Military Book Reviews

Make Peace or Die by Charles Daly

Make Peace or Die by Charles Daly

As many readers of the Dispatches Newsletter might be aware, "Make Peace or Die" is the motto of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. For Charles Daly, it became a regular choice he would have to make, time and again, over the course of his entire life.  "Make Peace or Die: A Life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares" is everything the name promises it to be. At times terrifying, the book is always engrossing and descriptive. It’s one of the finest personal recollections of the Korean War today.  It’s also a joint collaboration the author co-wrote with the help of his son, Charlie Daly. About the Author of Make Peace or Die Daly grew up in a family of Anglo-Irish immigrants. They became American citizens when little Charles was just eight years old. Their story, as Daly admits from the start, was not the typical picture of huddled masses yearning to breathe free. His father was a Shell Oil Company Executive, and they came to the United States on a luxury liner in first class.  When...

read more
Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part by William E. Peterson

Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part by William E. Peterson

At the age of 19, William E. Peterson embarked upon a life mission which many would gladly have missed. He went to war in Vietnam! In this 302 page book he brings to life his journey from his decision to enlist in the Army, through twelve months of helicopter combat, to his return home. It takes the reader on a wild ride with a helicopter crew chief and door gunner with the First Air Cavalry, C/227th Assault Helicopter Battalion. The typical memoir written by a Vietnam veteran begins with a short accounting of his youth and ends with his homecoming. Sandwich between is a detailed rendering of the serious, heartbreaking nature of war: fear, tragedy, loss, sorrow, growth, and relief interlaced with nature's emotional shutoff valve, humor. While Peterson's Mission of Fire and Percy does much of the same things, his writing has much greater clarity since it is drawn from scores of letters he send home to his family, friends and girlfriend Cindi. He adds anecdotal recollections to what he...

read more
Black Ops Vietnam By Robert M. Gillespie

Black Ops Vietnam By Robert M. Gillespie

Have you read "Black Ops Vietnam" By Robert M. Gillespie? During the Vietnam War, the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (MACVSOG) was a highly-classified. It was a US joint-service organization that consisted of personnel from Army Special Forces, the Air Force Special Operations Forces, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance units, and the CIA.  This secret organization was committed to action in Southeast Asia even before the major build-up of US forces in 1965 and fielded a division-sized element of South Vietnamese military personnel, indigenous Montagnards, ethnic Chinese Nungs, and Taiwanese pilots in its varied reconnaissance, naval, air, and agent operations.  MACVSOG was, without doubt, the most unique US unit to participate in the Vietnam War, since its operational mandate authorized its missions to take place "over the fence" in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, where most other American units were forbidden to go. During its...

read more
Firehammer by Ric Hunter

Firehammer by Ric Hunter

If you'd like to know what it's like to pilot a high-performance jet in training and combat - without risk and actually having to get into one - you cannot do better than to read Ric Hunter's just published 'Firehammer.' A resident of Burnsville, retired Col. Hunter had 27 years and 4,000 hours of high-performance jet time, and was commander of an F-15 C Eagle squadron. His book describes the last days of the Vietnam War, including the SS Mayaquez rescue and the final evacuation of military personnel from the island of Koh Tang. Although the book is fiction and meant to be entertaining as well as informative, Col. Hunter was actually one of the pilots involved in this last battle of the war. The fictional star of the book is Capt. Randy "Pepper" Houston, who was assigned to an F-4 Phantom squadron. The detailed description of his demanding and hair-raising training to fly a different model jet than he'd previously flown and his later combat experiences have the ring of authenticity...

read more
Budapest to Vietnam by Nicholas J Hun

Budapest to Vietnam by Nicholas J Hun

Today, an estimated 200,000 U.S. military members are not actually citizens of the United States. They join for many reasons; a pathway to citizenship, learning new skills, or just being part of the camaraderie of their respective services. It's nothing new; foreigners have been joining the armed forces since the birth of the nation.  Times were no different during the Vietnam War. Many noncitizens joined to fight, and fight they did. One of those came from an unlikely place: Hungary. From the end of World War II until 1989, Hungary was part of the Warsaw Pact, a country dominated by the communist Soviet Union. But just because the country was under Communist control doesn't mean the Hungarian people were all for it.  About the Author of Budapest to Vietnam One of those Hungarians was Nicholas J. Hun. Hun's family moved from Hungary to the United States in search of a better life and a better future. He was Hungarian by birth but was raised on the streets of Cleveland,...

read more
Doc! The Adventures of a Hospital Corpsman by Hugh Sullivan

Doc! The Adventures of a Hospital Corpsman by Hugh Sullivan

Hugh Sullivan served in the Navy for 39 years. Enlisting in 1961, he spent the first 16 of those years as a hospital corpsman. He would serve two tours in Vietnam, deploy to Operation Desert Storm, and rack up an impressive number of campaign and service ribbons and medals before retiring in 2000 as a Captain.  Doc! a Valuable Read for Anyone Interested in the Vietnam It's safe to say he probably has some really good stories to tell. It's fortunate for the rest of us that he's written a memoir about the lifetime of service he gave his country. "Doc! The Adventures of a Navy Hospital Corpsman" is that memoir.  "Doc," as many Marines and Corpsmen know, is a term of affection the Marines have for some of their battlefield medics. Grunts and Corpsmen alike will really enjoy Capt. Sullivan's reflections on his tours in Vietnam and his early deployments in Asia. But the book isn't just a memoir; there's something for military personnel and military medical troops in the...

