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AFA Chapter 118 Recommended Reading


The should-have-been-told-decades-ago story of Roy Benavidez, a Green Beret who voluntarily tagged along on a rescue mission during the Vietnam War and saved the lives of eight American and South Vietnamese warriors, nearly at the cost of his own life. When a SOG infiltration team was discovered and attacked during a mission to document enemy violation of treaties regarding Laos and Cambodia, the rescue choppers trying to pull them out were shot up so badly they had to fly back to base to repair and refuel so they could try again. In Eric Blehm's skilled telling of this story, the reader is there for the fateful battle from the insertion to Benavidez's impromptu decision to accompany one of the rescue crews, to his incredible acts of bravery to keep his men alive and get them home. The first half of the book introduces us to Benavidez through his hardscrabble upbringing, his troubled teens, and his decision to join the Army. We see his introduction to Special Forces, his own opportunity to apply for the Green Berets, and his initial tour of duty in Vietnam during which he is grievously wounded. After a tough rehab, he returned to active duty and Vietnam for a second tour, where the above mission took place. The battle itself is only about a quarter of the book, but is some of Blehm's most intense writing and given that he is author of "Fearless" and "The Only Thing Worth Dying For," that's fairly impressive. During the firefight, a dozen or so Americans and allied Vietnamese lost their lives but their training, discipline and courage extracted a much higher price from the enemy perhaps a thousand or more KIA as Benavidez and the others called in air strikes against hostile positions while awaiting rescue. Blehm then wraps up the book with the political battle to have Benavidez' actions properly recognized with the Congressional Medal of Honor during a time that the so-called "Secret War" in Laos and Cambodia was not being acknowledged by our government. Small in scope, confined to one battle in one campaign, this is nevertheless one of the best books about Vietnam yet written.