ever come across in regards to American POW's unaccounted for since 1945. Without overly saying it, Pelton expresses his disdain at America's abandonment of those who risked their lives in the line of fire by quoting Harriot Ison's inappropriate comment pertaining to their fate. As the "Charge d' Affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, Laos, Ison (as one of Kissinger's "clones" according to Pelton) remarked; "You do not understand...there is a greater destiny for our foreign policy in Asia and the POW's are expendable in that pursuit." Pelton comes out with some facts that make it very hard to understand how this could be allowed to happen. According to the author, tens of thousands of American soldiers who fought in W. W. II against the Germans ended up after 1945 as unaccounted POW's and spent the rest of their lives in torturous Soviet slave labor camps. Supposedly, when the Russians liberated Nazi POW camps, the majority of POW's earned a one way ticket to the Siberian "Gulag." Then, after the conclusion of the Korean War, the U.S. deliberately abandoned unrepatriated American POW's to their sadistic Communist captors, never again to see freedom. Finally, in the Vietnam War, thousands of American boys ended up as permanent, lifelong POW's and spent the rest of their days in Vietnamese, Laotian, Chinese and Russian slave labor camps. Pelton unabashedly calls it a blatant lie that the 1973 announcement that all unaccounted American POW's in S.E. Asia were dead and that even to this day, U.S. government officials continue to lie about their fate.

This is just the tip of "Pelton's Iceberg." The author charges that specialists from the U.S. Army deliberately misidentified the "purported remains" of dead American servicemen sent back by the dishonestly evil Communist regime in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese imported Cuban torturers to "reeducate" American POW's. Hanoi sold back Dien Bien Phu POW's to the French for huge sums of money and tried recently to do this again with American POW's. Taking a big chance at calling the U.S. Government the most colossal liar of all time, Pelton bravely points out that our rulers have the audacity to label over 1,400 unresolved reports of live and first hand sightings of American POW's in S.E. Asia as "no credible evidence." This book will carefully detail what Pelton calls a "carefully orchestrated whitewash" regarding the torture, death and abandonment of U.S. captured troops following the three aforementioned conflicts. He catalogs and describes the government lies, distortions and intimidation tactics used to obfuscate the veracity of American POW sightings after the end of these wars. The author unequivocally asserts that the shameful denial of their existence and the subsequent abandonment the POW's is nothing less than an unmitigated disgrace. This book is not an easy read. Detailed within this expose is the shocking and horrendous manner in which POW's were starved, tortured and left behind by their sadistic Communist captors. At the conclusion of W.W. II, Nazi leaders responsible for the conflict and resulting Holocaust were held accountable at the Nuremberg proceedings. Likewise for the Nipponese leaders at the Japanese Far East War Crimes Tribunals. There exists a large number of repatriated U.S. prisoners of war memoirs that enumerate torture and inhumane treatment. Robert Pelton rightfully asks why no American leader has ever suggested that the guilty Vietnamese be tried for war crimes as well. Conversely, the individuals responsible for the "whitewash" of POW's" should equally be held responsible for the beatings, torture, death and abandonment of American fighting men. There will be a backlash of this explosive book. Names are named, and cowardly acts are called out. The bottom line is that when "Unwanted Dead Or Alive" is finished, the reader can feel nothing less than righteous indignation realizing that as of today, abandoned American military men are still alive in Communist Captivity in S.E. Asia and the Soviet Union, suffering a fate that can only be called worse than death. This is an absolute must read and will change your perception forever of our government and our military, especially if you have a family member or close friend in the combat zones of today's hot spots!

