Friday, March 04, 2011
[Photo Credit: Michael Bear] Buddhist Temple That I Photographed on the Way to Cat Lai....]
Now Available on Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004PLO8OE
Amazon Prime Members: Borrow it for free
Non-Prime Members: $4.99
[You Can Preview Chapter One: 'Terror' below]
Sample Review from Amazon Books:
"This book was an unexpected great find. I was looking for some other material on Vietnam and ran across this book. I figured, for the price I would check it out. It turned out that reading about Mike's time in Vietnam, during the war, shed insight on what was going on over there. It wasn't all about napalm! There was a lot of life going on and seeing it through his 14 year old eyes was really interesting. It looks like Mike had to grow up fast.
Once I finished the book, which was a really quick read, I found myself wanting to hear more details about life in Vietnam. Great book."
See here for more:
Saturday, May 24, 2008
March 17, 1970: Cat Lai, South Vietnam
"Ssssssssshhhhhht......" (sound of heavy radio static) "Alpha Two-One-Zero-Niner, how copy, over...." "Ssssssssssssshhhhht....."
The sound of loud radio static accompanied by the chugging sound of heavy outboard motors broke the peaceful quiet of the mangrove swamp where my friend John and I sat, fishing poles in hand, waiting for the catfish to bite. John had asked me to go with him on this trip to Cat Lai, a small village about 40 kilometers southeast of Saigon, across the river to a small tributary in the jungle where he claimed the best catfish in Vietnam could be caught.
The sleek form of a large, grey US Navy PBR (Patrol Boat, River) glided into view not 50 feet from where we sat on the bank. A strange hush fell over the area as the crew in the boat, seemingly unaware of our presence, cut the engines. John and I glanced at each other in mild curiosity. What was going on here? We wondered..... There was something else: the birds had stopped singing.
"Sssssssssssshhhhhhhhht.......Alpha-Two-One-Zero-Niner, what is your....."
"Bandit Seven--standby! Ssssssshhhhhhht........"
"Hey, a PBR!" John said excitedly. "Mmmmm, " I replied non-committally, not sure what to make of it, glancing warily at the .50 caliber machine gun on board. I felt a growing sense of unease. I wasn't sure what was developing here,
but whatever it was, I wasn't sure I liked it. At all.
Suddenly, as we sat there watching, a red flare was fired from the boat to the bank on the opposite side, across from us. As soon as the flare landed, bright green tracers began flashing out from the underbrush, arcing gracefully over the PBR and cracking into the trees above our heads, making little snapping noises. We heard the distinct sound of AK-47 fire. Before we even had time to react to this, a crew member on the boat immediately swung the big .50 caliber gun around in the direction of the tracer fire and with an earsplitting roar, opened fire, sending huge red tracers crashing into the underbrush on the opposite bank.
But the stream of green tracer rounds from the opposite bank just kept coming, remaining terrifyingly steady as the hidden gunner adjusted his aim, now a little lower until they sailed just over the bow of the boat and into the trees just off to my right, clipping branches as they went by.
John and I, fishing poles still clutched in our hands, glanced at each other horror, rooted to the spot, unable to move. I heard John mutter, "Holy SHIT!" It was only the small cascade of leaves and twigs slowly raining down on us from above that woke us up to the immediate danger we were in.
As in a slow motion nightmare, moving in thick treacle, we dropped our fishing poles and began crawling backward to our bikes, parked on their kickstands only a few yards away. It was the longest crawl of our lives, those few yards. With the roar of the .50 caliber gun blazing away behind us, and the now terrifying little snapping noises all around us, we jumped up and ran with our heads down to our bikes and after an agonizing eternity of fruitless kickstarting, the engines finally caught and we whipped our bikes around and U-turned our way out of the grove, sending up huge roostertails of dirt and debris as we opened thethrottles up wide and tore off down the road as fast as our bikes could go, the hammering of the guns still ringing in our ears.
It was only much later, after our terror had worn off that we realized what had happened:
we had been fishing for perhaps half an hour not 75ft. from a group of Viet Cong soldiers which had then been spotted by a member of the US Navy's Mobile Riverine Force and flushed out.
This area, known in Vietnamese as Rung Sat, meaning "Forest of Assassins," and to the US Navy as "Rung Sat Special Zone," had been (unbeknownst to us) a stronghold for a VC Battalion called DOAN-10 for years.
The Navy had been conducting riverine operations in this area since 1967 as part of Operations Game Warden and SEALORDS in an attempt to clear the base camps out and stop attacks on the Long Tau shipping lanes at the mouth of the Mekong River Delta.
At the age of 14, I had seen the Vietnam War close up.
Little did I realize that the "best" was yet come.
[This book is now available on Amazon.com, here: http://tinyurl.com/hj83oly