"Traditional notions of what constituted success and failure in battle are not easily applied to the conflict in Vietnam, and the Battle of Ong Thanh...more"Traditional notions of what constituted success and failure in battle are not easily applied to the conflict in Vietnam, and the Battle of Ong Thanh is no exception—in this clash, as in so many others, the confused nature of the fighting is reflected in different judgments about its outcome. But where wire service accounts reported it as a victory, accounts by many veterans of the 2-28— including Shelton—count it as a tactical defeat."
Lt. Colonel Terry Allen, son of a very highly regarded ** WW II general, took on a large group of VC regulars. The result was a devastating defeat. Allen was killed in the battle. Shelton was there as a major, the S3. The 2-28, also known as the Black Lions, was badly mauled by a tenacious enemy in an unusual stand-and-fight battle which heretofore the VC had always avoided.
Shelton sets the stage with a short account of the history of the Black Lions, part of the famed "Big Red One." He also brings his personal experience to the story of events as he was assigned to the Black Lions under General Hays following the very successful leadership of General DePuy, fames for the "DePuy bunkers", enfiladed and covered foxholes that were impossible to attack without heavy losses.
Shelton is candid throughout the book and some of the details are less than savory. Food was always a problem, hot rations being flown in by helicopter, but usually getting thoroughly rained on before being eaten, and often the troops were utterly exhausted by the time night came, so food was just a quick can of fruit.
Malarial pills were a requirement and hated. They were huge. The size of a penny in diameter and about 5 pennies thick they caused stomach cramps and intense diarrhea about three hours after taking them. Usually the attack was faster than it was possible to drop ones pants but since no one wore underwear they just waited until the next rain (six or seven times a day in the rainy season) to wash them out. No one ever made it to the latrine, such as it was, and just dropped and squatted in place. "On the plus side, the consequences of taking malaria pills helped to keep the officers in infantry battalions from being too officious. There was something leveling about the process." A two-holer was usually constructed in the middle of the camp, but no one liked to sit there, especially when enemy snipers could shoot a few rounds there . "I imagined a telegram to my wife: 'Dear Mrs. Shelton. The Secretary of the Army regrets to inform you that your husband was killed in action while hiding behind the battalion two-holer. He was last found cringing in a pile of shit donated by himself and his fellow soldiers.' "
Shelton noted several things when he was assigned as S3 (Battalion Operations Officer) -- he succeeded Lt. Colonel Allen who was being promoted -- to the Black Lions. The whole division had terrible radio discipline, most communications going in the clear, rationalizing that during combat it was less confusing than the multiple codes normally required. There was also constant "ass-chewing" over the air and in person, to such an extant everyone expected it and enjoyed it. The question was whether it was taken seriously. Air mobile insertion and extraction operations were incredibly complex and required an intricate ballet of cooperation between multiple units, helicopters and soldiers. Finally, there was turnover. Because of the military's policy of one-year rotations, often units had only FNGs (Fucking New Guys) to run the show. Few experienced soldiers were left to guide the FNGs and it would take awhile to learn how to stay alive.
The Air Force guys all thought they were doing a great job but Shelton has nothing but contempt for their close air support which often fell on the troops rather than the designated target. "I never heard of one air strike that helped while we were on offensive operations. When we were on the defensive and were in a static position, air strikes could be of great assistance. On the other hand, when we were moving, all air strikes did was slow us down and delay the action." (84)
The operation that spelled disaster for the Black Lions did not get off to a great start. Despite lots of planning and overflying of the LZ, once the first troops jumped off the Hueys to secure the landing zone, and after a thorough pounding with artillery bombs and napalm, only then did they realize the elephant grass was growing in a stream bed full of water and they landed in water up to the waste. Fortunately, it was not a hot LZ. Next they waded slowly to the perimeter into the jungle where huge clumps of dirt loaded with red ants fell on them. The shelling had lifted colonies of ants into the jungle canopy. Soon troops were stripping down and diving under the water to relieve themselves of the biting ant stings. Then Shelton happened to look up at a weaving branch only to be almost face-to-face with a bamboo viper, a nasty little bugger. It had survived bombing and napalm. The purpose of the operation was to set up a base and lure surrounding VC to attack them, whereupon they would bring in more troops and they were confident of a positive outcome in a large head on battle. That was not to be.