Poems in the Keys of Life: Reflections of a Combat Medic
Poems in the Keys of Life: Reflections of a Combat Medic
Price: $9.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Vietnam War Combat Medic's Reflections; The Only Winners Of That Conflict Were The People Selling Ammmo and Caskets!, June 7, 2014
Thirty five years. That's right....after returning from South Vietnam on March 23, 1969, it took author Kerry "Doc" Pardue 35 years to summon up the verve to write about his one year stint as a combat medic in one of the most unpopular wars America has ever engaged in. Graduating from high school in 1966 from Chicago Heights, Illinois, Pardue attempted college for a year. After deciding to take a scholastic hiatus and work for awhile, Uncle Sam decided otherwise for the author as the war drums were loudly beating in S.E. Asia and Kerry was needed. Rather than allowing himself to be drafted and risking the chance of being sent to the front lines as an infantryman in a very deadly war that would ultimately claim over 58,0000 American lives, Kerry enlisted as a combat medic. Falsely being advised that he would be stationed at a secure hospital, Kerry would find out the hard way that the majority of medics with his military occupational specialty were destined to serve with infantry units on the front lines. The author was ultimately assigned to "The Scouts," 2/47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. In his book the "Poems in the Keys of Life," Pardue gives the reader a very emotional, vicarious description of what he witnessed, experienced and after over three decades and careers as a police officer, postal worker and college recruiter, unlocks from his subconscious concerning the unimaginable horrors of war. The Vietnam War was the longest in U.S. history, until the war in Afghanistan that began in 2002 and continues at this writing (2014). It was extremely divisive in the U.S., Europe, Australia and elsewhere. Because the U.S. failed to achieve a military victory and the Republic of South Vietnam was ultimately taken over by North Vietnam, the Vietnam experience became known as "the only war America ever lost." It remains a very controversial topic that continues to affect political and military decisions today.

Nevertheless, Kerry Pardue would put his life on the line to save a fellow "brother," going into battle elbow to elbow with other infantry soldiers facing the same adversities while serving his fallen comrades. With the same mercy and tenderness the author showed on the battlefield, Pardue recreates this passion through the inspirational poems this insightful book contains that both honors his Vietnam comrades he served with as well as acts as a catharsis for what most combat medics eventually deal with, the dreadful PTSD manifestation called "survivor guilt." Brice Barnes, a former colonel that Pardue served under in the 9th Infantry Division accurately describes Pardue's "Poems In The Key of Life" as follows; "His poetry accurately reflects the pathos of suffering and death, the indescribable bond that warriors faced, the simple pleasures of a cold beer, and a plethora of other activities and emotions that surrounded our daily life back in Vietnam." Those that have never faced combat or witnessed a combat medic at work are rarely cognizant that these courageous heroes risked their own lives to save the lives of others, doing everything within their power to keep our wounded alive until they could be medivaced to the rear for more skillful care. One core theme that will jump out at the readers of Pardue's poems is his wonderment at why he is alive today despite the fact that so many of his friends and comrades around him took their "last ride home" in body bags. The frailty and pain of Pardue's psyche is poignantly revealed in his poems, where watching a soldier's last earthly breath left this Doc with an unmendable emotional wound that this book could only bring solace to. Two main rules the author would learn in Vietnam was that men would die in battle and no matter how hard he tried to save them, many would die regardless. Nevertheless, Pardue maintains; "I have come away from my writings with a firmer belief in God, being a good father, an awesome grandfather, a stronger belief that we did the right thing by going to Vietnam, and a sense of peace. Although he came home from the Vietnam War over 35 years ago, the war still lives in his mind, heart and soul. Despite this, "Poems in the Keys of Life" is Doc Pardue's reflective journey that both healed and ultimately provided him with his road map home for his heart, soul and spirit.

