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.
It is Tet the Year of the Monkey. The Vietnamese New Year and there is a cease-fire. It seems that the war is winding down. There is talk of troop reductions. Captain Mack Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are assigned to look into reports of increased VC activity in a border province. They find that the area is filled with military age men. They have the trademark whitewall haircuts the NVA uses and perfect ID cards. A killing of a Green Beret on patrol brings retaliation against the local VC leader. They retrieve plans for an attack on all the important military bases during Tet. They go back to Saigon with this information and are in time to witness the assault on the American embassy.
This book was mostly about the calm before the storm that was the Tet offensive. There were various sub-plots. A helicopter shot down and its crew having to evade the VC. The female VC agent who was part of the infamous elite C-10 sapper team that assaulted the embassy. She was seducing a Marine guard to gain intelligence on the security at the embassy. Robin Morrow the reporter who believed that something was up in spite of her editors belief that the war was basically over.
We get the feeling on an impending attack in the air throughout the story. An interesting take on this important event during the war. I was kind of surprised that this series never really did much with the actual event. Yet it did have plenty of stories before that were hinting at the offensive. I suppose there has been so much written about Tet they decided not to spend much time with it.
It is a week after the sneak attack by the VC on the Tet holiday. The VC have been totally defeated but there is still plenty of mopping up to do. The VC have broken up into small groups. For them there is no going home and their mission has now become a suicide mission. The Third Field Hospital, The Embassador’s Quarters, The Continental Hotel and the Catholic Cathedral all have to be cleared of hardcore VC. Into the war zone Sgt. Mark Stryker’s sister is assigned to Saigon as an Army nurse. She is soon kidnapped by a desperate VC prisoner and dragged into the Saigon sewers. Now Stryker must race to find his sister while having to race around to all the hotspots.
The final in the Tet trilogy and the last in this series. It is fitting that it ends with the Tet Offensive probably the most famous engagement for the MPs during the Vietnam War. We also get to finally find out about who Stryker really is. His mother died in a drunk driving accident and he and his sister were raised by a Korean stepmother. His father later died from exposure to radiation from nuclear tests while in the army. His only sister an single mother tragically lost her son when he ran out into the street and hit by a school bus. There was a lot of tragedy in his life and nice to finally get some background on his personal story.
My final thoughts on the series. I really enjoyed it and see why it has become a cult classic. I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading this series. It was actually more then just the run of the mill Vietnam action series. I felt like I was also learning what it was like in Saigon during the height of the war. The Tet trilogy was a fitting end to the series. If you like action or historical stories then this is a great series to read.
The initial assault by Communist forces during Tet have failed. The US embassy is now firmly in American hands. Still the whole city is an active war zone. Sgt. Stryker and the MPs have no trouble finding VC in the tracer filled streets of Saigon. They still have thousands of hard core VC and NVA to defeat. The Phuto racetrack at the edge of the city has been taken over and made the HQ for the VC. Also they have to relieve the 60 MPs at the Bachelor Officer Quarters-3 who are holding out against 700 NVA regulars from a reinforced battalion. In addition they find time to rescue policeman Jon Toi from being captive by a female gang and must prove the innocence of Sgt. Ron ‘The Brick’ Brickman who is accused of fragging his commanding officer.
The second in the Tet trilogy is a real action packed read. The chapters start at the beginning with actual radio transmissions that took place during the battle. You get a real feel for the confusion of what was going on. Some of the reports are somewhat absurd as one that reported US servicemen were being held captive by the VC and forced to watch propaganda films. In reality it was some off duty special forces watching Cool Hand Luke. Cain captures the excitement and confusion of the battle. He really did a good job of researching it. A very informative book about Saigon during the Tet offensive.
January 31,1968 the year of the Monkey. It is Tet the Vietnamese new year. The most important holiday for the Vietnamese both north and south. There is a truce and South Vietnamese military and police units are at 20%. This it the date that North Vietnam decided to launch a general offensive. They hoped to spark a general uprising among the population and every single city and major military base was assaulted. Sgt. Mark Stryker and the MP’s of the 716th find themselves suddenly fighting off 35 battalions of VC and NVA. His MPs are now fighting as regular infantry and are the only thing standing in the way of a total Communist victory in Saigon.
The book starts with listing the names of the 27 MPs that gave their lives in the Battle of Saigon. The average age was 20. The MPs were the only American forces stationed around the capital and were therefore the ones that bore the brunt of the offensive. South Vietnamese forces were not only at 20% strength but were reluctant to join in because they thought that a coup was taking place and didn’t want to end up on the losing side. Cain gives a detailed and accurate account of the street battles that took place. Including the battle at the US embassy were the MPs and Marines contained the sapper team in the parking lot. Indeed the battle was a total disaster for the VC. They were unable to take a single objective and the population did not rise up as they hoped for.
This is the first of a trilogy in the Tet offensive and I find it an excellent source to get the feel of what it was like in Saigon.