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Book Review

War Stories Of The Green Berets: The Vietnam Experience by Hans Halberstadt.

War Stories Of The Green Berets

14 July 2005

Rob Krott

Anyone who reads Behind The Lines will love this book. It's all war stories-some hilarious, some heroic, others sad-as told to Halberstadt by 26 men who served in Vietnam with the US Army Special Forces.

Halberstadt served in Vietnam and got to know some of the men in this book through their post-war service in the 12th Special Forces Group (Reserve). The folks doing the storytelling in this book are for real. They cover the whole gamut of the SF experience in Vietnam, from the early 1960s to the Vietnamization of the 1970s, from 'A' camps to 'Mike' forces to MACV-SOG.

There are three POWs, one Medal of Honour recipient, enlisted men, officers even a civilian 'adopted' by Special Forces. Some of the names on the contributors' list read like a 'Who's Who' of Special Forces. To name a few, there's John Caviani, Clyde Sincere, Otis Hedges Ashley, 'Ben' Baker, Jim Morris, Clay Scott.

Well, in my review of Special Forces of the United States Army (BTL Sep/Oct '94), I whined that there wasn't a mention of Clyde Sincere or Jim Morris (the author of War Story; The Devil's Secret Name; and Fighting Men). This book makes up for it. Sincere tells some great war stories including “Oops, Wrong Uniform!” where he jumps on to an LZ full of NVA. He's so badly wounded the NVA strip him of his boots and uniform and leave him for dead. Morris has probably used up all of his war stories, but he contributes “Hood, Riding, Red, Little,” which will elicit several guffaws from anyone who reads it.

The humour in War Stories of the Green Berets is classical SF. One of the best and also funniest combat stories is related by Otis Hedges Ashley III in, “Aw, Bummer-Wrong Army.” Ashley is probably the only 16-year-old Ranger tabbed; HALO qualified Special Forces PFC in US Army history. 'Ben' Baker recounts some requests for supplies that were designed to be funny at the time and still are over 20 years later. Many of the enlisted men in this book retired from the military as field grade officers. To hear some of their real reasons for attending OCS will bring a hearty round of laughs.

But it wasn't all combat and fun and games. There are also stories laced with pathos. Dan Pitzer, Stephen Leopold (“Life in the Hanoi Hilton”), and Jon Caviani (Medal of Honour recipient for combat action that led to his capture) all recount episodes from their POW experiences. I've known John Padgett for years, but he never told me about, “My Wife, the Assistant Machine Gunner.”

There's a lot of history in War Stories of the Green Berets. Different characters share stories of the Phoenix Program, Mike Forces, CORDS, and of course, the 'Yards.' There are intimate discussions of operations, programs and weapons. Halberstadt's contributors even share with us previously untold stories of some of the great characters of Special Forces fame, like Martha 'Maggie' Ray, and the late Walt Schumate. I know Fred Fuller from my tour in Korea, and he had me cracking up with his comments about Walt Schumate and a story on Schumate titled, “This Was Done By Ho Chi Minh.”

Anyone who ever wore a Green Beret and certainly anyone who served in Vietnam while assigned to a Special Forces unit will definitely want to read War Stories of the Green Berets. Even if you've never worked in one of the Groups but like damned great storytelling and can appreciate a good belly laugh now and then, get a copy while they are still available.

Buy War Stories Of The Green Berets from Amazon.com

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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