Monday, August 23, 2010

Spies In The Garden: A Novel of War and Espionage by Bob Bergin

"Spies In The Garden: A Novel of War and Espionage" by Bob Bergin takes place during the Japanese invasion of Burma and China. The book centers on the actions of the Flying Tigers (the American Volunteer Group). The book provides a good history of the Flying Tigers wrapped around the story.

The author knows the history of the Flying Tigers. I enjoyed his description of the pilots and their actions. The story begins in November 1941. The fictional hero, Harry Ross, is an American spy working undercover as a writer. He witnesses their early training. The training has with disaster after disaster. The Flying Tigers improve as the story advances into a force feared by the Japanese. Bob Bergin leaves no doubt that he views their performance as far better to the British Royal Air Force.

The narrative commences in Rangoon. Here Ross makes contact with the Flying Tigers. Ross also meets father and daughter Louie and Lucy. Louie is a trader. He supplied lavishness goods to the Chinese Nationalist leaders. Daughter Lucy is stylish and classy as well as beautiful. She and Harry become platonic friends.

Bergin tells a good story. Harry always seems to get out of the jams he encounters. His relationships with Sue and then Tai Li provide information for his work. He receives a Shanghai girl as a reward from Tai LI. She is in bed with the enemy and provides her pillow talk with the Japanese officers to Harry. This endures Harry with his superiors.

By July 1942, the Flying Tigers are winding down. Chennault becomes a Brigadier General. He finds himself working under General Joe Stilwell. We experience the differences between them. We also encounter the differences between the different arms of the Intelligence Services.

Harry does not seem to comprehend all that is happening and its consequences. Ross’ controller Doyle steers him and cautions him about getting caught up with politics.

We are left to contemplate what happens next as the book concludes with the end of the Flying Tigers in July 1942.

There is a final two-page wrap up at the end of the book - "What Became of Them?" It gives a brief winding up of the unanswered questions.

Bob Bergin knows the Flying Tigers. He tells a good story from an American point of view. If you like war, espionage, seduction, and intrigue this book is for you. Moreover, do not be surprised if you learn about the Flying Tigers along the way. I recommend buying the book. Mr. Bergin gives a good story and history of the Flying Tigers for your financial investment.

Reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler, August 23, 2010.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Search and Destroy: The Story of an Armored Cavalry Squadron in Vietnam: 1-1 Cav, 1967-1968 by Keith W. Nolan

Search and Destroy: The Story of an Armored Cavalry Squadron in Vietnam: 1-1 Cav, 1967-1968 by Keith W. Nolan. The late Keith Nolan did an excellent job of telling the story of the 1-1 Cav, from January 1967 through the unit's deployment to Vietnam in August 1967 and follows it to December 1968. He takes the unit from their training at Fort Hood, Texas to South Vietnam.

The book is excellent. He does a very good job of telling their story without any sugar coating. I was both shocked and pleased that Mr. Nolan told it like it was. His describing the atrocities committed by the men of the 1/1 Cav as well as the random acts of violence committed by the young troopers upon civilians and enemy prisoners is eye-opening. I found it interesting when decorations and medals were discussed. The fact that some of the medal citations did not match the events of the time is revealing. It was also interesting to see that the higher the rank, the higher the medal was common.

His telling of the two years following those deploying, getting wounded or killed in action as well as the replacements helps one get a feel of being there. Boyd's Bastards and the adventures of Alpha Troop could be a book all by themselves. The extended coverage of the Tet Offensive is riveting. You get a feel for the entire area of operations of the Americal Division (23rd Infantry Division) which had operational control of the 1/1 Cav. The battles in Tam Ky, the Que Son Valley, Pineapple Forest, Hill 34, Tien Phouc, and Cigar Island will keep you turning page after page. I found the fighting on Cigar Island insightful. The island was honey-combed with tunnels and spider-traps that ambushed the 1/1 Cav at every turn. It was amazing to read of the tunnels and the horrors of the hidden enemy.

The inclusion of the appendixes in the book add both value, insight, and a memorial for those who served on the 1/1 Cav. Appendix A "Those Who Died" listed the casualties from their arrival to the unit’s final departure in 1972. It shows the real human cost of war.

His inclusion of My Lai in the chronology as events and the calendar dictated is appreciated. Because of 1/1 Cav being under the operation control of the Americal Division it is very appropriate to mention My Lai. I appreciate his the straight-forward manner of including those events. This is more than just a simple battle narrative or unit history. I believe Mr. Nolan made a major contribution to the history of the Vietnam War. It is a must addition to the library of any one with an interest in Vietnam, the Armored Calvary, the Tet Offensive, and would be a great resource because of the honesty of the atrocities inclusion to use as a reference work for case studies in leadership and ethics in combat.  Well done.