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REVIEWS BY MARC LEEPSON

The heart of Dan Cherry’s remarkable My Enemy, My Friend: A Story of Reconciliation from the Vietnam War (Aviation Heritage Park, 80 pp., $20), written with Fran Erickson, is the story of retired USAF Gen. Cherry’s two encounters with Lt. Nguyen Hong My. Both were filled with drama.

The first took place on April 16, 1972; it was nothing less than a life-and-death dogfight at 15,000 feet over Hanoi. Cherry, piloting a 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-4 Phantom 550 out of Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, shot down North Vietnamese pilot Nguyen Hong My’s MiG-21. The second came on April 5, 2008, when the two met face to face under the glare of TV lights in Saigon.

Cherry, who flew 295 Vietnam War combat missions, tells an amazing story of reconciliation in this modest but effecting, photo-filled book. One especially amazing element: The 2008 meeting came about after Cherry, who had been searching for his one-time enemy, contacted a Vietnamese TV show that, of all things, reunites long-separated people. The producers found Nguyen Hong My, who had long since recovered from his war injuries, and set up the meeting.

The two former enemies quickly bonded, so much so that they both changed their plans after the TV show and traveled together to Hong My’s home in Hanoi. After meeting his former enemy’s family and touring the city, including the Hanoi Hilton, Cherry writes, “we had come full circle. That day, on the streets of Hanoi, my enemy had truly become my friend.”

Proceeds from sales go to the Aviation Heritage Park in Kentucky, where Cherry is president. The book is available on line at www.aviationheritagepark.com


NONFICTION IN BRIEF

“The men and women of the Coast Guard are the police, the frontier marshals, and the fire department of America’s wild ocean,” David Helvarg says in the introduction to Rescue Warriors: The U.S. Coast Guard, America’s Forgotten Heroes (Thomas Dunne, 356 pp., $25.95), “and like the heroes of our last great wilderness, theirs is a story as large and varied as the vast, often lawless waters they patrol.” Helvarg, a journalist, author, documentary producer, and conservationist, goes on to tell the story of the U.S Coast Guard.

He spent two years of on-the-job reporting to show what the Coast Guard does today, and also sketches the 220-year history of the sometimes-overlooked branch of the U.S. military. That includes a short section on the Coast Guard’s role in the Vietnam War. Some 8,000 Coast Guardsmen served in the war on patrol boats, cutters, and rescue helicopters, Helvarg reports. Seven were killed and 59 wounded.

Vietnam Posters: The David Heather Collection (Prestel, 280 pp., $25, paper) is a compilation of crisply produced images of more than 250 propaganda posters that co-author Heather, a businessman and collector, found in a single small shop in the old quarter of Hanoi. The collection includes posters from the American war period that were designed to bolster morale in the North, win the hearts and minds of South Vietnamese, and lower the morale of American troops.

These posters are rendered in vivid colors and contain idealized images of Ho Chi Minh, other communist revolutionaries, VC guerrilla fighters, NVA tanks and bombers, factory workers, and urban and rural landscapes. “Graphically,” co-author Sherry Buchanan says in her short introduction, the posters, which also cover the French War and the post-1975 period, “represent a unique Vietnamese variation on the well-known propaganda poster style of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.”


FICTION IN BRIEF

The Australian writer Myfanwy Jones’s first novel, The Rainy Season (Penguin/Australia, 323 pp., paper), is set in 1994 in Vietnam. In what appears to be an autobiographical tale, Ella, a young Australian woman whose Vietnam veteran father abandoned her and her mother when she was a child, lands in Saigon in the aftermath of a broken love affair. She spends the next few months flailing around emotionally amid a sea of booze, drugs, and sex.

