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Book Review

Fortune Favors The Bold by James W. Walker.

Fortune Favors The Bold

01 July 2005

Kregg Jorgenson

Fortune Favors The Bold by James W. Walker is the latest book to chronicle the 101st Airborne Division LRRPs in Vietnam, and this time it's from the perspective of a British citizen who served with the Division's 1st Brigade in 1966 and '67.

Okay, okay, a former British citizen who now lives in Mena, Arkansas and whose Southern accent has a distinct 'Limey' temper to it, which not only earned him his nickname in the Army but maybe a few odd stares from anyone who ever asked him directions to Little Rock afterwards.

The book is more than just he latest look at the 101st LRRPs in Vietnam, it also offers a unique insight to the “foreigners” who served the United States during a difficult time when so many of our own citizens were fleeing the country to find ways to avoid serving themselves.

In the new Ivy publication we learn that “Limey” Walker, the Englishman, was quite literally born in to combat as his mother delivered him beneath the kitchen table during a German Luftwaffe bombing raid of Kingston Upon Hull, England in the closing days of World War II. His first 'rattle' was the sounds of enemy machine gun bullets ricocheting off his living room walls. Long before his parents were officially divorced and he was placed in an orphanage, the war year in England added a whole new and different meaning to “coming from a broken home.” Walker immigrated to the U.S. at sixteen to live with his mother and her husband, and at 17 he joined the American Army. By 1965 he was serving in the Airborne Infantry with the 82nd Airborne Division Expeditionary Force and earning a perspective on the rebellion (not to mention the cantinas!) that is seldom seen later, as an MP, he returns to offer another look in uniform from a different point of view to the same troubled area.

After a break in service Walker reenlisted in the Army and volunteered for service with the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. Still an MP he soon grew tired of his rear area role in the war and volunteered for the Brigade's LRRP Detachment. It's here that he finds his first real home and the camaraderie long denied.

Much like Leigh Wade's books, Walker's story doesn't sugar coat his account, and what you get is a straightforward enlisted man's view of the army world with candour, a slight comic edge, and a no-apologies approach.

He makes no bones about some of the “arse” holes he encountered in the Army just as he is quick to praise those he served with and admired. It's not an “us versus them” book so the officers fair as well as the enlisted men. The 101st's First Brigade LRRPs (The Old Foul Dudes) fair the best and rightfully so as you will read about his respect and genuine admiration for his Detachment Commander, Lieutenant Dan McIsaac, his First Sergeant Lloyd 'Top' Smith, LRRPs Rey Martinez, Derby Jones, Boss Weisberger, Alan 'Lurch' Cornett and all the other in the unit who in 1966-67 were defining the long range patrol role in the war and struggling with the opposition they encountered; enemy and friend alike.

Walker gets in a few good shots at the some other 'friendlies', especially those in command positions who either misuse or abuse the soldiers under them. In several instances Walker points out how soldiers or LRRPs were used inappropriately and suffered as a result, specifically in Santo Domingo and later in Vietnam.

Saying that, let me also say that Walker is no choirboy or Boy Scout, and he often portrays himself in realistic terms as well, even hanging out his own dirty laundry on occasion to balance out the overall tone of the book, which by the way is never arrogant or preachy. What you get with Fortune Favors The Bold is another piece to the 101st Airborne Division's LRRP/Ranger picture; one that does a very creditable and entertaining job.

The title for the book comes from the 1st Brigade LRRPs motto and probably best sums up the disposition of many of those who served in a special operations capacity. And while few ever made their 'fortunes' in terms of comfort or wealth they certainly created their legacies which Walker's book serves to highlight and honour.

Buy Fortune Favors The Bold

This article was originally published in Behind The Lines magazine. VietnamGear.com has reproduced this article with the kind permission of Gary Linderer.

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