Across The Fence: The Secret War In Vietnam by John Stryker Meyer

Book Review: Across The Fence

08 May 2006

Vietnam SOG recon veteran John Stryker Meyer has joined other noted Special Forces authors such as John Plaster and Frank Greco with his first full account of his time Across The Fence with Spike Team Idaho.

Stryker Meyer, or 'Tilt' as his Special Forces brothers in arms know him, originally enlisted in the Army at the age of 20 on 1st December 1966. Following the completion of his basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, he moved to Fort Gordon, Georgia for Advanced Infantry Training before doing his parachutist training at Fort Benning, Georgia.

After completing Jump School he volunteered for Special Forces and graduated from the SF Qualification Course at Fort Bragg in December 1967. Stryker Meyer then reported to Fort Gordon for a 12 week Radio Teletype course and headed to Vietnam in late April 1968.

By May 1968, despite repeated warnings to avoid Command & Control (C&C) as it was “rough and the casualties were high”, the 22-year-old SF trooper arrived at FOB 1 ( Forward Operating Base 1) located at Phu Bai in I Corps, South Vietnam. By now Stryker Meyer was a triple volunteer; Airborne, Special Forces and C&C (SOG - Studies & Observations Group - was not yet a common term).

The author's almost terrifying description of his arrival at Phu Bai via a South Vietnamese H-34 Kingbee helicopter is indicative of the quality or writing to come. Shortly after touching down and wondering around his new home he bumps into One-Zero Robert “Spider” Parks, a friend who had been in the training class ahead of him at Fort Bragg.

Due to ST Idaho vanishing on the ground in Laos on the day of his arrival, Staff Sergeant Parks offered him the position of One-Two Radio Operator on the new Idaho team. After a couple of months of running recon missions in Laos he became the One-Zero of ST Idaho and tells of leading missions into all of C&Cs toughest targets areas.

The reader is given an over the shoulder view of exactly what it was like to run and plan missions into the starkly contrasting AOs (Area of Operations) that SOG teams faced each time they ventured into Prairie Fire (Laos), Daniel Boone (Cambodia), or Nickel Steel (North Vietnam/DMZ – Demilitarized Zone).

Missions in the flat expanse of the Cambodian jungle are described along with many others in the mountainous triple canopy jungle that make up the majority of Laos, where the team was nearly overrun countless times. Missions into North Vietnam / DMZ are also recounted. The Nickel Steel stories demonstrate the unique problems associated with the area and convey what a deadly place it was if something went wrong.

His writing gives you an understanding of what it's like to be plucked from an LZ by the courageous Kingbee pilots, just moments before being overrun by hundreds of North Vietnamese troops. It is his description of hair raising events that make it self-evident why so many respected SOG veterans have urged him to put pen to paper to reveal to the world what it was like to fight in America's secret war in South East Asia.

Stryker Meyer went on to become a journalist after his service with SOG and you can see why as you read this book. He is a naturally talented writer and his description of what it's like to be on the ground Across The Fence is excellent. One thing that is safe to say is that at the end of the book you are hankering for more. It is a fine piece of writing and a treasure for any SOG book collection.
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