The Vietnam War intrudes periodically, primarily in the form of flashbacks to her father’s war and postwar experiences and the character of an embittered American Vietnam veteran who hangs out in a bar. Ella finds some measure of redemption at the end of this fast-paced tale that appears to be aimed at the XX chromosomal audience. The book is available on line. The author’s website: http://www.myfanwyjones.com

Also apparently in the Vietnam-War-heavy-novel-appealing-mainly-to-females category: Nicole Seitz’s A Hundred Years of Happiness (Thomas Nelson, 307 pp., $14.99, paper). This one is set in  present-day South Carolina and revolves around a woman whose father is a Vietnam veteran with serious emotional issues and an Amerasian woman working as a cook in a nearby town. There’s also a measure of magical realism in that another character is the ghost of a dead American soldier who comes to life in the form of a koi fish.

An Amerasian child is the protagonist of Ann E. Burg’s All the Broken Pieces (Scholastic, 219 pp., $16.99), a novel told in verse and aimed at children aged nine and up. The boy arrives on these shores at age ten when the war ends and is adopted by an American family. The versified story, Burg’s first novel, follows the lad’s ups and downs as he tries to adjust to American society.

Terry L. Gould’s How Can You Mend This Purple Heart? (Westview, 227 pp., $35, hardcover; $15.95, paper) tells the story of Jeremy Shoff, who joins the Navy in 1968 and winds up in a military hospital with Marines recovering from their Vietnam War wounds. Gould himself joined the Navy in 1968.

J.R. Hauptman’s The Target: Love, Death and Airline Deregulation (Xlibris, 320 pp., $19.99, paper; $29.99, hardcover) is set in the late 1980s. It’s an action-filled tale of corporate greed during the first years of airline deregulation. Hauptman flew combat support missions in Vietnam.

Ari Pontz’s Fishing With Hand Grenades (Llumina Press, 209 pp., $14.95, paper) is an in-country Vietnam War novel based on the true story of a U.S. Marine from Philadelphia. The author’s web site is http://fishingwithhandgrenades.com 

Terry P. Rizzuti’s The Second Tour (Spinetinglers, 191 pp., $15.49, paper) is an autobiography based on his 1966-67 tour in northern I Corps with G Co., 2nd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment with both the 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions. For more info, go to www.thesecondtour.com


POETRY IN BRIEF

Several of the collected short poems by Army veteran David Orr in his book Poetry (Vantage, 51 pp., $8.95, paper) deal with the Vietnam War and veterans, including “Veterans,” “POW,” and “Why Didn’t I.” Yelena Nudel’s Peppered Love (Moose Moose, 109 pp., paper) is a series of poetic conversations dealing with child abuse, based on the life of a soldier. For more info, go to www.moosemoosepublishing.com 

Dick Shea’s Vietnam Simply (ProTem, unpaginated, $12, paper) is a novel told in verse in the voice of a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam in 1965 when the Marines landed. Shea was a Navy SEAL in the war.

MEMOIRS, ETC., IN BRIEF

There comes a time when the pile of books we need to review grows so high that, in order to mention them all in these pages, we must write extremely short reviews. Many of them are memoirs by Vietnam veterans. So, with apologies to the authors and publishers for not giving them more space, here’s a rundown on fifteen recently published Vietnam War memoirs.

Tom Treece’s The Ghost Closet: Return to Vietnam on the Wings of D.O.V.E. (Monroe, 73 pp.) is the inspirational story of VVA member Treece’s trip back to Vietnam in 2001 to do humanitarian work under the auspices of the D.O.V.E Fund (www.dovefund.org), which has helped build schools, water treatment, and medical facilities throughout Vietnam. Treece served a 1968-69 tour with the Americal Division’s 11th Light Infantry Brigade in Duc Pho. Proceeds from the book go toward building a school in Vietnam.

Thomas H. Keith and J. Terry Reibling’s SEAL Warrior: Death in the Dark in Vietnam, 1968-1972 (Thomas Dunne, 304 pp., $25.95) is an account of Navy SEAL Master Chief Keith’s eventful Vietnam War tours. Anthony J. Chibbaro’s The Dream Warrior (iUniverse, 203 pp., $27.95, hardcover; $17.95, paper) deals with his experiences as a Navy ensign while serving aboard the U.S.S. Oriskany off the coast of Vietnam, including the deadly October 1966 fire that killed 44 men.

