VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO PUPPET SOLDIERS BY ERIC HELM

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Copyright 1989.

The NVA have starting to help elevate Cambodian officers into positions of power. If this continues then Cambodia may shift from being neutral to openly helping the Communists in the war. The CIA comes up with a plan to send assassination squads to take out these officers. Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are assigned the job of assassinating a Cambodian general whose base is just across the border. Now it seems like a simple enough assignment. He has is worries though. Why all the effort for a minor general? The CIA will also sell out their mother to complete an assignment. These worries are proven out when they are betrayed and set up to be ambushed. Now they have to fight their way out.

This book is new in that it explores the Cambodian military. The Cambodian army is a collection of warlords that have seized power and the central government has no authority over them. The CIA has one of their men in place ready to seize control. With luck he will eventually control the military and be an asset to the American war effort. For this to happen the CIA has it arranged for this man to kill the assassins of the general and thus solidify his position. Of course they didn’t foresee how bad-ass Gerber and his Green Berets are. An interesting and action packed story with some insight into the Cambodians who so far have been out of the picture in spite of their country being the scene for many a story.

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VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO TAN SON NHUT BY ERIC HELM

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Copyright 1989.

A NVA terror squad is active in a region that is friendly to the government. They come in and terrorize the villagers. Kill a few of them then leave with a warning not to cooperate with the Americans or the Saigon government. The tactics are working with the people now too terrified. So Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are assigned to stop this squad. They assemble a team at Tan Son Nhut to find and eliminate this terrorist squad.

So this entry in the series is kind of mediocre. Its a slow day in the war and apparently in coming up with story ideas. Most of the book deals with the antics of the helicopter squad that is assigned to them. Young nineteen year old warrant officers. They are a rebellious bunch to authority. They get in all sorts of fights when going out to the nightclubs in the area. The book picks up at the end when they eventually track down and eliminate the terror squad. Still it was a slow moving story with not much going on.

VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO MACV BY ERIC HELM

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Copyright 1989.

A Special Forces mission sent inside Cambodia is ambushed as soon as it crosses the border. Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are sent to find missing men. They are also ambushed and barely make it out alive. The conclusion is that there is a leak at MACV. A leak that is an American. The investigation leads to a murdered Vietnamese woman who was a VC agent. The leak is revealed to be a CIA analyst.

MACV or Military Assistance Command Vietnam was were the American war effort was run in Southeast Asia. Derisively referred as The Puzzle Place East or Disneyland East by the soldiers in the field. It is portraying in this series as much an enemy as the VC. A place were the air conditioning is so cold the women who work there have to wear sweaters in the tropics. Where bureaucrats run the war in comfort. Working a nine to five schedule. Then enjoying steak and seafood dinners at the various Saigon restaurants. While the combat troops live in rat-infested bunkers eating cold c-rations. So it gets to be the star in this entry in the series.

The book itself is ok but not the greatest. A bit slow but still has its moments. I liked that the traitor Reed was shown to look more like an dupe than a deliberate traitor. He would casually mention missions to his girlfriend who was a VC agent. In fact he was using her to get the information to the VC. A radical who decided that working in the system was the best way to sabotage the war effort. He also proved to be a psychopath as he knifed his girlfriend which was a surprise that came out of nowhere. A decent effort considering the authors had to come up with a new story every month.

VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO STRIKE BY ERIC HELM

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Copyright 1989.

Nui Ba Den or the Black Virgin Mountain is a solitary mountain that sticks out of the jungle near the Cambodian border. Deep inside are caverns that are used by the VC and NVA. Its filled with supplies and troops. A military intelligence officer investigation the buildup of NVA troops comes across info that proves the mountain is a base for the enemy. Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman attempt to mount operations to destroy this base. Meanwhile the NVA are planning to ambush a convoy carrying a Congressional fact finding mission.

