Back in the eighties there was a great interest in this conflict. You had serious movies like Platoon and Full Metal Jacket to more over the top fare like Rambo and Missing in Action. The books that came out were also along the same lines. I really had an interest in this war and read both the serious and the wacky action series.
Jack Callahan is a former Green Beret who gets contacted by the wife of his friend from Vietnam. She has received a letter smuggled out of Vietnam that proves her husband and other Americans are still being held prisoner. The army refuses to do anything, so she wants to hire Jack to get mercenaries to free him. Jack contacts his former teammates from Vietnam and organizes a rescue attempt. The old veterans train hard for a parachute jump into Vietnam. Jack uses old contacts in the army to get the needed intelligence. Along the way they are constantly harassed by government agents. They finally make it to the prison camp site and rescue them after a brutal firefight.
Back in the eighties there were reports of Americans still being held in Vietnam. Now the wound of that conflict was still deep, and a lot of guilt existed that soldiers may have been left behind. Well Americans usually deal with guilt by making movies. Stallone, Norris and even Hackman make movies about going in and rescuing Americans and giving the Commies some payback in the process. This was a great success and I admit I loved these movies. Needless to say, this fad also found its way into literature. This book is probably the pinnacle of the rescuing M.I.A. from Vietnam stories.
Pollock in the beginning acknowledges a whole slew of special forces experts in the writing of this book. Including one who was on the Sontay raid to rescue POWs and another that spend four years a prisoner of the VC. There is a real sense of realism to this book. The scenes of the POWs and torture they endure are very visceral. The training is intense and feels authentic. It was a book that kept my interest for beginning to end. I highly recommend this book for lovers of action.
Lt. Scott Gaines and his Tunnel Rats destroy a tunnel complex. VC captain Quang loses his only son and vows vengeance on Gaines. He puts a bounty on his head and soon he is attacked with his date while at a restaurant in Saigon. Gaines has to find Quang who is also planning a major attack on the base at Lai Khe. It also becomes obvious there are highly placed VC agents in the ARVN troops at the base. When Gaine’s nurse girlfriend is captured by bandits the Tunnel Rats must find her and stop Quang from attacking the base.
So the new year begins where the old one ended with a Tunnel Rat book. This second and final entry in the series was another excellent book. Now that the characters are established we jump right in to a new adventure. Gaines now has an Army nurse girlfriend. Captain Quang is a truly nutty villain who is obsessed with his revenge. This series was too late for the Vietnam war crazy of the eighties. If it was five years earlier it probably would have had more success. Stephen Mertz gives us a solid series with exciting plots and well rounded believable characters.
Lt. Scott Gaines loses his men to a VC ambush. The ambush was a success because of the tunnel system in the area. He is recruited by Captain Carter to lead a four man team to neutralize the tunnel threat. The three men are chosen for their size and recklessness. Sgt. Frank Deluca is a streetfighter from Boston who was given the choice of the Army or jail. Pfc. Johnny Hidalgo is from East L.A. They are trained by the fourth member Bok Van Tu a former VC who became a Kit Carson and now works for the South Vietnamese. He has experience with the tunnels and has to train the group known as Tunnel Rats. There short lived training becomes real when Carter gets intelligence that General Vihn is planning an offensive. The mission to kidnap General Vihn which the team successfully accomplishes. Then to go back and destroy the tunnels so the enemy can’t retreat back to them.
So every Christmas a tradition has developed where a I read something to do with the Vietnam war. This year is this short lived series. It was written by Stephen Mertz who is a respected writer in the field of action/adventure. This book was a well written action story with fleshed out characters and interesting plot. The VC opponents also have their own stories, personalities and backstories. Mertz does a good job of describing life in the tunnels in a believable way. He packs the book with plenty of action. This was an enjoyable book and I recommend for anyone interested in the Vietnam war or action books.