Richard W. Hudson’s The Dirty Thirty (AuthorHouse, 452 pp., $34.95, paper) is a creatively written memoir of the author’s 1969-70 tour of duty in Vietnam as a draftee with the 1st Cav’s 1st Battalion, 30th Artillery. Lloyd B. Ramsey’s Maj. Gen. Lloyd B. Ramsey: United States Army Retired: A Memoir (Clinton County Historical Society, 375 pp., $28) includes the general’s account of his 1969-70 stint as commanding general of the Americal Division in Vietnam. His junior officers included MAJ Colin Powell and LTC Norman Schwarzkopf.

Petrus Lai Nguyen and Derlyne Gibson’s A Long, Hard Road to Freedom (Gibson’s, 152 pp., $11.95, paper) tells the story of co-author Petrus Lai Nguyen, a former Vietnamese school teacher, ARVN soldier, and USAID official who survived eight years in a communist re-education camp and now lives with his family in Arkansas. John Kieft’s The Saltiest Ship in the Fleet: The Life and Times of a Sailor Aboard the U.S.S. Morton (DD-948) Off Vietnam, 1966 (Create Space, 126 pp., $12, paper) deals with his time aboard the destroyer that fired some 10,000 rounds in support of the U.S. Marines on the ground in IV Corps.

Bruce O. Solheim’s 2007 book, The Vietnam War Era: A Personal Journey, is now out in paperback with a new afterward (University of Nebraska, 224 pp., $18.95). In it, Solheim, a history professor at Citrus College, provides an excellent summary of the history of the Vietnam War with sidebars on many people involved in it, as well details of his older brother’s Vietnam War experiences and his own two Army tours of duty after the Vietnam  War.

Evelyn Sweet-Hurd’s His Name Was Donn: My Brother’s Letters from Vietnam (Outskirts Press, 239 pp., $16.95, paper) pays tribute to Army LT Donn L. Sweet, who was killed in action on July 25, 1968, while serving with A Battery of the 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery of the 108th Field Artillery Group. Richard L. Hickman’s The Road to Epiphany: A War Story (Rosedog, 103 pp., $14) deals with his 1969-70 Vietnam tour with the 21st Signal Group of the 1st Signal Brigade, during which he was wounded, and his life after the war.

Janet J. Seahorn and E. Anthony Seahorn’s Tears of a Warrior: A Family’s Story of Combat and Living with PTSD (Team Pursuits, 214 pp., $19.95, paper) is based on the story of VVA life member Tony Seahorn’s battle with PTSD. He served a 1968 tour as an LT with the First Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, the Black Lions, and was severely wounded. For more info, go to www.tearsofawarrior.com

Larry W. Geary’s Vietnam’s Invisible Battle Wounds: We Never Knew That We Were Wounded (PublishAmerica, 171 pp., $24.95) deals with the author’s Agent-Orange-related health problems stemming from his exposure during his 1967-68 tour as an Army draftee with the 1st Signal Group’s 69th Signal Battalion.

Stephen Paul Campos’s Charlie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Comfort Publishing, 283 pp., $15.99, paper) centers on the author’s 1968-69 Vietnam tour and his emotionally troubled postwar life. He served with the 5th and 4th of the 12th of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. George P. Unger’s Optional Wars: A Combat Wounded Marine Tells All (Outskirts Press, 247 pp., $12.95, paper) is based primarily on his Vietnam War tour with the 1st Marine Regiment and the 2nd Battalion, First Marines.

Paul Fazekas’s Enduring Images: From the Trauma of War to Lifelong Healing (AuthorHouse, 259 pp., $18.95, paper) centers on the author’s 1970-71 tour as a draftee rifleman with the First Cav’s 12th Regiment and with the 11th Light Infantry Brigade, and his insights into PTSD. Fazekas is a clinical psychologist and psychiatric nurse practitioner in Western New York.

 

 

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