Gayle Rivers is a warrant officer in the New Zealand SAS. One day in 1969 he is called to a meeting and finds himself part of a covert operation. Codename the Five Fingers the groups consists of seven highly trained special forces members that include three Green Berets, a South Korean ranger, a British and Australian SAS and Gayle. The mission is to go through Laos and North Vietnam to a small town on the Chinese border. There they will kill the delegates of a conference held there. The conference is to arrange China and North Korea’s entry into the Vietnamese conflict and force American out of Asia.
The mission starts off as planned and the squad arrives at the town in China. Then they get an abort signal and must fight there way back. In addition to the communist forces pro-American Laotian government troops and mercenaries are out to stop them. It seems that their own government doesn’t want them to return. Now their only chance is to link up with an American unit in South Vietnam.
This book I read in high school and absolutely loved it. It has to be the most action packed books I ever read. A reviewer quoted on the back states that there is more killing than a Chicago stockyard and I have to agree. The squad fights NVA, VC, Pathet Lao, tribal mercenaries, the Laotian National Army and Cambodian mercenaries. These seven men leave bodies all over Laos and North Vietnam.
You also get a feel for what the unit goes through. Gayle talks about the mosquitos, leeches, snakes, dysentery and malaria that plague them. The various emotional states that the men go through. You get to see how this mission forms a deep bond among the unit from the hardships that they endure.
The book hints that this is a real story and Gayle Rivers is a pseudonym. Is it real? Well I suppose it could be. Some of it does seem farfetched but who’s to say that it didn’t really occur. I thought the ending was a bit anticlimactic and leaves unanswered the reason for the mission. While it was unsatisfying it also does lend an air of reality to the story.
Real or fiction The Five Fingers is definitely one incredible action packed and interesting book.