Friendly Casualties (5)

The second half of Friendly Casualties is a novella. Characters that appeared and reappeared in the stories that make up the first half of the book show up again. The protagonist is Maggie, an American employee of the State Department assigned as an intelligence analyst to the U.S. embassy in Saigon. The time is late 1967 and early 1968, and the story centers on the Tet Offensive that began in January 1968. Maggie is in love with an army captain, Rick, who is assigned to work with a South Vietnamese army unit in the delta. Maggie discovers that the North Vietnamese are targeting Rick’s unit and hope to kill Rick himself.

I wrote the novella using two different points of view, those of Rick and Maggie. Much of the tension in the story derives from what each of the characters knows but doesn’t share. Maggie discovers that her co-worker, Lotte, is really a CIA employee under cover who is running an agent network. Lotte uncovers the threat to Rick’s life but doesn’t warn him or the unit he’s working with lest she compromise her source. Maggie is faced with a choice of doing nothing or violating security by warning Rick of the danger.

The story grew in part out of my experience in Vietnam during those years and my forecasting of the Tet Offensive. Maggie, like me, predicts the offensive and is not believed. I was never forced to choose between security and warning of a coming attack, but all too often those cleared for the intelligence I was handling and producing failed to act and chose not to alert threatened units. The deaths that resulted still haunt me.

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