Crawley’s story intrigued me because he reminded me so much of myself and my years in Vietnam between 1962 and April 1975 when I escaped the fall of Saigon under fire. During those years I spent more time in Vietnam than I did in the U.S. I had two three-year accompanied tours there with my wife and four children and so many shorter trips, called TDY (temporary duty), that I lost count. I was a civilian the whole time, but I operated under cover as an enlisted man in whatever unit, army or Marine Corps, I was supporting. Because I spoke Vietnamese, Chinese, and French—the three languages of Vietnam—my job for most of that time was supporting units in combat on the battlefield with information about the enemy drawn from signals intelligence, the intercept and exploitation of enemy radio communications.
So many of the scrapes Crawley got caught in were like the ones that almost cost me my life. More times than I can count, I caught myself grinning at his descriptions of close calls and how he extricated himself from dangers surrounding him, situations that sounded so familiar to me. He, like me, operated as an independent—he by necessity, me by choice. My impoverished childhood had trained me to avoid depending on others; more times than I like to count, that saved my life.
The editors at the two outfits I do reviews for learned long ago of my expertise in dealing with books on Vietnam and other wars. It is they, not I, who are responsible for my reviews of so many books about combat and the battlefield.