The War Dogs are at the friendly Khymer village when they hear that Amy who is in the Philippines is in trouble. She ran afoul of some bigshot in Manila so Justin Ross and two others go there. The guy who is after her has his five daughters frame her for a bombing. So the guys have to break her out of jail. Meanwhile two of the guys head off to Saigon with their Khymer girlfriends. They save a journalist during a VC raid on their bus and get invited to a bar. There is also a third story going on about a seventeen year old girl from Portland who signs up as an entertainer and finds herself being sold into white slavery in Saigon. She gets raped and hooked on heroin. Meanwhile the reporter is found out to be a KGB agent and he is killed in a big raid by the North Vietnamese as one of the guys goes after him. At the end the leader Justine finds the girl who turns out to be his daughter and kills the guy responsible for raping and hooking her on drugs. Unfortunately at the end she dies of a drug overdose.
Well this book was a mess. It ends the series not on a very high note. It was all over the place. Half of it occurred in Manila and I still don’t have any idea why this guy was after Amy. Plus it had a very downbeat story. One of the guys who had a Khymer wife thinks she was killed in a bombing. He blames the reporter who ends up killing him and we find out he was a KGB agent. There was also the subplot with the girl that was just filled with depressing scene after scene of rape and getting hooked on drugs. The book was all over the place. Not a very coherent story. A sad ending to a series that up to now was entertaining and had some potential.
The War Dogs have decided after their last mission to go to Cambodia after reading about a princess who has problems with Chinese bandits. They make friends with the tribe and rescue the princess’s brother and take out the Chinese bandit leader in the process. Yet the mysterious Mr. Y in the Pentagon finds them and they get their next assignment. The NVA have an interrogation center for POWs next to the Cambodian border. Their mission is to go there and assassinate a recently captured Air Force pilot that was shot down. A strange assignment but the War Dogs don’t question their assignments and proceed to the base. Only they’re ambushed by T-54 tanks. The group escapes except for Chandler. Chandler finds out the Air Force lieutenant is the son of a man he served with in Korea. He died in an assault on Camp Starburst. The son has been searching for his father and found out a traitor defected to the Chinese.
Meanwhile the War Dogs after failing in their mission get another assignment. A Congressman is in Vietnam leading a mission to defeat the opium dealers in Cambodia. In the POW camp Chandler and the lieutenant are rescued by an old mercenary friend of Chandler’s from Africa. The man was posing as an East German interrogation specialist known as The Claw. They manage to escape and it all ends with a confrontation with the Congressman who was the traitor in Korea and the one responsible for trying to silencing the Air Force lieutenant for exposing him.
So this was another wild book in the series. I have to admit that the author has a way of throwing stuff at you that you don’t expect. The prologue that starts in Korea with Chandler and his run in with the sentry that was asleep and triggers the claymores when he is surprised killed the returning patrol. His actions result in the destruction of Camp Starburst. Yet it makes sense at the end. A traitor that’s now a congressman who is funding his campaign with drug money. There is goofiness abounding in the book. A German mercenary looking for a cache of weapons he can steal and impersonating an East German with a mechanical hand. Tanks used by the NVA in 1964 even thought they would be next to useless in the terrain and type of war they were fighting. An Air Force fighter pilot who was only 20. A little too young. All this made it an interesting read.
The War Dogs are in Bangkok to take out the local Communists who plan to attack the U.S. Embassy. After saving the deputy ambassador its off to Saigon. There the team has to assassinate an Army colonel who is running a white slaving operation on the side. As the team waits around two of the men decide to do a little extracurricular active to supplement their incomes. They kill a notorious drug dealer and steal his money.
June Wanda is a rising singer and movie actress. She is also a notorious Communist who married a prominent Black Panther. She also is a highly outspoken critic of the war. She has just been on a trip to Hanoi. Now she is coming to Saigon and the mysterious Mr. Y in the Pentagon wants her taken out. So the team plans an assassination at the rally she is attending. Only the mortar round they are using is a dude. An exciting car chase with a helicopter involved leads to the team capturing June. They take her to a safe house and torture her on why she is really in Saigon. We find out she is there to deliver $250,000 from a rich Texan to pay off the North Vietnamese to release his POW son an Air Force officer shot down in the north. We find out she is actually an NSA agent who has successfully penetrated the anti-war movement, the Black Panthers and the KGB. Then its found out she is a double agent working for the KGB and funneling secret war plans to the north. A final confrontation at an old French fort outside Saigon ends with the traitor getting her just deserts.