Ignoring the warnings of Lt. Clark Welch (no relation) who's company had taken the brunt of the fighting the day before, Allen, seeking a fight, moved two companies out into the jungle. Because the fighting was at such close quarters, artillery was of little use even though one soldier called it in on his head. Artillery was also delayed because they had to wait for fighters to clear the area even though the airstrikes were off target and of little use. Pleas for fighters to clear the area in favor of the more precise artillery went unheeded even though one artillery captain, risking a court martial, fired 6,000 rounds in support of the troops, even though planes were flying through the area.
The result was a massacre. Both companies were decimated. Most of the officers were killed and at one point a PFC was technically the battalion commander. Welch himself was hit five times. Interviews with the remaining participants were considered so damning they were classified for years but Shelton gained access to them and they provide a multi-faceted glimpse of the catastrophe.
Shelton blames the failure on three elements: 1) Allen's failure to listen to Welch's concerns. At that time Welch, ironically, had far more combat experience than any of the other commanders having come up through the ranks. Shelton considers this an endemic problem of commanders who want to 2) the failure of the units to use "fire and maneuver" effectively. Shelton points to training manuals and documents highlighting the importance of infantry to find the enemy and artillery and firepower to destroy him. I found this peculiar since the enemy in this case did not have the firepower but certainly used infantry far more effectively.; and 3) " the danger of overcontrol by superiors, which froze subordinates in action," although I'm not sure I got the same lesson from his account. Certainly Allen was wedded to his radio (which also made him a target) and headquarters away from the field was constantly badgering for more information, the infamous SITREP.
This is a fascinating look at Vietnam operations from the viewpoint of a battalion S3, an unusual perspective. 4.5 stars.
** General Allen was relieved of command by General Bradley for a variety of reasons, one being his cavalier attitude that Bradley said spilled over to his troops. Ironically, Patton defended General Terry to Eisenhower for his tenaciousness and success in battle, but after the slapping incident, Patton lost a lot of his prestige and Allen was removed. Whether this incident was in the back of the son's mind when he made the decision to attack will never be known.(less)
This is a magnificent book. Firstly, a disclaimer. The author sent me a free copy knowing of my interest in railroads, but I would not have reviewed i...moreThis is a magnificent book. Firstly, a disclaimer. The author sent me a free copy knowing of my interest in railroads, but I would not have reviewed it had I not liked it. I liked it so much, in fact, I am sending him a check for the book.
What Bassette has done is to collect a comprehensive set of photographs relating to the history of the Illinois Central. He worked for the IC for about 20 years and had access to their large library of archival photographs. He decided to focus on the period from 1850 to 1950, roughly the rise and fall of the steam locomotive. The book is divided into yearly chapters with a brief description of what was going on in the rest of the world during that year, particularly as it relates to the U.S. railroad industry. That's followed by pictures of a locomotive or an IC yard, each with a lengthy description. So, for example, in 1896 there are photographs of engines 376, 2003, 488,499, 495 (plowing through flooded tracks) as well as work being done on the "Lake Front Improvement Ordinance in which the IC agreed to build a retaining wall and backfill the park area between the retaining wall and Michigan Avenue."
Obviously, this book had a limited appeal for publishers, so the author, no doubt at great personal expense, published it himself using only the highest quality printing and on the best paper.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough for railroad aficionados. It belongs in every library with any interest in railroading and certainly those covered by the Illinois Central. It's truly a labor of love and will provide many hours for me to peruse at my leisure. Six stars.
Charlie is a misanthrope. When his mother, who owns the hotel where he works as the house dick, asks him what he would do with a million dollars, his...moreCharlie is a misanthrope. When his mother, who owns the hotel where he works as the house dick, asks him what he would do with a million dollars, his response is that he'd like to buy a boat, anchor it offshore, and fish and read. (Sounds good except for the fishing.) If people wanted to come visit they could wave and he'd row over in the dinghy to get them, or not. His girl friends drop him because he's "not bold."