From Yellow Ribbons to a Gold Star: Biography of a Hero: Lcpl. David R. Baker, USMC
From Yellow Ribbons to a Gold Star: Biography of a Hero: Lcpl. David R. Baker, USMC
by T-M Fitzgerald
Edition: Paperback
Price: $26.53
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real Heroes Don't Wear Capes Or Numbers. They Wear Dog Tags., June 3, 2014
T-M Fitzgerald's second foray into the literary world after her amazing novel "Emily's Robert E." is about a Marine named Lance Corporal David R. Baker from Painesville, Ohio. Emily's Robert E. Killed in Afghanistan on October 20th, 2009, Fitzgerald shares not his death, but rather his life with the world, especially the inerasable remembrances he left on all he met. Baker was an 81mm mortarman for "Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines out of Camp Pendleton, California. Just nineteen days past his 22rd birthday, Baker lost his life from an Improvised Explosive Devise while serving on combat operations in the Nawa District of what American soldiers of "Operation Enduring Freedom" referred to as "The Stan." Needless to say, if you are looking for a book about combat and morbid details of Baker's death or the war, you have the wrong book. Just like the cliche goes about the fact that rarely do you find an atheist in a foxhole, Fitzgerald makes it clear through her painstaking work in authoring this book that even if one reads or watches movies about war and combat, unless you've been baptized by fire, rarely can a vicarious experience occur.

Why was this book written about Baker? Fitzgerald asserts that the reason is because David himself was denied the opportunity himself to gather his own memories and as fate would have it, author his own story. Yet Fitzgerald, a veteran herself, managed to take on this daunting task. After connecting with David's mother and attending his "Honor and Remember" flag ceremony, she collected accounts of Baker related by his fellow Marines, family and friends, thus sharing his life with the rest of the world. Using her own time and money, Fitzgerald spoke with dozens of Marines, Navy Corpsmen and Baker's comrades, all of whom were touched in an unforgettable way by this remarkable man. To round out her story, she also traveled to Camp LeJune and Baker's final resting place, Arlington National Cemetery. Over sixty individuals were interviewed over a course of five months, from Baker's childhood friends to his teacher, recruiter and girlfriend. One common thread the reader will instantly pick up throughout all anecdotes is that David in almost a supernatural way knew he was not coming back from Afghanistan, almost inferring that his return would be his "last ride home."

Regardless of the heartbreaking aspect of Baker's passing, Fitzgerald by the very essence of this book lets the reader know that David's life would not be defined by how he died, but rather how he lived. Assuaging Baker's, as well as the fears of any fallen combat veteran's family that their son or daughter will never be forgotten, "From Yellow Ribbons To A Gold Star" guarantees this. Fitzgerald poignantly points out that curiosity about America's role in the Middle East waned after 911, as unless it personally affects them, most people do not care. Unlike the Vietnam War of 1964 to 1973, where the numbers of Americans killed and wounded were a daily reminder in the press and television, those that paid the ultimate price became a matter of "out of sight, out of mind." It almost seems as if our nation doesn't realize that a war is still going on and casualties are still occurring. Despite this American amnesia, "From Yellow Ribbons To A Gold Star" emblazons David Baker's remembrance into the annals of history while at the same time reminds all that came into this amazing young man's life that their world was a brighter place for having him in it. This is a critical book about a man that despite not living a long life, he left it as the embodiment of a hero.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 4, 2014 8:58 PM PDT

No Body Armor
No Body Armor
by Donald R. White
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.50
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nam Was A Place Where Death Came Every Day In Many Different Forms!, February 23, 2014
This review is from: No Body Armor (Paperback)
Biblically, it is written in "Matthew 7:13" about the narrow "Gate of Heaven." It reads; "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many that choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever enter it." Initially titled "The Gate," readers must brace themselves for Don White's true account of his participation in the Vietnam War, and his near death experience of March 12th, 1969. For on that date, White was both the field First Sergeant and Platoon Leader of A Company, 1/8 Infantry, 4th Infantry Division and was involved in a terrifying, point blank shootout in the Plei Trap Valley of South Vietnam's Central Highlands. While almost losing his right leg to a North Vietnamese Rocket Propelled Grenade, White's chilling account describes in graphic detail this battle, his participation in two combat tours of duty, a twenty year narrative of his life in the Army as both an infantryman and recruiter as well as a successful 21 year stint as a real estate broker. The "Gate" was the March 12th, 1969 battle and the "Event Horizon" was when his unit was surrounded by an enemy force many times his numbers and subsequent fight to the death for survival. White likens the emotional impact of point blank infantry combat, i.e. the most common type of combat that occurred in the Vietnam War to riding on a "long black train ride" to hell. The author prefaces this book with the admonition to both squeamish and juvenile readers that this account is violently straightforward and better off not read by those sensitive to this. The Shake 'n Bake Sergeant: True Story of Infantry Sergeants in Vietnam Ending his military career as a Master Sergeant decorated with the "Silver Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge" among other numerous medals, White lamented about his wounding's on three separate occasions the fact that America's technology existed for space flight, yet was worthless for protective "Body Armor" of U.S. infantrymen. Thus you have the title of this incisive book.

