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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 30, 2022
The actual combat event was a very small part of the book. That section was stimulating. The majority of the book dealt with Roy's biography and that of the other participants. For me it was a bit slow and I skipped over parts. However, the acts of bravery by the people involved was truly heroic.
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?'
I'm not usually a reader of military action books, but having had the privilege of meeting several of the men depicted in this book, including the Legend himself, Roy Benavidez, I'll admit I was anxious for this book release. Since I'm not in the military, I really appreciated Eric Blehm's definitions/explanations of many of the oft-used military acronyms throughout the book. I was also impressed with the many photographs and the maps shown. I had heard parts of the story of this mission many times from the mouths of those involved, but I had never heard many of the details that Eric Blehm was able to uncover & piece together. I now have a much greater understanding of the events overall. The first part of the book covers Roy's hardscrabble childhood in Texas. It tells about his family and the morals and patriotism which were instilled in him throughout his younger years. I feel this part of the book was important as it tells how the man was formed. The second section transitions into his military career and then focuses on his actions as a Green Beret during the May 2, 1968 mission for which he was eventually awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor - the USA's highest military honor. I was completely riveted while reading about this mission. It's gripping, terrifying, thrilling, frustrating, tragic and more. Eric Blehm did an outstanding job in clarifying what occurred and thoroughly compiling all of the historic records/current interviews/previous books into a highly readable, edge-of-your-seat story. This novel should be made into a MOVIE! The final section of the book outlines the years-long struggle many people went through to ensure Roy was appropriately thanked and honored for his actions and hints at why it took so long for Roy to finally receive the MoH. It also serves as a sort of epilogue telling what happened to many of the individuals in the years following the mission. I'm so glad that was included. This story needed to be told. It still needs to be told. READ IT, TELL THE STORY to your children (at an age-appropriate level, of course), tell your friends and family. Let's re-ignite patriotism like Roy was always able to do. One last thing. Thank you to all who have served our country.
This book basically takes the memoir of Special Forces Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez (called, "The Three Wars of Roy Benavidez") and fills in the gaps; providing a more detailed account of the actual combat missions. If you just read the MSG Benavidez' memoir and stop there you can still get a powerful story. But many details are left out as I believe at the time of writing many of the classified information referenced in it could not be published.
However, the author of this book really did a lot of heavy research and it seems like he had the freedom to publish information that was previously considered classified. It really takes you deep into the technical aspects of how extremely dangerous and complex missions are run in the special operations communities.
The book does get a bit heavy at times with the timelines of the missions. I had to write names down on a separate piece of paper, so that I could keep up with the many players and aspects of the missions; who was who, who did what, etc. The provided maps are really needed for the reader to understand the information the author presents, which can be overwhelming and dense from a technical standpoint.
It is really an excellent book. Quite frankly I am surprised this story has not being picked up for a movie. It is extremely moving from a personal point of view and it provides an incredible amount of light about many aspects of the Vietnam war that many people are probably still unaware of after so many decades.
The unbelievable story of an incredible man, a genuine patriot and American hero. I loved the way his grandfather taught him how to be proud of his Mexican heritage and family name while at the same time inculcating pride in his country, which his Texas ancestors fought for. His grandfather and uncle also taught him what it means to be a real man, which included helping anyone who needs help.
He had a rough start in life after his father died of TB, then his mother died of TB and his stepfather wanted nothing to do with him and his brother. Thanks to his mother who contacted his uncle before she died, his uncle took him in, adding to the eight children already in the family.
I can't believe I may have been undergoing training during the same time he was at Ft Bragg, N.C., and was in VN when he was, but I only recently learned about him.
The fact that he did what he did, saving the lives of eight men, USSF, chopper pilots, door gunners, and VN, without getting killed is a miracle in itself. When they unloaded the choppers, they found three dead NVA he accidentally saved. (The USSF and CIDG were wearing NVA uniforms.)
The sad part is how long it took to give him the Medal of Honor because the Army didn't want to admit the action took place in Cambodia when the president and politicians kept claiming no US personnel were there.
A well-written book that is hard to put down when the action gets hot!
Author Eric Blehm has done it, again, delivering up a book depicting the incredible story of Green Beret Sergeant Roy Benavidez's heroics during one battle of the U.S.'s war in Vietnam.
Against numerically-superior enemy forces, Sergeant Benavidez is helecoptered into a battle that is all but lost, rallying the handful of survivors (many of whom are severely wounded) into continuing to defend the small piece of ground they find themselves on, all the while bringing death to those who are intending to overrun and kill them.
Sergeant Benavidez's actions, coupled with, both, the heroic efforts of those who sought to extract the Special Forces team by helicopter, and the incredible air support that was given, would save the lives of several soldiers.
Too, as in no way are the actions of the Special Forces team meant to be overlooked or minimized, the heroics of those under siege, themselves, contributed, greatly, to Sergeant Benavidez's successful rescue attempt.
Sergeant Benavidez's actions during this rescue attempt are the stuff that legends are made of, and show the indomitable spirit that select warriors bring to battle.
A must-read for anyone who is interested in military history, especially, the heroics that came out of the Vietnam War, and/or for anyone who just wants to see what the mettle of one determined man can accomplish.
I would recommend all other books from this author as well. Eric Blehm has a great way of telling a story. This book in particular is awe inspiring! Tango Mike Mike, this is the call sign of the baddest mamba Jamba to wear the uniform. Both his parents passed before he was 10, a poor Mexican immigrent he face tremendous adversity growing up. Always aspiring to be a paratrooper he realized his dream only to step on a land mine, was told he'd never walk again, not only did he walk out a year later... He decided to become a green beret! This is just the back story! When Roy hears his friend is pinned down fighting for his life... He hops on the next copper to race into help... Armed with only a knife, Tango Mike Mike raved into a vicious gun fight, organized their defenses... Dead bodies were piled up as sand bags for cover.... Defenders are fighting with horrific mortal wounds, Roy himself is observed holding in his own guts as he is loading the dead and wounded into the rescue evacuation coppers. Just this tip of the ice burg in this action packed true account. You will be amazed. Ronald Reagan said it best... "if this man's actions were a Hollywood movie, Noone would believe it" it is just that over the top amazing.
A great story about true American heroes. Very well told and it was very believable, to include the detailed descriptions of what is commonly referred to as the "fog of war." No doubt, all the planning and training in the world can't change the fact that most military plans go out the window upon contact with the enemy. Always been that way, and it always will. This story is a little unique in the need for the operation to be done covertly, which results in really no official documentation or after-action reports to rely on. In some respects having to rely on first-hand accounts only is likely why the author has some very good detail about the engagement. I gave the book only 4 stars because the book is half about SSgt Benavidez and half about the operation and the other brave men he fought with that day. Anytime you combine two things, you tend to get just a little less than the whole of either one - thus 4 and not 5 stars. I highly recommend this book. Easy to read and a great story for anyone of almost any age. War is hell. Post war life is hell for our combat veterans. This book is about both.