Charlie vows to find out who injured Victor, his friend, by running him down and stealing his camera. He discovers during the course of his poking around that an old mobster has been hanging around the hotel. That leads him to suspect the guy is planning to heist an armored truck that carries a substantial amount of money on a regular basis from the track. The police chief, when informed, scoffs, since it's the best protected run around and besides, there are so few roads for the thieves to escape on. Well, of course, Charlie has it nailed, but the links are not what he expected.
Mildly entertaining. Not as good as some of the other Dobyns I've read. 2.5 stars. really.(less)
Harry Rane is in deep shit. His friend Bobby is in debt to the mob and Harry, former ex-state-cop, widower and old friend decides to help him get out...moreHarry Rane is in deep shit. His friend Bobby is in debt to the mob and Harry, former ex-state-cop, widower and old friend decides to help him get out of the obligation. Unfortunately things begin to go bad when Harry meets Catherine, Nick Fallon's wife, and former girl friend of Harry's. (It's a small NJ world, apparently.) The guy that Bobby had made the drug deal with turns up dead in the trunk of a car at the airport, and Fallon discovers Harry is making it with his wife. Whew.
Some bizarre reviews out there. One, on Amazon, said he liked the way Rane took several beatings, and another compared the book unfavorably to the Sopranos (a TV series) and a Bruce Springsteen song. I mean, WTF?
Compelling story even if Harry does occasionally act dumber than a post. (less)
This was one of those audiobooks, that I would listen to for a while then switch to something else, then come back, to then hop elsewhere again. I had...moreThis was one of those audiobooks, that I would listen to for a while then switch to something else, then come back, to then hop elsewhere again. I had trouble relating to the characters. Quinn didn't have the appeal and intensity of a Jack Reacher, nor the smarts and authority of Virgil Flowers. It also lacked any moments of humor that can add so much to the enjoyment of a book.
Quinn, home on leave, has to make several decisions: should he reenlist, only to be sent to some base as a ranger instructor? clean up his home town of Jericho? investigate the apparent suicide of his uncle the sheriff? sell the property he inherited? And what are we to make of the teen walking from Alabama to find the boyfriend who knocked her up?
Quinn is sort of a John Wayne-let's-clean-up-this-town character without the swagger.(less)
Gandt is a former Navy fighter jock, flying A-4s off a carrier and then for many years as a Pan Am pilot (he wrote an account of the rise and fall of...moreGandt is a former Navy fighter jock, flying A-4s off a carrier and then for many years as a Pan Am pilot (he wrote an account of the rise and fall of Pan Am, Skygods.)
His fighter jock novels follow the career of Brick Maxwell (I didn't realize there was a sequence when I started this book so I'm a bit out of order.) In addition to Maxwell we have DeLancey, the hotshot squadron commander (a hotshot in his own mind and vindictive SOB); Claire, former GF of Maxwell, now a reporter looking for insider information; Tyrwhitt, Claire's estranged husband who write a column supportive of Saddam but who's really a CIA plant, and assorted other pilots.
There are constant political machinations among the squadron, petty jealousies, harassment of the female pilots, manipulations in return by the some of the women, and pilots with hangovers, problems at home, and many other distractions. Makes you wonder if drones aren't such a bad idea. I'm not such if it was the author's intent, but goodness, WW III could be just a hangover away. I truly hope what DeLancey does is not representative of what Gandt experienced during his time flying carrier jets.(less)
This may be another one of those books enhanced by an outstanding narrator, or, perhaps I'm just enamored of the Australian accent. Be that as it may,...moreThis may be another one of those books enhanced by an outstanding narrator, or, perhaps I'm just enamored of the Australian accent. Be that as it may, it was a pleasurable listen while doing chores like dishes, etc.
