by R. Lawson

ASIN: B075X2V21F

Publisher R. Lawson

Published in Literature & Fiction/Action & Adventure, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description


RECALL, a fictional historical narrative, tells the story of four young men who played on a high school football team and end up in Vietnam a decade later. The characters’ stories serve as a primer for a pivotal period in American life, the Sixties. Not only was a war going on, but a cultural revolution was underway, dividing the nation’s political lines. As the characters return home from service, follow their interwoven stories as they try and assimilate back into a world that appears to have gone mad while they also struggle with their personal demons.

Sample Chapter


This particular account of Vietnam and its aftermath is viewed through the personal experience of four young men who grew up together on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the fifties. Ten years or so later, in the mid-1960s, they found themselves thrust into a foreign battle on an Asian continent nine thousand miles away.

Their firsthand point of view may be enlightening to curious younger generations, not even born then, who are interested in military and political history, particularly Vietnam. The main characters’ impressions may possibly appeal to those who’ve heard or read conflicting stories about Vietnam—some accurate, some not, and some simply war stories embellished or modified to fit a certain personal or media bias.

Academic scholars may dismiss this account as just another war story. Well, it may be to some, but probably not to others who served tours of duty in Vietnam. The story should resonate with most veterans. They may identify with this version. In fact, this story could easily be a variation of their stories or one of their comrades’.

Vietnam is a kaleidoscope of tales, some grim and a few humorous, but most share the frustration of that nebulous war effort. In any case, this account should provoke thought, that’s the prime intention of relating it so many years after the fact, not so much as a diatribe, but as a word of warning.

The basic message: we need to learn the lessons of Vietnam. Its history offers a valuable central theme with political, social, and moral importance.

The narrative lends a different perspective to this stormy period in American history. As the author, my intention is not to be authoritative, but simply to recount the characters’ personal journeys—how four young men experienced Vietnam and observed its impact on American society in the following decade.

The reader is free to make the call to agree or disagree with the viewpoints expressed. That reaction is only natural to expect with all the existing controversy regarding Vietnam.

I have no axe to grind other than those opinions, observations, and reservations expressed in the prologue, introduction, and epilogue. The main characters, however, relate some strong viewpoints for the reader to consider. They make assertive statements that might stir you up, offer perspectives to challenge your preconceived notions, or just jar your memory to recall the unending news reports pounding the nation’s daily consciousness at that time.

As a country, we really need an honest self-assessment of why and how we engage in war. We should critically evaluate how we elect and judge our leaders’ moral compass to engage in, lead, and conduct a war. We should also look closely at how to end a war, defining victory on terms that anyone can easily understand, rather than relying on “nuanced” doublespeak.

Morality is not relative, as some would have you believe. The president has constitutional war powers. Give some serious thought as to how much we should entrust that person with that enormous power. Vietnam has some important lessons about the integrity of the nation’s highest office and its inner circle. Right and wrong should be moral absolutes without shades of gray, especially when committing to war.

* * * * *

For the historical record, well over nine million people served tours for our country in Vietnam over that extended fourteen-year period, starting with the introduction of military advisors in 1961 and ending with our complete 1975 withdrawal. That represents 9.7 percent of their generation, in contrast to the one percent serving in the military in 2016. Two-thirds were volunteers and one-third drafted... quite a disparity from today’s professional military. Out of that large number, I’m sure a lot of opinions were formed based on their personal experiences, but no one had a forum to express them.

There’s room for disagreement about Vietnam, especially when factually based. The officially documented facts in the declassified CIA records I referenced illustrate the discord and disagreements of that era. I reviewed them, not without some remorse at the lessons missed or ignored during the war. The French, fighting in inhospitable terrain, suffered 70,000 losses in Vietnam before we became involved. How could that morbid lesson escape recognition? Why did we expect a better outcome? Why should it have been different for us in an asymmetrical war? I came away with the impression Vietnam did not have to turn out the way it did, with two countries torn apart—theirs and ours.

I thought about Vietnam periodically for almost fifty years before deciding to write my characters’ story. I wanted to try to figure it all out while I had time to conduct some basic research, and still recall most of the details. I served over there as a flight surgeon, but experienced only a fraction of what the real fighters did. I could “see the tree, but not the rainforest.” I served, they fought.

This story is about them, not me. I never had to wade through the rice paddies, tangled vines, or elephant grass to fight in thick rainforests. I never encountered giant anthills taller than a man in the triple canopy jungles they fought in, or slept out in the monsoons, like most of our troops and my protagonists. I never got shot down, never went out on platoon missions, or experienced close-quarter combat, ambushes, or surprise artillery attacks. My USAF experience was limited mostly to air evacuations, not the down-and-dirty stuff they encountered. I flew in and out of the battleground above the fray. Therefore, I rely on their experience and my research to fill in the big picture, and to find a message in it all somewhere.

Later, in the following decades upon my return, I witnessed the war’s detrimental sociologic fallout in San Francisco, up close and personally. The protagonists’ story is well worth telling, and I chose to relate it in a fictional narrative for personal reasons to protect privacy rights. It’s a legal thing, let’s be realistic.