There are other memoirs about the battles occurring in The "Plei Trap Valley," which is viewed historically as "Tet 1969," namely Don Bendell's superb account entitled "Valley of Tears" as well as Jerry Horton's "The Shake 'n Bake Sergeant." Horton was White's "A Company "Noncommissioned Officer who was seriously wounded with the author in the March 12th battle. Nevertheless, White recalls with individualistic rancor the bitterness felt in his thankless "Welcome Home" as well as the deterioration of America's military might after Walter Cronkite's damaging post Tet 1968 Offensive comments, President Johnson's decision not to run for reelection and Congress's abandonment of South Vietnam, which the author describes as one of history's "worst stabs in the back." White dissects the entire Vietnam War, describing what he calls "2 separate conflicts" both adversely affected by an irresponsible leftist inspired press responsible for turning the American public against their own soldiers. Depending on the branch and year of service, there are many different narrations of how America's 1964-1973 involvement in Southeast Asia was viewed. To White, who's first tour was in 1966 with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, the first war was one of khaki uniformed officers whom lived the best of a tough war at Military Assistance Command of Vietnam in Saigon. Their toughest chore was conducting the "Saigon Follies," i.e. press conferences where correspondents tried to shoot holes in the American war effort. Valley of Tears (The Dell War Series) The second war White deemed "The Nam," a somber, wretched place of close combat, ambushes, M-16's and AK-47's, tunnels, Huey's, and snipers. The only constant factor was bloodshed and massacres. The later was the war "No Body Armor" so eloquently describes; descriptive to the last detail of violent encounters Don White witnessed and almost died in.

Recounted are the pros and cons of both American and Communist implements of scrimmage. The U.S. M-14 and 16 assault rifles are discussed and compared, as are M-60 machine guns, Claymore mines and M-79 grenade launchers. These weapons are juxtaposed against the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong AK-47 rifle, B-40 rocket, rocket propelled grenades, etc. Explained are the differences between the southern based Viet Cong and Hanoi's finest, the "North Vietnamese Army." Also finely elucidated are the strategies of General's William Westmoreland, his post Tet replacement Creighton Abrams as well as the Marines top dog, General Louis Walt. Interestingly, White compares the Vietnam quagmire with current American military actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan, insisting the Vietnam War had more justification. As proof White cites Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's 1960 threat that he would "bury the U.S.," the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as the aggressive Russian Cold War acquisitions of most of Eastern Europe, North Korea and Vietnam. A believer in the "Domino Theory," White asserts that his 531 days of combat were not in vain and our Vietnam effort was only to buy time for South Vietnam to grow strong and defend itself, a fait accompli. When the author left Vietnam, White declares the VC were vanquished and the NVA retreated to its sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos.