The second book in the series was a fun read. The story moved fast and was filled with plenty of action. I loved the wild twists and turns the story took. What was at first just some hit on a kooky Jane Fonda type celebrity seemed kind of pointless. Then all these wild revelations are revealed and it becomes clear why she was tortured and marked for assassination. The guys also donate most of the money recovered to a local orphanage giving the group with such questionable motives and tactics some redemption at the end. A very solid read.
1963. Lt. Justin Ross and his elite clandestine team are ambushed. They were going to assassinate a cousin of President Diem who is a known Communist sympathizer. The team was betrayed and now all his men are dead. Only the timely intervention of South Vietnamese police save him from certain death. Now Ross has to rebuild the War Dogs. So he gathers a new bunch of individuals he can use. One is a former Korean war vet who was working as a mercenary in Rhodesia. He was caught planning a bank robbery and deported back to the states. Because he faked his death and his wife collected $250,000 in life insurance he has to join or be exposed. A Pueblo, Colorado police officer who beats an arrest subject to death. A seventeen year old from a rich family that ran off and joined the Army. He kills his drill instructor who bullied a friend to suicide. Then a helicopter pilot arrested for smuggling drugs. Finally a Guatemalan prostitute working in New York City. She kills a pimp and the Bronx Basher a serial killer that was targeting prostitutes.
This group is trained to be an elite squad of assassins that clandestinely eliminate enemies of America. Their first assignment is back in Vietnam. They first get the chance to take out an arms dealer who is selling to the VC in Hue. Then they infiltrate the presidential palace to kill the cousin. Only the coup starts against President Diem and they find out their real mission is to assassinate President Diem and his brother Nhu who is head of the secret police. They follow the two through secret underground passages to the cathedral in Cholon where they shoot both of them.
So my tradition to read a Vietnam war book for the holidays I started this new series. The first book is an extra length one at over 400 pages long. This was a common practice for Zebra when starting a new series for the first book to be extra long to establish the characters and world. The book definitely does this for the first half, except for the prologue doesn’t even take place in Vietnam. Instead it skips all over the world for Rhodesia, New York City, Pueblo, Florida Everglades, and Panama. We get backstories to all the team members and why they are in the War Dogs. The ending actually involved real world events. President Diem and his brother did escape to the Cholon cathedral using underground passages. Yet history says the two were captured and killed by an ARVN captain in the back of an M-113. A bit of revisionist history.
The first book was an enjoyable read. The characters were fleshed out and feel real. Nik-Uhernik is the pen name for Nicolas Cain who wrote the excellent Saigon Commandos. So the first review of the new year. I plan to do many more with a mix of new books I’ve read and older ones that I plan to reread. Happy New Year.
Hermann “Gadgets” Schwarz is part of the three man Able Team. A clandestine group that is part of the organization known as Stony Man. Gadgets was wounded on the last mission and has time off to recover. While visiting his old martial arts instructor he runs into an old comrade from Vietnam. He invites him over to his farm in Arkansas for some razorback boar hunting. He soon finds out his old buddy is in league with a corrupt sheriff. The sheriff is buying stolen military assault rifles from a white supremacist biker gang and selling it to Colombian drug lords. Soon he finds himself fighting for his life while waiting for his teammates to rescue him.
PHOENIX FORCE–Survival Run by Gar Wilson(Mike Linaker)
The U.S. Secretary of State is kidnapped while visiting Saudi Arabia. The group Hammer of Allah is a radical Shiite group lead by the Iranian Abu Niad. The group plans to execute the secretary and broadcast it live on July 4. So Phoenix Force a clandestine group is assigned to rescue him. The search takes the team from Saudi Arabia, to Lebanon and finally an exciting rescue at the terrorists camp in Libya.
VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO–Zebra Cube by David Baxter(Nicolas Cain)
A high level prisoner exchange is taking place on the Cambodian border. Captain Tate and his squad are to oversee the exchange. Only problem is a renegade Arvin police chief Quac is against this exchange and attempts to stop it. The exchange is really a cover for the NVA to go after a high ranking prisoner General Tran. Tran has been imprisoned in the notorious Zebra Cube so named because of its black and white stripe paint job. A shipping container that is constantly moved. Now Tate and his men must stop the NVA from freeing this notorious prisoner.
