Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1995. First Printing [Stated]. Hardcover. xv, , 224,  pages. Endpaper maps. Includes Acknowledgments, Vietnamese Expressions, Historical Note, and Prologue. Chapters cover Send-Off; The Old Man's Trail; Monsoon Strategy; The Treacherous Maze; Opium Trails; Cambodia; Rumors; Enclave; Convoy; Escape; Spectre; Grail; The Golden BB; Hornets' Nest; Bureaucrats; Responsibility; Power; Rewards; "Spend Blood'; and Eulogies. A former U.S. Marine and a veteran of the Vietnam War offers a empathetic, fictional portrait of the Vietcong, tracing the brutal journey of a platoon of teenaged Vietnamese boys down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The enemy is a platoon of fifteen-year-old boys ordered to carry more than a ton of cargo down a primitive network of trails and roads known to the Vietnamese as the Old Man's Trail but called the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the West. This is a tale of courage, motivation, survival, love, teamwork, and one man's determination to survive. For Campbell, Duan is the personification of the Vietnamese patriot and soldier--a soldier first, a nationalist second, a tacit Communist third. And the author believes that it was men like Duan who drove the world's most powerful nation from Vietnam in 1975. Tom Campbell is a retired Marine Colonel who is an award winning senior Lecturer in management and leadership at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. While on active duty he was an advisor... a covan... to the Vietnamese Marines for seventeen months, and commanded two platoons, two companies and two battalions. Author Tom Campbell, a U.S. Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, calls this book a novel about the enemy. The first novel written by an American to focus on the North Vietnamese experience, this book was inspired by a conversation Campbell had in 1967 with a teenaged prisoner who had just come down the Old Man's Trail. Tariffed by his ordeal, the boy described the loss of over half his platoon to trail hazards, disease, and starvation. Not a single one of them had been killed by American bombs, although memories of the bombing raids continued to haunt him. Years later, still fascinated by the boy's story, and still troubled by the war and its lasting legacy for the United States, Campbell started work on a book. Today, the publication of this gripping tale offers a rare perspective of the war that will change some readers' views of those divisive times. Campbell's storyline is stark, realistic, and filled with action, and his characters are sympathetic and true to life. In putting a face on his enemy, he has wiped away decades of stereotyping the North Vietnamese as robotic Communist fanatics. Derived from a Kirkus review: Newcomer Campbell, a Marine veteran of 29 years and several tours in Vietnam provides this harrowing tale of a porter caravan on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Campbell begins with a prologue describing the events that led up to that world-famous footage of a fatigueclad Vietnamese officer executing an apparently innocent man in plaid shirt and black shorts in the middle of the street. The executed man, Campbell tells us, was Loc, a far-from-innocent Vietcong officer who'd just killed and mutilated over 40 civilians in an effort to draw supporters during the Tet Offensive. Under Loc's command that day was Duan, a veteran Vietminh and Vietcong cadre who, surviving the brutal Tet day in Saigon, here leads a porter platoon of 60 teenagers, and more than a ton of equipment, on foot down the torturous 650-mile trail network known as the Old Man's Trail. Duan, who never agreed to join the party and despises speeches and sloganeering, puts smarts and survival before politics on the trail. He rigorously trains his platoon, teaching them to melt into the mud and the jungle in order to avoid the ever-present US planes. Despite this training, the trail claims 25 of the boys through disease, raging rivers, snakes, and snares. The convoy's several months of movement are recounted nearly day by day in Campbell's detailed prose. Campbell successfully evokes life under duress, producing an emotional tale that has us rooting for the boys to survive each new hardship the jungle heaves at them. An accurate and moving account of a terrible human sacrifice. Condition: Very good / Very good.
Keywords: Vietcong, Vietnam War, Soldiers, Ho Chi Minh Trail, Tet Offensive, Old Man's Trail, Survival, Military Logistics