Armageddon occurred after White's war was over. Richard Nixon promised "Peace With Honor" with his doomed "Vietnamization" plan, was reelected and then resigned before impeachment. After the Watergate scandal Gerald Ford became president and South Vietnam's ruination was guaranteed by Congress's democratically controlled act of cutting off aid to the South Vietnamese. White discusses the deterioration of an underpaid, understaffed, poorly led post Tet American military where racial, drug and discipline problems were exposed. Medals were awarded with inequity, officers were afraid of their own troops, fraggings and combat refusals all fueled the fire. The author mentions that Hanoi knew its troops could not defeat the U.S. and intentionally appealed to domestic antiwar protesters and the American Left Wing to force America out of the war. The author righteously declares that this was the first time in history an enemy rallied a large group of Americans against their own people. White also points out that the draft dodgers, Vietnam Veterans Against The War and those that absconded to Canada all but forgot about our still missing prisoners of war. With embarrassing taunts of "baby killer" and "psychopathic murderer," White laments the fact that those who answered the call and fought in combat returned to a nation where a large segment of its citizens shamed and wrongfully vilified the Vietnam Veteran. It is correctly pointed out that an individual who witnessed the carnage in Vietnam went through a horrific trial by combat with many 18 and nineteen year olds growing old fast. This tremendous recollection by Don White is an important contribution to anyone who endeavors to understand what happened in the not too distant past in a place referred to as "The Nam."

Honorable Intentions: The odyssey of a American warrior who kept his eyes wide open and is willing to stand up and pull the veil away on what is really happening.
Honorable Intentions: The odyssey of a American warrior who kept his eyes wide open and is willing to stand up and pull the veil away on what is really happening.
by Russell Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.95
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vietnam, the Hells Angels, the Drug War and the Contras...the Good Guys Are Supposed to Win. But Who Are The Good Guys?, September 15, 2013
With almost a half a century worth of Russell Jones' reminiscences, the author takes you through a visceral journey of good and evil lying side by side where righteousness doesn't always triumph despite, as the book's title beckons,"good intentions." This trek is explored through Jones' experiences as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, a police officer, narcotics detective, DEA task force officer, intelligence operative and forensic consultant. Personality traits of stealth, curiosity, lack of fear and impatience serve as the fuel that propels him to his ultimate conclusion that every act is the source of an infinite series of lasting effects. Does that sound too cryptic? You'll understand completely the meaning of this when you finish "Good Intentions." Russell Jones grew up in an age where the Cold War and Domino Theory drove many Americans to support America's entry into Southeast Asia to stop the spread of communism and preserve South Vietnam's survival from the encroaching North Vietnamese. Enlisting in the Army with the goal of being a helicopter pilot in 1967's "Summer of Love,"Jones would immediately start questioning how honorable America's intentions were in this undeclared war.

While Jones learned how to fly a helicopter at Fort Wolters, he would wonder why instead of being told to defeat communism or seek victory, the overriding message given by his instructors was of survival and coming back alive. Upon graduation and deployment to Vietnam in June of 1968, his enthusiasm would be short lived as Jones realized he was heading off to a war his government had no clear plans to resolve. His attitude would crystallize against the war shortly after arrival. The author would meet Hugh Thompson, the hero of My Lai and learn of the atrocities that occurred there. On one mission, he picked up from a village a woman and sick child to bring them to a hospital at Da Nang. As he was lifting off, his helicopter was fired upon. The author's intentions were honorable, yet someone below was willing to kill a mother and her sick child. Jones would become more confused as his tour wound on. Although he had faith that his government was doing the right thing in Vietnam and the Lord would return him home safely, Jones would hear the concerns of his fellow flyers. How honorable were America's intentions when slogans such as "Catch `em alive, leave `em dead, and return with war booty," and "body count, medals and a fast promotion" were the overriding concerns?