So back in the early nineties Gold Eagle decided to merge three of their titles into this anthology series. I got this because it has a lost story from Vietnam: Ground Zero an excellent series. First they decided to give the series a whole new face-lift. A new house name was assigned to the author and new characters were created. It was assigned to the writer of the excellent Saigon Commandos series. He did an excellent job of this story. There was also a subplot about a member of the team returning home to Indiana to attend his parents funeral and getting involved with a Vietnamese stripper. It actually tied in to the main plot. This was also the last Vietnam: Ground Zero ever written. Why they decided to abandon the story I have no idea. Possibly by the nineties the Vietnam war craze was dying down and it didn’t hold much appeal anymore. Still an enjoyable take on the series.
The other two stories are spin offs from the popular Mack Bolan The Executioner series. It involved a clandestine organization called Stony Man that fought the various threats to America. Able Team handled domestic threats while Phoenix Force the international ones. I always wanted to try these series out and now I got my chance. I will say that they were very well written. I read the other stories in the next two anthologies and can say the quality was consistent as we will explore in future posts. I have no doubt that more books are in my future.
1970 the Mekong delta region. In a small province Capt. Jake Gulliver a Green Beret is assigned to an Embassy House to be an adviser for the local Phoenix program. This program is the clandestine CIA program to eliminate VC operatives and sympathizers usually through assassination and torture. Code name Sandman because he was an expert assassin who killed his targets while they slept. Gulliver hates his assignment and especially the CIA boss Steadman code name Razor. Razor is out to get Gulliver for messing up one of his operations that derailed his career. Gulliver finds refugee from this life in opium, his affair with Nhu a local celebrity in the theater troupe. He also has a strong friendship with his Vietnamese counterpart Dang.
So in this life one day an overzealous new American officer arrests and tortures the wrong man. An act that inflames the local populace and threatens to destabilize the whole province. Now he has to choose between his conscience and duty for the retribution that his superiors have chosen to resolve the crisis.
So I have always as a tradition read a Vietnam War book over my Christmas vacation. This year was this enjoyable novel. It was actually one my father bought and gave to me after he finished reading it because he thought I would enjoy it. He was right. This book was an engrossing read. The author served as a reporter for Newsweek during the war so he has experience being there. This comes out in the book for you do feel that you are in Vietnam. It states in the notes that the methods of interrogation are based on fact. This books gives a were realistic portrayal of the torture and other methods used by the Phoenix program.
He combines it with fleshed out characters that you feel are real. Each one has a believable backstory. It captures the pettiness of bureaucrats doing anything to save their asses. Combined with intrigue of counterspies and local corrupt politics make this an engrossing read.
It is the calm before the storm. At the end of 1967 it seems the war is winding down. Soon the General Offensive will be launched on the Tet holiday. The 302nd North Vietnamese Division has moved to the province of Song Nhanh to participate in the offensive and planned uprising. Lead by General Vo Le Duan who has doubts about the wisdom of this plan but is committed to it. Major Shannon on a patrol of the Cambodian border witnesses the arrival of the division but the American leadership doesn’t want to hear about it as it goes against the official narrative that the war is already won. Soon Vietnamese and Americans will clash in the provincial capital.
This is probably the finest Vietnam War fiction book that I have ever read. The setting is the fictional province and city of Song Nhanh. Both the 203rd NVA and 12th US Army Divisions are fictional units. The setting is an amalgamation of parts of the real Tet offensive. What really makes this story is the intricate detail of all the characters both Vietnamese and American for the generals to the lowliest private. The action is intense and realistic. Both sides are treated fairly. The sense that you get from this book is how all the soldiers are just caught up in events and doing their best to survive. Even the generals seem to have little control over the events. For Duan it is the old men who are desperate to see the south liberated before they die. They are deaf to the possibility that the people will not rise up. For the Americans its the official narrative that the President pushes that the war is already won.
Chris Bunch and Allan Cole were known for mostly space opera sci-fi so this was something new for them. The biography of the authors is that they are both journalists and friends since high school. One was in Vietnam although didn’t say if a soldier or journalist. A lot of research went into this and it clearly shows that the writers have a good understanding of the people during the war. A good book to read if you are interested in the Vietnam War and the Tet offensive.