Connect With VVA VVA on Facebook Faces of Agent Orange on Twitter VVA on YouTube
Find A Service Officer
vietnam veterans of america
800-vva-1316
vva logo

january/february 2007

red star bulletThe Veteran Departments : Featured Stories / President's Message / Letters / VVAF Report / Membership Affairs Committee Report / Veterans Benefit Update / Ask The Parliamentarian / PTSD/Substance Abuse Report / SHAD/Project 112 Task Force Report / Government Affairs Committee Report / Women Veterans Report / Public Affairs Committee Report / AVVA Report / AVVA Scholarship / AVVA Election / Convention Resolutions Committee Report / Elections Committee Report / Homeless Veterans Task Force Report / Consitution Committee Report / Arts of War / Books In Review / Membership Notes / Reunions / Taps / Locator /

PAST ISSues
2010: Jan/Feb
2009: Jan/Feb | mar/apr
| may/june | july/Aug | sept/oct | Nov/DeC
2008: Jan/Feb | mar/apr | may/june | july/Aug | sept/oct | Nov/DeC
2007: Jan/Feb | MAR/APR | MAY/JUNE | july/aug | SEPT/OCT | Nov/DeC
2006: July/Aug | SEPT/OCT | nov/dec

the vva veteran masthead

Books In review
Echoes Of The Vietnam War In The Latest Harry Bosch Procedural

REVIEWS BY MARC LEEPSON

Michael Connelly has hit it big. His detective novels—including the latest excellent Harry Bosch, Echo Park (Little, Brown, 405 pp., $26.99)—get rave reviews from picky critics, zoom to the top of the best-seller lists, and fly off the shelves by the hundreds of thousands.

We’ve been big fans of Connelly since he and Bosch, a former Vietnam War Army tunnel rat and iconoclastic LAPD homicide detective, made their debuts in The Black Echo in 1992. Connelly follows a formula in the Bosch novels, but he’s such a master craftsman that the books feel fresh and read well. Echo Park is another good one, and one that echoes the first novel, in that Harry uses his tunnel rat experience to trap a very bad guy. As usual, Harry single- mindedly goes after a murderer, runs into big-time problems with police higher-ups, has a rocky romantic affair, and eventually uses his brains and intuition to solve a complicated case.

We’ve been big Robert Olen Butler fans since we were blown away by his first published novel, Alleys of Eden, in 1981. Butler, who served in Army intelligence in Vietnam, used the war as the centerpiece of that book and as an important theme in much of his subsequent fiction, including his Pulitzer-Prize-winning group of short stories, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.

Butler’s latest, Severance (Chronicle Books, 264 pp., $22.95), consists of dozens of richly imagined glimpses into the mind of a person who had been decapitated. The 240-word prose poems look into the (severed) heads of many, including John the Baptist, Walter Raleigh, Marie Antoinette, Jayne Mansfield, and Nicole Brown Simpson. Butler includes two Vietnamese: a Viet Minh guerrilla guillotined by the French in 1952 and a South Vietnamese official decapitated by NVA troops in Hue in 1968.

FICTION IN BRIEF

Dick Stanley’s Leaving the Alamo: Texas Stories After Vietnam (Cavalry Scout Books, 184 pp., $8.36, paper) is a first-rate collection of 16 short stories, all of which center on Vietnam veterans. Stanley, a VVA life member, commanded a U.S. Army light-infantry advisory team in Vietnam in 1969. For more info, go to
http: //www.lulu.com/content/398715

Geronimo G. Tagatac’s The Weight of the Sun (Ooligan Press, 175 pp., $14.95, paper) is an excellent collection of short stories, most of which deal with members of a fictional Filipino-American family. The Vietnam War and its legacy are two themes. Tagatac served a year’s tour of duty in Vietnam as a Special Forces A Team demolition specialist.

VVA member Frank Grzyb’s Ain’t Much of a War: Reverent and Irreverent Stories About the Vietnam Conflict (Pocol Press, 186 pp., $14.95, paper) is a worthy collection of short fiction. Much of it is set in country and taken from events that transpired or ideas Grzyb had during his 1970-71 tour of duty with the USARV’s 1st Log in Qui Nhon.

E.B. Parrots’ first novel, Killing Woodstock (Blue Note, 303 pp., $14.95, paper), is a fast-moving thriller involving a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran who runs into a world of hurt after a war buddy is murdered in 1998. Parrots did a Semper Fi tour of duty in the Vietnam War.

Jay Hatch’s Turtle Trap (DreamCatcher, 7 Disc CD, $24.95) is a very listenable thriller (read by Brady Vance) that deals with murder and blackmail in a remote area of the Texas Hill Country. Hatch, who served two years as a Mobile Team commander in Vietnam where he was twice wounded, is donating 100 percent of his royalties to the Wounded Warrior Project. For more info, go to www.turtletrap.net

Dao Strom’s The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys: Four Stories (Counterpoint, 341 pp., $24) is a group of four loosely connected novellas, all dealing with young Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American women living in Texas and California. These well-observed tales are told by the 33-year-old author who was born in Saigon and came to this country as a baby with her mother.