After learning of the combat deaths of former classmates as well as being wounded himself, Jones at the end of his tour would become completely disenchanted. His superior officers lied and cheated about body counts and dishonest staff officers stole flight hours to boost their own flying time. Jones would even have a recommendation for him to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross thrown away. Between bombing halts of the North, constricting "rules of engagement" and seeing his country being shackled with a defensive war with no objective while the Communists fought offensively, Russell Jones in the fall of 1970 sought an early out and his military career grounded to an end. There was a new war to fight which made sense to the author, Richard Nixon's "War on Drugs." Sworn as a police officer with only a written test and oral board, once again the notability of his intentions were called into question. As with Joseph Wambaugh's true to life novel "The Choirboys," Jones initially treated everyone including perpetrators with respect. Yet within 24 months on the job he considered everyone contemptible, including fellow law enforcement officers. Being told that one of the problems with police work was that "if you did your job right, no one would notice" was even more disconcerting.

Deciding to work undercover, Jones would descend into a world of deceit, snitching and lies. Going after Mexican street gangs and infiltrating the Hells Angels, he was required to live a lie and fit in, which would cost Jones one of eventually three marriages. Yet the author realized that despite more drug arrests, doors kicked in, guns and money seized, conversely drug dealing, murders and robberies increased as well. Moving from undercover to being a DEA task force officer would be even more revealing about honorable intentions. Jones would find similarities between some of his officers in Vietnam and DEA agents. Just like some officers were only interested in promotions and medals rather than the success of missions, there were DEA agents Jones would work with where if they couldn't solve a case of their own they would try to usurp his. And as to the war on drugs, it was like the situation with body counts in Vietnam to gauge success. Jones felt America's war on drugs was like shoveling sand against the tide. Leaving the task force and moving on in 1985 as an intelligence operative monitoring the Communist uprising in Nicaragua, Jones discloses his knowledge of drug smuggling with impunity by government operatives, with CIA knowledge. The author mentions that government operatives were behind the crack cocaine epidemic as well.

Is the war on drugs fought with honorable intentions? Consider the fact that Russell Jones asserts that this battle has resulted in more snooping, sneaking, corruption and violence than any other act of congress. When the author was six years old, he started a fire in the grass that was quickly put out by the fire department. After being questioned by a police officer, Jones confessed to being the culprit. His lesson; don't get caught. In regard to this, Jones points out that over 1.6 million citizens are arrested each year for drugs, and with less than 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. holds 25 percent of the world's prisoners. Of these arrests, half are for marijuana and almost 90 percent are for simple possession. And in regard to being caught, a drug conviction will follow those for the rest of their lives preventing them from being doctors, lawyers or professors. Jones points out that those that use illegal drugs without being arrested can confess their prior drug use yet still become police officers, teachers and DEA agents. Jones is very much correct in regard to the fact that despite honorable intentions, the only sensible move is to end this madness and seek decriminalization. There is validity in the author's observation that drug smuggling is like a multi-headed serpent. You cut off one head, yet another appears. "Honorable Intentions" is a cerebral, deep memoir that even after several rereads will keep you contemplating about what is going on in today's society.
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B. A. R. Man: Browning Automatic Rifle Man
B. A. R. Man: Browning Automatic Rifle Man
by Sgt Clyde Hoch
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.95
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Big Letdown; Enduring Subhuman Conditions in a N. Korean P.O.W. Camp & Forsaken by One's Countrymen Upon Repatriation !, August 28, 2013
So much is American involvement in the Korean War of 1950-1953 a nationwide repressed memory that one who reads this review's title might question the veracity of whether the U.S. was actually involved in this war. However, it is fitting that Vietnam Veteran and author Clyde Hoch would write this book, as he was also involved in another conflict America has done its utmost to erase the memory of. "B.A.R. Man" is the true story of William "Bill" Gilbert's ordeal as a patriotic infantryman who volunteered to fight in the Korean War, was seriously wounded and subsequently captured by the Communist Chinese. Gilbert was forced to march 200 miles in appalling conditions to a torturous P.O.W. Camp, where he lived for two and a half years. While this memoir is quite enlightening as to how this war was fought and what Gilbert witnessed in both combat and as a prisoner of war, the thrust of this book is the insulting and derisive treatment undeservedly meted out to him upon his return.

