MIA Rescue: LRRP Manhunt in the Jungle
13 February 2006
Kregg Jorgenson is a friend and BTL colleague, and I admire his writing. I had to say that right out, just to be honest. With my prejudices out in the open, let me get on to reviewing his book, MIA Rescue: LRRP Manhunt in the jungle. I will try to find some nits to pick, in order to cover my ass against charges of hyping a friend's book.
This is basically a simple story. During the 1970 “invasion” of Cambodia – which Jorgenson correctly identifies as a massive raid rather than an “invasion,” or the Nixon White House's favourite euphemism, an “incursion” – the 1st Cavalry Division's two premier reconnaissance elements, H Company 75th Rangers and Apache Troop 1/9th Cav., had their work cut out for them, routinely operating far in advance of all friendly forces, and right in the midst of vast, angry and decidedly unfriendly enemy concentrations.
On the evening of the 17th June, a five man Lurp team from H/75th Rangers managed to find the enemy discovered them and sprang a hasty ambush. All the home team advantages were on the NVA's side. They had prepared fighting positions. They had a great numerical superiority, and they were not operating under the communications limitations the Lurps were. The Lurps coud receive transmissions, but unknown to them, they had moved into a dead zone from which their radio transmissions could not reach the relay team.
The five-man Lurp team was completely on its' own. It fought well and tried to do the right thing – which was to simultaneously bring smoke on the enemy, call for gunships and withdraw and try to break contact. It was obvious they lacked the tactical advantage and it soon became horribly obvious that they also lacked that all-important element of luck. Halfway through the quick and very nasty firefight, the Rangers discovered they couldn't raise their relay team – which alarmed them almost as much as the machine guns and Chicom grenades the enemy soon brought to bear on them. Two of the Rangers were killed – or at least appeared to be killed – and two others were wounded.
This was the real world and the three surviving Rangers did the right thing – the only thing. There's none of this brave bullsit of dying for dead bodies. Even if one or both of their dead team-mates was still technically alive, there would be no saving them. The three surviving Lurps managed to break contact.
Two of the men being fairly seriously wounded, they didn't get far. They could hear the enenmy looking for them, firing randomly, trying to get a response. But the Rangers stayed cool – scared and miserable, but cool – and the enemy didn't find them. They were in a bad fix, and they were alone.
Alone, but not forgotten. The relay team and the rear areas of both 1/9th Cav. And H /75th were concerned at the loss of radio contact. The Apache Troop helicopter crews were almost as concerned by the weather, which seemed to be solid cloud from the stratosphere all the way down to the jungle floor. Such weather made any attempt to locate the team dangerous and problematic.
Fortunately for the surviving Rangers, Apache Troop had a reputation for dangerous and problematic missions. So did the Lurps of H/75th Rangers. And fortunately for the surviving Lurps, the 1st Cav. Was the sole and only working model of a good marriage between an air cavalry squadron and a company of Airborne Ranger Lurps. The Lurp Rangers of H/75th and the helicopter crews and infantry “Blues” of A/1/9 were more than just tight. They were true brothers.MIA Rescue: Manhunt in the jungle
is the story of that Lurp mission and the combined Cav and Ranger rescu mission. Even told without the human element, this would be a good war story. But Jorenson comes though with the human element. He gives us the personalities – including a certain veteran of both the Apache Troop “Blues” and the H/75th Rangers named “Wiseguy,” who is obviously the author himself. When good war story gives you the people involved, puts you there with them, and makes you care about him as if it were your own ass on the line, it becomes a great war story. MIA Rescue: Manhunt in the jungle easily qualifies for that honour.
Having said that, let me pick a few nits.
The title is weak and unfair. It is weak because it would sell more books if it was LRRP Manhunt in Cambodia, instead of in a generic jungle. It is unfair because it gives no credit to the 1/9th Cav. The title is almost never the author's fault, so we ought to let that slide. The same may be the case when it comes to photo's. There should be some, but there aren't. Until I hear different, I'll blame the publisher for that, no the author
I did find one pickable nit I can blame on Kregg – the unwounded Ranger who sets off through the enemy alone and armed only with a knife, to bring help to his wounded comrades – is black, Kregg again refers to him as an “African-American.” That's the politically correct term of the moment, but is it needed? The proper term back then was “Soul Brother,” and if he had to make an ethnic reference, I wish Kregg had used it. After all, it was Hancock's soul, not his ancestry that counted.
Sure, I'm really nitpicking here. That's how low I have to descend in order to find something bad to say about MIA Rescue: Manhunt in the jungle. This one you should buy at the hardcover price. And to do so, you can have your bookstore special order it, or write directly to Paladin Press, P.O. Box 1307, Boulder, Colorado 80306. This book is overpriced, but still worth your money.
Hell, any book by Kregg Jorgenson is well worth your money. The man has one hell of a past – and one hell of a future. I can't wait for him to retire as a U.S. Customs Service cop so I can read his book Strange Customs.
Buy MIA Rescue: LRRP Manhunt in the Jungle
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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