Frank Calder, ex-soldier, and ex-cop, is hired by a rich bad guy to deliver money to kidnappers who have made off with his daughter. When Calder counsels bringing in the cops, the response is the story of a previous kidnapping of another daughter who was threatened with killing by the abductors, but who managed to free herself and escape. This time they don’t want to risk police involvement.
When the first ransom amount is delivered and they are ordered to dump the money off a balcony in a crowded sporting event, Calder realizes this is not about money, it's about inflicting pain on the Carson family. The family lives in a walled in fortress having isolated themselves from the rest of the world in the name of security. The kidnappers escalate the demands and Calder decides to get to the bottom. It's a sleazy journey.
Good story with some surprises. I had trouble identifying with Calder, however. (less)
It's 1721, the great South Sea Bubble has collapsed**, and a mapmaker, heavily in debt, is persuaded by his debtor that he must travel to Holland and...moreIt's 1721, the great South Sea Bubble has collapsed**, and a mapmaker, heavily in debt, is persuaded by his debtor that he must travel to Holland and deliver a package. Turns out it contains a green book listing all those government officials who had been bribed to help investors make money from the bubble.
The Goddard books I have read all have some sort of multi-continent chase in them and this one is a whopper. It takes place in England, Holland, Switzerland, Germany and Italy as several groups pursue the rogues who stole the "green" book, which itself had been purloined. Shades of Louise de la Valliere and deception abounds on all sides with poor Spandrel caught in the middle. The Captain was my favorite character.
My only gripe with the book is that I had no sense of place. Here was a marvelous opportunity to present the results of research into traveling conditions, housing, how people lived, etc., in the early eighteenth century. Instead the focus seems solely on the characters and the chase. This may also be one of those books in which the audiobook narrator enhances the reading. Very well read.
I realize it's not Graham Greene, but I really liked this clever novella about Katla, an assassin, who poses as a representative of LKE Enterprises, a...moreI realize it's not Graham Greene, but I really liked this clever novella about Katla, an assassin, who poses as a representative of LKE Enterprises, a company that for a large fee will rid you permanently of people you don't like or upon whom you wish retribution. Katla pulls a multi-faceted con in this novella, available for free for your Kindle.
Hired to kill a former employee who stole a microchip containing some very special and unique programming that will make weapons more difficult to track, Katla figures out a way to shift blame for the eventual killing while retrieving the microchip in such a way that .... You'll just have to read it to find out. Cunning. I intend to read all of Halm's books..
Marred only by a couple of editing errors, e.g. "there" instead of "their," but generally well edited.(less)
I ran across this author accidentally. I enjoyed his post on a Goodreads group, pulled up his profile and was intrigued by descriptions of his works....moreI ran across this author accidentally. I enjoyed his post on a Goodreads group, pulled up his profile and was intrigued by descriptions of his works. I'm always looking for fun reads involving "bad" guys and assassins fits that category nicely. Block's Keller series sets the standard, of course, and Halm ranks right up there. Katla, or LKE Enterprises as she calls herself, specializes in killing targets in a such way that they look accidental or natural. Coming up with credible scenarios necessarily challenges the authors and this locked-room novella (available for free for your Kindle from Amazon) is certainly as good as anything Carr might have come up with. I like the way Halm integrated some of the newer technologies into the plot. A good story and enjoyable way to spend time while waiting for something.
My only caveat is that, unlike Keller and Dot who go to great lengths to conceal their identity, Katla meets directly with prospective clients. That would seem to make her quite vulnerable if things blow up. Nevertheless, I intend to read all Halm's books. They have the added benefit of being set in Amsterdam, a great city. I did tire of the word anthracite in this story, however. I highly recommend Microchip Murder: A Katla KillFile (in that one the word bascule was perhaps overused. :) )
Halm's short novellas are published as part of a mini series called the Katla Killfiles. Get them.(less)
Really excellent summary of events to date with data and evidence. Makes the STGRB folks look like a bunch of bad writers who couldn't tell parody and...moreReally excellent summary of events to date with data and evidence. Makes the STGRB folks look like a bunch of bad writers who couldn't tell parody and irony from a hole in the ground.
My hat's off to those who wrote and compiled this.(less)