The hero of former Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen’s cleverly plotted thriller Dragon Fire (Forge, 383 pp., $24.95) is a former Vietnam War POW and former U.S. Senator who is called to counter an attack upon this country by a sinister international force after the secretary of defense dies of anthrax poisoning.

ONE OF A KIND

“Great writers reveal a world we’ve never seen but instantly recognize as authentic. Maxine Hong Kingston is such a writer.” Those were the words President Bill Clinton used in presenting the author of the groundbreaking book, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of Girlhood Among Ghosts, with the National Humanities Medal in 1997. Among her other accomplishments, Maxine Hong Kinston has, since 1993, directed an ongoing program in which she works with veterans—including many Vietnam veterans—helping them create worlds through fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and prose. Informally known as the Veteran Writer Group, the men and women meet under Kingston’s tutelage four times a year.

Among the fruit of that endeavor is Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace (Koa Books, 613 pp., paper, $20), an excellent, one-of-a-kind collection of work by Kingston’s writers, which she edited. The contributors include George Evans, Dan Fahey, Larry Heinemann, Wayne Karlin, Le Minh Khue, John Mulligan, and Barbara Sonneborn. “If there is one thing the writers in this book have in common,” Kingston says, “it is that they are rebels.… Their stories and poems are immense in scope, and in heart, and—amazingly—full of life and laughter. They carried out our motto: Tell the truth.”

Eighty percent of the royalties from sales of the book are going to charities, including the Vinh Son Orphanage in Vietnam. To learn more about the writers’ group, the book, and the charities, go to www.vowvop.org

AUSSIE NONFICTION

More than 58,000 Royal Australian Army, Air Force, and Navy personnel served in the Vietnam War. That nation’s 501 casualties in Vietnam break down to: 326 killed in action, 25 accidental deaths, 68 who died of wounds, 6 missing in action, and 76 non-battle deaths. We don’t often get to read about our Aussie friends’ role in the Vietnam War, but two books recently published in Australia have helped remedy that situation.

Graeme Mann gives the details of his unique and amazing Vietnam War experiences in The Vietnam War on a Tourist Visa (Mini-Publishing, 310 pp., $24.95, paper). “Through circumstances which, to this day, I still do not fully understand,” Mann says, “I had found myself, an Australian civilian, being dropped on 7th December 1967, unprepared and unsuspecting, into the middle of the war in Vietnam, indentured to the United States Air Force as a computer specialist.” Mann goes on to tell of his adventures during the next seven months in a breezy, readable style punctuated with many reconstructed quotes. For ordering info, write Mann at: P.O. Box 97, Sussex Inlet 2540 in Aussieland.

R.J. (Bob) Nash’s Ordnance at the Sharp End: Ordnance Field Park Nui Dat South Vietnam, 1966-72: Historical Accounts and Experiences from Men Who Served With the OFP (Shannon Books Australia, 324 pp.), published with the help of the Australian Government’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs, is a history of, and a tribute to, the men of the Ordnance Field Park, a unit of the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps. The OFP was part of the Task Force Maintenance Area and operated for six years at the 1st Australian Task Force Base at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province, inland from Vung Tao in South Vietnam. For more on the book, go to www.ofpvietnam.com

REVISITATION

Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land: The Vietnam War Revisited (Osprey, 336 pp., $32.95) is a worthy compilation of essays by historians, journalists, and participants in the Vietnam War that aims, as its editor Andrew Weist notes, “to place the Vietnam War in proper context.” The essays offer in-depth looks at many of the war’s Big Questions. Weist, a University of Southern Mississippi history professor who co-directs that institution’s Vietnam Studies Program and its Center for the Study of War and Society, gives room to voices from all sides of the political spectrum.

That includes Bui Tin, the former North Vietnamese officer who has turned against the Vietnamese communists; Lewis Sorley, who has argued that the United States and South Vietnam had the war won under President Nixon (“a courageous war president”) until North Vietnam violated the terms of the Paris Peace Accords and Congress “defaulted” on its financial commitment to South Vietnam; and Arnold Isaacs, who argues against the “enduring myth [that] scores or hundreds of American prisoners” were held by North Vietnam “long after the end of the war.”

The collection includes a comprehensive look at the Ho Chi Minh Trail by VVA Veteran contributor John Prados and an excellent examination of the experience of American Vietnam veterans by VVA’s Bernard Edelman, based on illuminating interviews he has conducted over many years. Edelman also concisely and accurately covers the postwar experiences of Vietnam veterans.

