ABLE TEAM–Razorback by Dick Stivers(David North)
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.
Something big is going on in the Three Rivers Secret Zone in Laos. Several special forces recon missions have been ambushed and disappeared. A rescue mission finds the remains of one group. Besides the normal mutilations that the NVA do to corpses one stands out. A Caucasian man is among the corpses whose head and hands were cut off. A search of one of the Green Berets finds a Soviet paratrooper badge hidden in his mouth. It looks like the team captured a Soviet paratrooper and the NVA made sure the body couldn’t be identified. It looks like the Soviets have an active military presence in Laos and the Americans are very interested in finding out why.
So Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are put in charge of a team to go in and find out why the Soviets are in Laos. They parachute in and are to meet up with a former French Foreign Legionnaire who has a plantation and works for the CIA. When they arrive they find that their contact has mysteriously been killed and they must rely on his beautiful widow. The widow turns out to be an enemy agent and the team discover the Soviets have established a radar base to track American aircraft.
So this is the final book in the series. As we go into the nineties the interest in the Vietnam war was fading. After thirty-six books they were probably running out of story ideas and it was starting to show. Still this book was a solid effort and I think the series went out on a strong note. This was a very interesting series. While the quality varied as you would expect in such a long series most of the books were good. This was actually a sort of history series masquerading as a men’s adventure series. The war was explored from its early days of 1964 to 1968. It covered both North and South Vietnam as well as Cambodia and Laos. Even an adventure in Hong Kong. It explored the various aspects like counterinsurgency and the politics that went on. The CIA programs, the drug trade and corruption in the South Vietnamese government. How Tet affected the war with the NVA taking over from the decimated VC. You learned little tidbits like ham and lime beans were the worst C-ration. They fought NVA, VC, Pathet Lao, renegade Cambodians, The Red Chinese and even Soviet soldiers. This was definitely one of the best Vietnam War series to come out of the eighties.
A well planted CIA spy has managed to come back with important information that could change the course of the war. The Chinese are ready to commit 100,000 troops to protect the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This would free up much needed NVA troops to wage the war in the south. So Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are put in charge of a mission to stop this. Senior military officers of both the NVA and Chinese PLA are going to meet in a village in Laos to sign the agreement. Gerber is to lead a team with a Marine sniper to take out this delegation. Gerber has worries about this mission. The sniper is a nineteen year old with over twenty confirmed kills in just two months. Yet he has dreams about the first person he killed a fifteen year old girl running supplies for the VC. He also finds out their old nemesis the Chinese officer that tried to kill them in Hong Kong is still alive and leading the security. He has brought in the most decorated sniper in the NVA to guard the ceremony. Now two of the best snipers are going head to head.
This is the fifth and final Super books in this series. Once again they manage to keep the action interesting with the expanded format. This is basically the story of two snipers. Corporal just promoted to Sgt. Robert Corbett. A nineteen year old with an uncanny accuracy. He also has disturbing dreams and wonders if what he is doing is right. The other is Sgt. Duc Van Co of the People’s Army of Vietnam. He has recently scored 85 kills giving him the highest kills in the NVA army. They also decided to bring back their old nemesis the Chinese officer from the beginning of this series. He was presumed killed in the Hong Kong adventure but left it open that he could have survived. Nice to see they didn’t forget that and gave some closure concerning this character. A very good story for the last of the super sized books.
The rail yard at Son Tay is a major transit point for arms and ammunition coming from China. It’s close proximity to the Chinese border makes a B-52 strike not politically viable. So Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are tasked to go in and destroy it. With two other Green Berets they form a Spike team and parachute into the north. There they hook up with two Kit Carson Scouts of questionable loyalty. Luckily the fuel tanks are situated on a hill overlooking the rail yard so they can unleash fuel into the site destroying it completely.
So another mission into the north. This time they seem to have a fairly easy time taking out their target. In fact they do a good job of destroying the place. Not much going on in this story otherwise. The backstory of the two men that join them is fairly interesting. One is a veteran on clandestine operations in South and Central America who lost his wife and daughters to a drunk driver. The other has a cheating wife at home who married him for the possibility of getting the guys life insurance. In a twist she is the one who dies in a car accident and he gets the life insurance money.
There are also some interesting Vietnamese. The two Kit Carson scouts that Gerber doesn’t trust get captured and tortured by a KGB agent. One manages to escape and ends up sacrificing himself so the team can escape. Another is Bicycle Chain Tran a NVA officer candidate. He got his name because he hit drunk American soldiers with a bicycle chain. Otherwise not much happens in the book. They wander around. They shoot a tiger for no reason. I think the idea well was starting to run dry for this series. Not an uninteresting book just nothing really stood out about this story.
Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are assigned an A-team (not that A-team) for their new assignment. They are part of Operation Hard Rain. The mission is to go into Laos and recruit the native Hmong. They will find a suitable location for a new Air Force observation post. This post will guide airstrikes on the Ho Chi Minh trail and into North Vietnam. Sgt. Fetterman has experience with the local tribe. He was actually adopted by the chief.
Now Fetterman has some reservations about the mission. Last time they abandoned the Hmong and he feels that they are being set up again. He does reconnect with them and is made the war chief of the tribe. Known as the White Porcupine he leads the Hmong on successful missions against the Pathet Lao and NVA. The success bring unwanted attention and the village is attacked by a regiment of Pathet Lao and NVA. It looks grim for Fetterman’s adopted people.
So this book is about the secret war in Laos. It is dedicated to the 300,000 who fought for the Americans and 30,000 who died. The author who wrote this seemed to have good knowledge about the Hmong. This is a sad story because the Hmong do get nearly wiped out as they did in real life. That is why we have so many Hmong here in Wisconsin. A real interesting and action packed story. Explored a new side to the conflict.