I enjoyed reading 'Legend:...' by Eric Blehm and was especially riveted during battle when Roy Benavidez was involved. Technically, I have to admit that this book is not entirely about Roy and his achievements, and is written in four parts. The first is about Roy's adolescent years and difficulties he encountered while growing up with his uncle and aunt in a small Texas town. There was a strong bond between Roy and his family as well as with his boss when he worked at the Firestone Tire Store. Part 2 tells about Roy's experience in the Army and the training he completed prior to earning his Green Beret and going to Vietnam early in the war for his 1st tour. Part 3 is pretty much dedicated to introducing all the other people that had a role in the actual battle (I was somewhat confused here and had trouble remembering all the other names of pilots and ground personnel). The story continues with the insertion of two SF teams - 9 miles inside of the border of Cambodia. Their mission was to observe the Ho Chi Minh trail and ideally hijack a Russian built truck and some prisoners. However, shortly after their insertion, they are compromised and requested immediate pick-up; usually, the chopper returns to withdraw the team but a major in the overhead C&C denied their request and ordered the team leader to continue with the mission. What they soon discovered is that they were inserted onto the fringes of a Regimental or Division sized headquarters with thousands of NVA soldiers. Under fire, the team splits into two groups and locates two probable locations to the side of the original LZ in which to defend themselves. By the time higher up approve the evacuation, both teams are in dire straits - some team members were already severely wounded or dead. The firing is so intense, choppers are unable to land and sustain severe damage. The O-2 Bird dog FA announced a special code over the radio that signals an emergency with a high probability of units on the ground being overrun. It didn't take long before jets and gunships responded and immediately targeted the never ending supply of NVA regulars. Part 4 then continues with the battle and Roy Benavidez's involvement.
Choppers are crashing and crews dying in the many attempt to reach the beleaguered troops. The action Roy takes is beyond belief and readers will be awed by his calmness and determination to get everybody back to safety. The story continues to describe the rest of the battle and their eventual evacuation from the LZ. Only a few survived. Benavidez was tagged in triage and left with the other dead bodies stacked outside of the hospital because of so much damage to his body. Miraculously, he garnered enough strength and fortitude to spit at the orderly who almost finished zippering him up in a black body bag. When discovering that Roy was alive, they rushed to save his life. He spent over a year convalescing from his injuries, and remained in San Antonio to be close to his family. Afterward, he continued in active service in the Army until his eventual retirement.
Roy deserved the Medal of Honor for his actions that day, however, his involvement in Cambodia was top secret, and instead, the Dept. of the Army awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross - a step below the MOH. SF soldiers were sworn to secrecy and agreed not to expose anything about their missions or locations for thirty years. The penalty for doing so is a dishonorable discharge, large fine and imprisonment.
Ten years later, those who survived the battle wrote reports that detailed Roy's actions during that fateful day in hopes of reversing the decision regarding Roy's MOH, yet the Army refused to upgrade it. Others continued the effort and when an eye witness came forward - one who Roy thought perished and vice-versa, and his testimony tipped the scales. The MOH was awarded for his actions in a battle west of a town in South Vietnam and Cambodia was not inferred.
This is a great read with a lot of detail of the actual events. Roy was quoted in the book, "that day was filled with heroes, all trying very hard to save this team, unfortunately, many of them did not survive the battle." The last third of the book will keep you reading until the end! RIP Roy Benavidez! Thank you Eric Blehm for a great story!
John Podlaski, author 'Cherries - A Vietnam War Novel' and 'When Can I Stop Running?'