The third Super Vietnam Ground Zero book once again manages to keep the action going with its extra length. The action switches from the Americans planning to attack. A NVA lieutenant fresh from the north and struggling to learn the ropes. There is also the congressional aid as he navigates the sleazy politics of the fact finding mission. I like that this one gives the perspective from the North Vietnamese side. Lt. Thanh is someone you can be sympathetic with. He makes some mistakes and has genuine fear. He dies thinking himself a coward when he was quite brave. The Senator is also all too believable. A womanizing sleazy ball who manipulates the facts and proves himself an abject coward when the ambush is sprung. A good balanced look from all sides in this book.

VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO PAYBACK BY ERIC HELM

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Copyright 1989.

U.S Special Forces Camp A-376 near Phuc Duc. The Tet offensive has just been launched and this camp is overrun by the VC. Abandoning their normal procedure the VC decide to occupy the camp. They want to prove that the Americans and their puppet soldiers are weak. The Americans want this camp taken back so they call on Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman to come up with a plan. They have to assemble the forces and come up with a plan in a short time since it is imperative to retake the camp. Using a daring HALO(High Altitude Low Opening) they drop a squad in to assassinate the leaders and take out the communications while a large force attacks.

So the first thing that comes to my mind is why not just blow the camp away in an airstrike. The author must have figured that would be what anyone would ask and does address it. When Gerber asks that the reply is that it had to be taken from the ground to show they were still strong and the VC were weak. Destruction from the air would not have had the same impact. So basically both the Americans and VC make tactically poor decisions for political purposes. A lot of men on both sides died for it which was probably fairly common during the war. The book showed the perspective from both sides and is an enjoyable read.

VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO CAMBODIAN SANCTUARY BY ERIC HELM

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tarzan

Copyright 1989.

Reports are coming that an American deserter is leading the VC in attacks against Americans. Robin Morrow gets invited along by CIA agent Maxwell to go investigate in Cambodia. They find out that it was a planted story. The VC used it to lure a journalist there so that they could get a journalist to tell the war from their side. Meanwhile Robin’s boyfriend Captain Gerber leads a rescue mission into Cambodia. While there Sgt. Fetterman gets separated and finds himself at a firebase about to be attacked. A side story has Dirty Shirt Crawley going to Arlington cemetery to bury a friend and all the weird people he encounters.

This book was I think written by the same person who wrote Red Dust. Like his last one this had just a whole bunch of goofy things going on. There was the overweight prostitute at the airport that propositioned Dirty Shirt. A CIA helicopter pilot that had a pet rattlesnake that he used to win fights against mongooses. The strange scene where Sgt. Fetterman comes on a family of Montagnards having a barbecued dog and is invited to join in. The kooky over the top Colonel at the firebase. It was all very surreal and while interesting at the end it just wasn’t a satisfying read. The book had several stories going on at once that never really went anywhere. Not my favorite in the series.

VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO DRAGON’S JAW BY ERIC HELM

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tarzan

Copyright 1989.

It is known as the Thanh Hoa bridge or Dragon’s Jaw in English. It is major railroad bridge that spans the Song Ma river. It is vital for the flow of supplies from the northern ports to the Ho Chi Minh trail. It is also heavily defended with SAM sites and AAA. The Air Force has tried numerous times to destroy it without any luck. So it is decided that maybe a mission to destroy it on the ground by a commando strike would succeed. Naturally Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are picked for this mission. A recon to scout the bridge shows that it can’t be brought down that way. Unfortunately for them they cross a CIA agent by not going to find a missing team. So this vindictive agent arranges for them to go on the mission as a diversion for another secret mission. Meanwhile an American journalist delegation is about to visit the site.

So another mission into the North. Once again there is interference by the bureaucrats in their air-conditioned offices. This time a real dickweed of a CIA agent. Still they manage to mount a successful mission. They come up with a plan to take out the air defenses on the ground thus opening the way for a successful airstrike. What was interesting about this book is that we get a glimpse of live in North Vietnam. We find out how American’s would travel into North Vietnam and through the American journalist delegation how life is albeit through a heavy sanitized controlled visit by their Vietnamese hosts. Another enjoyable entry in the series.