Twelve true stories of men in war during the Vietnam, Korean and World War II wars. Each story of twenty to thirty pages comprises detailed experiences with maps and photographs.
“They removed the handcuffs, stretched my arms out spread eagle against the wall and pinned a target on my chest. Leg irons clamped on both legs and a blindfold over my eyes. . .At the same time I could hear the rifle butts hit the flagstone path and I knew what that meant. It was ready, aim, fire and that’s it, and in those seconds my life flashed before me.” After three and a half years in Japanese prisons in China, this veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam was on the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo 18 April 1942, and tells of his capture and imprisonment in the story Freedom is for Those Willing to Defend It.
I Dreamed of Steel Chargers with Skies to Roam, but Mostly I Dreamed of Just Going Home is a story of five and a half years in the Hanoi Hilton. An F-105 American pilot depicts more than torture in the infamous Knobby Room at Hoa Lo Prison and isolation without mail from his wife and five children, he discloses how he survived with three others in a 12 x 12 concrete cell for five years and their longing to see America once more. “We faced east which was toward home and where an American flag was flying and with a hand placed over our heart pledged allegiance to the flag.” Bursting the noise ban, they loudly sang The Star Spangled Banner while another cell in greater volume burst into God Bless America and another, even louder, America the Beautiful, and another and another throughout the cells of the prison camp until silenced by Vietnamese guards with tear gas and bayonets.
A twist of unexpected humor surfaces in No Place to Hide, when a bombardier lieutenant is forced to jump out of bed while still in his shorts and salute General Twining; when his Purple Heart goes unclaimed because he was wounded on his anatomy in a place he never wanted to explain. “I decided to hand crank the stuck bomb bay doors shut. I took off my flak jacket, parachute, and Mae West life jacket, and headed for the open bomb bay. The quarters were too tight to work with those strapped to my body. I instructed the flight sergeant to hand me a new oxygen bottle every thirty seconds, since I didn’t want to run out of oxygen, pass out, and fall out the bomb bay without a parachute. I got out on the six-inch catwalk, leaned over the open bomb bay and looked down at the ground 28,000 feet below. . .”
In the invasion of Guam, a Marine from the 3rd Marine Division tells of the fight on the beach and scaling the Chonito Cliffs in The Sounds and Smells of War I Know So Very Well. “The next morning descending from Fonte Canyon by an easier route than the cliffs we had scaled, we witnessed an astounding spectacle. Looking down from a ridge trail into the desolate ruins of Agaña, once a metropolis of 12,000, the Japanese soldiers were holding a full-dress ceremony on a bomb-pocked avenue of the capital city, or what was left of it. Flashing Samurai swords gleamed in the sun as they paraded wearing full combat regalia. We ordered an artillery concentration, but it was too late to catch the prideful retreating Imperial enemy.”
Trusting to My Instinct is about a young recruit from ranch country thrown into battle and learned from experience why the training manual was incomplete. “Reaching battalion headquarters with the POW, I placed him in the major’s charge, and rushed back up the mountain to rejoin my platoon. In my absence Lieutenant Davis had gone ahead alone to sneak behind the machine gun position. We estimated there was a machine gunner in a command post and about forty German riflemen in foxholes, dug in and camouflaged. We listened to the steady rhythm of the ra-ta-ta-tat of the machine gun bursts. Then it quit. On a hunch that the enemy gun had jammed, Bill and I rushed forward firing our Tommy guns from the hip, spraying every bush and tree while dodging bullets from the German riflemen. The command post comprised a four-foot high log hut in the brush, and behind the log hut was Lieutenant Davis. After circling around to get behind the machine gun to take it out, he met enemy fire and lay dead.”
A successful assault coincides with an attack of diarrhea in an empathetic vignette midst the valiant story If You Cut My Arm Of, Let Me Die, I’m a Baseball Player. A citizen of Czechoslovakia abandons the opportunity to join the New York Giants’ ball club to become a paratrooper in the U.S. Army and becomes a survivor of the invasions of Holland, Belgium and Germany. “Medic!” I yelled, but he died in my arms before a medic got there. I laid him down and started mowing with that .30 caliber machine gun, shooting so fast that the barrel got hot and glowed red in the night. Then the German tanks turned around and headed back toward my foxhole again. Just then out of the corner of my eye fifteen feet away from me a German jumped up and pointed a one-man bazooka at me. I moved the .30 caliber around and got him before he could fire the bazooka, then ducked down just as another tank crossed by my foxhole.”
The Epic Rescue of My Gal Sal; and The Great Escape is the survival of an airman in three aircraft tragedies. The crew of My Gal Sal, land their out-of-fuel 10-ton B-17 on the Greenland Ice Cap and are rescued by a pilot landing a 12-ton PBY on a small ice water melt lake and a veteran of the Arctic on skis. The ice melt lake disappears shortly after the rescue. The airmen is in a second emergency landing, and again a third time, when he is the lone survivor of his aircraft and bails out over enemy territory and is imprisoned for three years. He is part of the planning of a great escape of 250 prisoners, but eventually saved from annihilation by the Russians by Hitler.
The Chinese Trap at Chosin Reservoir, takes place at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea and as General Matthew Ridgeway explained the tragedy, “We were, in short, in a state of shameful unreadiness.”
“The ten Chinese divisions that had orders to annihilate the Marines at Yudam-ni attacked them all the way to the sea as the Marines withdrew. Following within the shadow of the Marines for protection were nearly a hundred thousand North Korean women, children, and old men carrying their wounded. During the two-week battle on the west side of the reservoir the 15,000 men of the U.S. Marines, British and South Koreans suffered 12,000 casualties. The 3,000 men of Task Force Faith of the 31st and 32nd battalions/Seventh Army Division on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir fared worse with more than 2,600 dead and only 385 survivors.”
In contrast to the men at the Chosin Reservoir, the men in the story of 9 Band-Aids and 9 Purple Hearts, had water to drink without carrying canteens, fresh eggs any time and freshly made donuts.
“When the dust had cleared we returned to count the cost of the all-night attack – of the 4,000 Chinese that had attacked us, 350 of the enemy had lost their lives and 2,500 had surrendered. When counting our casualties, we discovered that not one of our men had been killed. Our 240 men who had fought off 3,500 to 4,000 Chinese dusted off their fatigues and used Band-Aides to cover their scrapes, and with grateful hearts for their lives, they buried the enemy dead before moving out.”.
Letters from Vietnam is a daily record during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam abstracted from letters from a sergeant to his wife.”7 Feb 68. Well, this morning was one of those mornings when you wake up and ten minutes later the VCs are shooting at you. We got carbine fire and RPGs. We moved out with the tanks about ten o’clock and started sweeping through the area where the VC were. About two o’clock we ran into them.
“I got the news about the baby when I got back. I am so happy I could cry! I love you so much… I don’t know what day he was born. They didn’t say, they just said it was a boy and weighted 7 pounds and something…all I can say is, I love you…”
Vietnam war negotiations ensued to end the war and exchange prisoners. The Last Plane Out is a story of negotiating with generals of South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong and how you actually shut down a war. Included are experiences that occurred at Phu Quoc Island, the POW camp where the majority of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were incarcerated.