NONFICTION IN BRIEF

As just about every Vietnam veteran knows, people spontaneously began leaving all manner of tributes and remembrances at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial soon after it was dedicated in 1982. The latest commemoration of that amazing, continuing rite is the sterling Letters on the Wall: Offerings and Remembrances from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Smithsonian Books, 198 pp., $24.95), in which graphic designer Michael Sofarelli (the son of a Vietnam veteran) offers an evocative photographic selection of what’s been left at The Wall. This worthy book also includes a preface by Maya Lin and a foreword by Jan Scuggs. For more info, go to www.lettersonthewall.com

Bruce O. Solheim has taught the history of the Vietnam War for a dozen years. In his latest book, The Vietnam War Era: A Personal Journey (Praeger, 216 pp., $49.95), Solheim, an Army veteran and a history professor at Citrus College in California, has come up with a unique and insightful look at that period. The first three-fourths of the book is an excellent summary of the history of the Vietnam War with enlightening sidebars on many people who were involved in it—from Gen. Earle Wheeler to Oliver Stone. Solheim completes the book with a riveting account of his personal story, including details of his older brother’s Vietnam War experiences and his two Army tours of duty after the Vietnam War.

Robert F. Dorr devotes four chapters to the Vietnam War in his Air Combat: An Oral History of Fighter Pilots (Berkley Caliber, 343 pp., $24.95). Dorr offers brief chapter introductions in which he sets the scenes, then turns the book over to the voices of the pilots who describe in human terms what it was like flying the not-so-friendly skies over North and South Vietnam.

Robert L. Beisner’s excellent, in-depth biography, Dean Acheson: A Life in the Cold War (Oxford University, 800 pp., $35), contains a concise, on-the-mark account of the Truman administration Secretary of State’s biggest mistakes: committing the United States in 1950 to France’s doomed policy of reclaiming its Indochinese colonies. Beisner, a retired history professor, characterizes Acheson’s handling of post-World War II matters in Indochina as “incoherent improvisations,” which led directly to the misbegotten Vietnam War policies in the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.

In AK-47: The Weapon that Changed the Face of War (Wiley, 258 pp., $25.95), Larry Kahaner’s cleanly written and well-researched history of the enemy’s main weapon in the Vietnam War, the veteran journalist and author also offers an illuminating history of the development of the M-16 and does a good job of comparing and contrasting those weapons’ crucial role in the outcome of the war. The United States, Kanaher notes, “did not have an infantry weapon that could stand up to the AK,” before the war began, “especially in close-proximity jungle combat.” One lesson of the war, Kanaher maintains, “is that determined soldiers with simple, reliable arms can beat a well-trained military force despites its sophisticated weapons like the M-16.”

James G. Thompson’s The Complete Guide to United States Marine Corps Medals, Badges and Insignia, World War II to Present (Medals of America., 131 pp., $29.95, hardcover; $24.95, paper) lives up completely to its title. The book has information about, and illustrations of, every Marine Corps medal, beginning with the Badge of Military Merit, the forerunner of the Purple Heart, which George Washington created in 1782, and including, of course, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal, with its 17 Navy and Marine campaign designations. For more info, go to www.usmedals.com

Kevin Dockery includes a brief chapter that covers the Vietnam War in Stalkers and Shooters: An Oral History of Snipers (Berkley Caliber, 372 pp., $24.95). The book’s subtitle notwithstanding, Dockery’s VN chapter contains his third-person descriptions of Marine and Army snipers in the war, along with an appreciation of the noted Marine scout-sniper Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock.

The two most famous engagements of the Indochina War—the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu and the 1968 Tet Offensive—are among the hundreds of battles included in Battlefield: Decisive Conflicts in History (Oxford University, 376 pp., $30) edited by British military historian Richard Holmes.

Charles W. Sasser’s excellent Raider, the stirring story of Army Green Beret Galen “Pappy” Kittleson and the November 1970 Army-Air Force raid on the Son Tay prison camp outside Hanoi, first published in 2002, is out in a new paperback edition (St. Martin’s Griffin, 319 pp., $14.95).

FOR CHILDREN

Natalie M. Rosinksy’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Compass Point, 48 pp., $18.95) provides a concise and accurate look at the history and meaning of The Wall, designed for fourth-to-sixth graders. The book, which the publisher asked your books columnist to read before publication, includes a great color photo of several VVA members, including Judith McCombs and Linda Schwartz, holding a big VVA banner, taken at the 1993 dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

Audrey Shafer’s The Mailbox is a tenderly written novel aimed at the young adult market that deals with the death of a Vietnam veteran in a rural Virginia town and the impact of the death on the veteran’s 12-year-old nephew. Shafer is an anesthesiologist at the VA’s Palo Alto (California) Heath Care System and a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, and—judging by this book—a talented writer of fiction with a good feel for the life and times of pre-adolescents.

clothing donations button

Altarum Banner Ad

USAA

 

 

vva logo small©2006 - 2013, Vietnam Veterans of America. All Rights Reserved. 8719 Colesville Road, Suite 100, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Report Website Errors Here | Advertise