As the Mark Twain quotation goes, “truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” I couldn’t make all this up... that would require too vast an imagination. I left graphic parts out. War is nasty and, believe me, there is no need to go there. I’ll leave it for you decide what is fiction and what is fact. I won’t go there either. That’s my disclaimer, let the chips fall where they may. Believe what you will. There’s room for other interpretations of the Vietnam experience. This is theirs and mine.

Why bother to write about a war that brings up negative connotations fifty years later? Because there are so many misconceptions, so many lessons unlearned from the Vietnam experience. Hopefully, the younger generations can learn from my generation’s mistakes, rather than repeat them. That’s the take-home message and my purpose in relating my characters’ saga.

As a final sad reflection, many of those who served over there forty to fifty years ago still consider Vietnam a military victory, but acknowledge it as a political loss, a defining foreign-policy failure. At the height of the war, North Vietnam regulars (NVR), and the Viet Cong (VC), launched one of the largest military campaigns of the war. Named after “Tet”—the Vietnamese New Year—the 1968 Tet Offensive resulted in the loss of almost 4,000 Americans, but more than 58,000 of the enemy. Think about that statistic a moment. The enemy suffered as many killed in one year of warfare than the U.S. did in ten years. Furthermore, no major cities were lost in South Vietnam during Tet. Sound like a successful campaign?

Most would define these impressive statistics as a victory. Nevertheless, regardless of the overwhelming superiority of the numbers in our military’s favor, the ’68 Tet Offensive was the pivotal political and social turning point against America’s involvement in Vietnam. Our body-bag tally and the public’s negative perception of the war became more important than the staggering sixteen-times-greater, enemy body-counts in the ultimate test of conflict resolution—war.

In retrospect, American public opinion actually was the first domino to fall in 1968, not Vietnam.

Things got real ugly at home, fanned by the media after Tet. Our troops’ superior “kill numbers” became meaningless as an anti-war herd mentality emerged, gained momentum, and dominated the discussion of Vietnam over the next decade. The topic became the cause célèbre for the disenchanted anti-establishment crowd and the anti-war protesters in the streets.

Returning home, vets would not discuss the subject with anyone other than family, close friends, and comrades for many years. They felt maligned by much of secular society, not respected. Some harbored resentment. Others felt unappreciated, lost. Rightly so, they received shabby treatment, disrespect, even the humility of being spit on in public.

History repeated itself. French troops had received similar disrespect and humiliation returning home to France from Vietnam decades earlier, after their 1954 defeat at Dien Bien Phu, which forced them to withdraw from Indochina.

Our vets were scorned, even slandered in some political quarters, including Congressional hearings by a shameless officer, who wrote his own after-action reports. He sustained three minor injuries, one from fragging himself, and managed to obtain three Purple Hearts, which granted him leave from the theater after a short four-month tour of duty. Recall that sorry episode? You may know to whom I’m referring. If you don’t, look it up.

Meanwhile, the liberal media at home pounded a drumbeat of negativity. Few vets received the hero treatment most deserved for their service. They laid it on the line for our country and received little or no gratitude in return.

Their contentious homecoming reception stands in stark contrast to the warm welcome and empathy for those returning from the Middle East wars recently, the wounded warriors. Has there been an epiphany resulting in a serious change of heart, an awakening of America’s human spirit?

Perhaps America has experienced a renaissance of values, I hope so. Most would agree Vietnam was a muddled mess, no matter what side of the difference of opinion they are on. But, in the final analysis, it never was the fighting man’s fault. Never. Certainly, with no reason or justification to denigrate him, he deserved our respect, not scorn. After all, there are no noble wars, just noble warriors.

It remains argumentative and difficult to figure out what went wrong, starting from the decision to commit to that war, and moving through three administrations’ nebulous strategies—two Democratic, one Republican—to conduct it: JFK, LBJ, and Nixon. And lastly, the humbling terms of our withdrawal from the theater in helicopters from Saigon rooftops left many wondering if it was really worth it in retrospect. Does this episode accurately represent our America, the home of the free and the brave? Did Vietnam trigger the beginning of decades of cynicism? Distrust of our government? Did it exacerbate the polarization of the political spectrum? Pithy considerations to ponder. Think about it and draw your own conclusions.

* * * * *

So, how did four young men—who played on the same high school championship football team on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the mid-fifties—wind up nine thousand miles away in the war-torn cities and jungles of Vietnam? How did they find themselves emerged in a virtual alternate universe, and forced to cope? Now, that’s a long story involving improbable odds. Is it attributable to mere coincidence, or dramatic irony?

Biff Roberts and his three teammates’ homespun back-stories and subsequent Vietnam experience will give you a different perspective of that difficult and confusing period in American history.

Three other characters play a significant role in this convoluted saga with their personal involvement influencing the main characters’ life paths. Their uncanny interplay compels one to consider the validity of the six degrees of separation theory. Their opportune interaction and coincidental connectivity to the main characters’ adventures are the reason I also present their interesting backgrounds. They later sway critical outcomes as the odyssey unfolds.

Let me share with you the long story of these characters. How I recall it, a fictional historical narrative chronicling the ups and downs of their personal journey through a turbulent time: Vietnam and its aftermath.


Excerpted from "Recall" by R. Lawson. Copyright © 2017 by R. Lawson. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

R. Lawson

R. Lawson

R. Lawson has always been fascinated with international intrigue and the inner workings of secret government agencies and their activities.

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