Nevertheless, "B.A.R. Man" is full of extraordinary coincidences. Clyde Hoch spent time with Gilbert discovering his ordeal only after a chance meeting on a Pennsylvania highway. Hoch was trying to pass Gilbert in his pickup truck driving 35 M.P.H. in a 50 M.P.H. zone. Bill Gilbert was a loner and a few months later he would remember this chance encounter with Hoch when the two of them sat down to create this masterpiece of forgotten history. Chances are very slim that Gilbert would have opened up to Hoch if the two of them did not share the mutual feeling of being scorned by the very country they eagerly volunteered to fight and risk their lives for. In 2010, Mr. Hoch published his first literary offering: "Tracks: Memoirs of a Vietnam Veteran." In this memoir, Hoch details his ordeal as a Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps in charge of five tank crews locked in lethal combat in the worst years of the Vietnam War, 1968-1969. After seeing fellow Marines severely wounded or killed as well as slain young children held by their hysterical mothers, it was a shock that held no depths when Hoch was told by others upon return that; "You guys lost the war." Refused admittance to the V.F.W. because Vietnam was "not a real war" as compared to W.W.II as well as constantly hearing Vietnam Vets being likened to "homicidal murderers, baby killers, drug addicts and alcoholics," Hoch shut down.

Explaining in "Tracks," Hoch wrote; " I did not write this earlier in my life because no one wanted to hear about Vietnam. The American public and media were looking for reasons to hate Vietnam Vets. Trust me, the feeling is mutual. I lost contact with everyone I was in Vietnam with for about thirty years. Nobody wanted to associate with us, so we just did not talk about it." As readers will discover, Bill Gilbert had a similar experience , although his suffering was exacerbated by the fact that after undergoing his ordeal of communist incarceration, he was neither welcomed home nor was his sacrifice acknowledged. There are theories as to why the Korean War is deemed the "Forgotten War." Perhaps because of how close America came to being involved with W.W. III, with China sending 1,350,000 troops and the Soviet Union providing an additional 26,000 soldiers to bolster the North Koreans. The story of General Douglas McArthur having to be wheeled in and ultimately sacked by then President Harry Truman to avert a full scale conflagration is well known. However, the most likely factor for an American induced amnesia is the same reason Hoch stated in his first book in regard to the America's conduct in Vietnam; "There were so many things that the U.S. could have done if they really wanted to win. We would take a position at the cost of many lives, pull out a week later, than a month later retake the same old position. Maybe there was a strategy behind it, but I never really understood it. In my mind, our politicians and the American public lost that war."

Another important factor this conflict was christened the "Forgotten War" is the toll our country suffered. In the introduction Clyde Hoch states; "This book is dedicated to the men who made tremendous sacrifices in the Forgotten War. It is my hope that in some way I can honor you as the people of our country should have." What kind of losses were suffered? Just compare the Korean and Vietnam War and the figures are staggering. From 1964 to 1973, over 58,000 Americans were killed, 153,000 were wounded and almost 2,500 troops are still missing in Vietnam. Yet in three short years the Korean War killed over 36,000 of our finest, wounded over 103,000 and believe it or not, 8,000 troops are still missing today. With losses as great and painful as this, lack of public attention might be comprehended. Bill Gilbert also elucidates as to why such a high number of missing exist. He asserts to Hoch that both Americans and North Koreans killed P.O.W's even after surrendering. As far as the Communists were concerned, all wounded P.O.W's who couldn't walk to prison camps after capture were executed. They had little in the way of transport and moved prisoners by forced marches at night. All stragglers as well as those attempting to escape were shot. Gilbert has other reasons he offers as to why so many troops are missing. In Tracks, Clyde had some very close calls in Vietnam with the Grim Reaper. He concludes in "B.A.R. Man" that; "I was spared in Vietnam because God had a purpose for me, perhaps to tell this story." This incredible memoir of the Korean War will give some vindication to both of these warrior's plights and is an informative read of events that should never, ever be forgotten!
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