read more
The Good Soldier by Paul C. Steffy

The Good Soldier by Paul C. Steffy

The second novel by Army veteran Paul C. Steffy, The Good Soldier is a story of a young volunteer who suffers deeply as a result of his service. Alcoholism, multiple failed marriages, and recurring nightmares: Brad Thomas is in a pit of regrets with no recourse. None, that is, except confronting his trauma and returning to Vietnam to deal with the consequences of breaking a promise which he’d exchanged for an unexpected gift. Despite its dark subject matter, The Good Soldier is a tale of hope in the face of horrors. Reader Responses on The Good Soldier Told with the kind of attention to detail that's only possible from a guy who ‘was there.’ The author's moving tale of the mingling of cultures and traditions in the midst of political hatred and bloodshed is remarkable in its insights into those unexpected things that can both divide and unite us. Bravo, Good Soldier.” ~ S.L. Burge “Especially moving was the harrowing account of the death of a close friend, from being shot in the head...

read more
Rucksack Grunt by Robert Kuhn

Rucksack Grunt by Robert Kuhn

Rucksack Grunt author Robert Kuhn served in the US Army between 1970 and 1972 in the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry. He ventured out of the suburbs of Pennsylvania into the dangerous jungles and mountains of Vietnam’s Central Highlands. In his book, Kuhn details the traumatic and even disturbing encounters he experienced as a ‘rucksack-carrying grunt’ on his tour of duty. Vietnam vets and those who love them alike have found common ground and insight in Kuhn’s writing.  Kuhn was just a naive high school kid when he proposed to his high school sweetheart. His decision to seek out the means of obtaining an education and a job capable of supporting his fiancee would send him across the world and shape his life for decades to come. Rucksack Grunt is the result of a lifetime reckoning with that decision and its consequences. Reader Responses to Rucksack Grunt “Excellent! I went through it page by page, read the whole thing and loved it. Your story means a lot to me personally because...

read more
We Don’t Want YOU, Uncle Sam by Matthew Weiss

We Don’t Want YOU, Uncle Sam by Matthew Weiss

We Don't Want YOU, Uncle Sam by Matthew Weiss The military's recruiting crisis is at an all-time high in 2023. The U.S. Army, the military's largest branch, is expected to fall short by 15,000 recruits this year. Most of the younger generations the military can get are those who are children of someone who served -- but even that source is threatened.  Other branches are seeing shortfalls, too. The Navy is going to miss its goal by 10,000 recruits; the Air Force will be short 3,000. Only the Marine Corps, the smallest branch, is expected to make its goal. News reports of substandard housing and food shortages don't help, nor do the decades of war, followed by an epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran suicide.  All branches are in a quandary about what they can do to make military life more appealing and make Gen-Z consider the military in their future plans. One Marine Corps intelligence officer believes he has the answers and compiled them into a new book, "We Don't...

read more
Five Years to Freedom: The True Story of a Vietnam POW by James N. Rowe

Five Years to Freedom: The True Story of a Vietnam POW by James N. Rowe

When Green Beret Lieutenant James N. Rowe was captured in 1963 in Vietnam, his life became an intensely grueling endeavor that few could have survived. Rowe had been in Vietnam for only three months when he was captured. Imprisoned in a Viet Cong POW camp in an area known as the Forest of Darkness, Rowe endured beri-beri, dysentery, and tropical fungus diseases. He suffered demoralizing psychological and physical torment. He experienced the loneliness and frustration of watching his friends die. And he struggled every day to maintain faith in himself as a soldier and in his country as it appeared to be turning against him. However, he cunningly obfuscated his true status as an intelligence officer from the enemy, claiming to be a draftee engineer responsible for building schools and civic works projects. His training at West Point enabled him to keep up this pretense, until the Viet Cong learned of the deception by obtaining a American list of high-value POWs in which he was listed....

read more
Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides

Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides

In August 1944, the War Ministry in Tokyo had issued a directive to the commandants of various POW camps, outlining a policy for what it called the 'final disposition' of prisoners. A copy of this document, which came to be known as the 'August 1 Kill-All Order,' would surface in the war crimes investigations in Tokyo.  The document read in part that POWs are to be destroyed individually or in groups and whether it is accomplished by means of mass bombing, poisonous smoke, poisons, drowning, or decapitation, dispose of them as the situation dictates and not to leave a single POW alive. Already aware that the Japanese would kill all POWs, a rescue plan had already been developed and went in action on January 28, 1945, when 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. A recent prison massacre by...

read more
Call Sign Chaos by Jim Mattis

Call Sign Chaos by Jim Mattis

Call Sign Chaos is the account of Jim Mattis's storied career, from wide-ranging leadership roles in three wars to ultimately commanding a quarter of a million troops across the Middle East. Along the way, Mattis recounts his foundational experiences as a leader, extracting the lessons he has learned about the nature of warfighting and peacemaking, the importance of allies, and the strategic dilemmas - and short-sighted thinking - now facing our nation. He makes it clear why America must return to a strategic footing so as not to continue winning battles but fighting inconclusive wars. Mattis divides his book into three parts: Direct Leadership, Executive Leadership, and Strategic Leadership. In the first part, Mattis recalls his early experiences leading Marines into battle, when he knew his troops as well as his own brothers. In the second part, he explores what it means to command thousands of troops and how to adapt your leadership style to ensure your intent is understood by...

read more