I was discharged from Army active duty on Christmas eve, 1970, and I enrolled for winter term at Dartmouth College less than two weeks later. I had spent 2+ years at Dartmouth before the military, so when I returned as a junior, I already had a circle of friends.
I also had Super 8 movies from Vietnam. I had purchased a Super 8 camera from the An Khe PX and filmed about ten rolls (3+ minutes each) and sent them home without developing. By the time I was back at Dartmouth, the films had been developed and spliced together to form one movie of about 30 minutes. In those days, “cut and paste” was literally how you edited film.
One Saturday evening while hanging out at my favorite fraternity, I mentioned the movie, and we decided to watch it in a private room upstairs. As curious passersby poked their heads in, we ended up watching the movie three times that night as word spread and more and more folks came to see. This college crowd was genuinely anxious to know more. The movie and my stories kept the swelling crowd spellbound, and at the end someone said, “You ought to write a book”.
Forty years later, I am finally taking that advice. I have started to write stories based upon my Vietnam experiences, stories that are based on fact but which are embellished to make for good reading. A year ago, I published a novel (A Wretched Man, a novel of Paul the apostle), and through that experience, I hope I have developed some of the writer’s craft (scene & setting, plot, character development, tension, etc.), and I have applied the techniques of storytelling to my Vietnam stories. Thus, I call them “autobiographical fiction”.
Since most of the stories relate to my role as a “LRRP” (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol), the series will be entitled LRRP Rangers Vietnam. A “lurp” was the Vietnam equivalent of a cavalry scout; instead of mustangs, we rode helicopters to remote and unfriendly territory. These stories will be published as eBook short stories, one at a time in serial form. The first two are now published. Be forewarned, the language is realistic and thus more than a little salty.
Eleven Bravo, the opening short story in the series, refers to the Army’s 11B designation for the combat infantryman. After an brief scene in Tiger Village of Fort Polk, Louisiana (the primary training center for Vietnam-bound infantry), the story opens as a young soldier arrives in Vietnam while Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, and the story concludes nearly a month later as soldiers celebrate to the music of Jimi Hendrix at the same time the rock star is performing live at Woodstock. Read more …
The second short story in the series is entitled Here Comes Charlie. The soldier has now departed Alpha Company and volunteered for recon duty as a LRRP. Themes of self-preservation and moral ambiguities, introduced in the first installment, are advanced as North Vietnamese soldiers unwittingly file toward four lurps hiding in the tall grass. Read more …
The eBooks will be available in all formats at your favorite online eBook bookstore.
FYI, the movie was transferred to video tape years ago through the cumbersome process of using a video camera to record the movie from a screen. Later, the videotape was converted to a DVD and now has been converted to online video formats and may be viewed on YouTube and here.