Vietnam War Bibliography:

Semi-Fictional Accounts

A lot of guys have been writing books that claim to be true accounts, but with names of characters, and sometimes other things, changed.

William Anderson, Bat-21. New York: Bantam, 1983. 222 pp. Story of the efforts, finally successful, to rescue USAF Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton after he was shot down behind enemy lines in northern I Corps, April 2, 1972. Mostly fact, I think; fictionalized in a few ways.

Alan Armstrong, Wolf by the Ears. BookBaby, 2019. 338 pp. Autobiographical novel, based on the author's experiences, about a military attaché in the Khmer Republic during the last months of the Second Indochina War, in 1974 and 1975.

Douglas R. Bergman, Names I Can't Remember: An "Assassin" Confesses. Bayside, NY: Warrior Books, 2005. Served as a platoon leader, 1969, in the 101st Airborne.

Charles J. Boyle, Absolution: Charlie Company, 3d Battalion, 22d Infantry. Fredericksburg, VA: Sergeant Kirkland's Press, 1999. 376 pp. Boyle arrived in Vietnam in 1967, commanded a platoon, and then became company commander early in 1968. The company was part of the 25th Infantry Division, in III Corps north of Saigon. The main action is during the Tet Offensive. The author's preface says that dates and times are accurate but that "some scenes have been compressed chronologically so as to lend comprehensibility and velocity to the story." It also says that the names used are genuine except that pseudonyms have been used for men killed in action, and in cases where the real names would cause "pointless embarrassment." Boyle, however, has chosen to give the character based on himself the name "Dennis Riley," and to refer to him in the third person.

David Donovan (pseud.), Once a Warrior King: Memories of an Officer in Vietnam. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985. By an army lieutenant who commanded a "Mobile Advisory Team" in the Mekong Delta, 1969-70.

Charles Henderson, Marine Sniper: 93 confirmed kills. Briarcliff Manor, NY: Stein and Day, 1986. 274 pp. (there is also a book club edition with the same publication data, but xviii, 236 pp.). New York: Berkley, 1988. xv, 291 pp. This profile of US Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock appears to me to be heavily fictionalized. What concerns me is not just the invented dialogue, and the passage where Henderson recounts the thoughts passing through the mind of a PAVN general moments before the general's death. What seems more serious is the story in Chapter 7 of the Viet Cong nicknamed "Apache," who is supposed to have taken prisoner and tortured to death, sometimes noisily and within earshot of American positions, more than a dozen U.S. Marines during a three-month period in 1966. I don't believe Marines were that easy to capture, and I don't believe anything even vaguely resembling what Henderson describes could have occurred without the fact having been reported in numerous more reliable sources. Chapter 14, "Stalking the General," is if anything even more preposterous. The PAVN has placed a division headquarters in the center of a wide open space, with no cover for more than a mile in any direction. The United States, learning of this, does not obliterate the headquarters with an air strike. Instead a valuable sniper is sent on a near-suicidal mission to spend days crawling across the open space through short grass, in order to get close enough to kill the division commander with a single bullet, leaving the division staff unharmed. I don't believe a word of it.

Charles Holley, Aeroscouts. New York: Pocket Books, 1992. xvi, 252 pp. Account, somewhat fictionalized, by a helicopter pilot who served in II Corps beginning in 1968.

Daniel E. Kelly, U.S. Navy Seawolves: The Elite Hal-3 Helicopter Squadron in Vietnam. New York: Ballantine, 2002. Fact-based (Kelly was in the squadron--see his memoir listed under Helicopters), but apparently fictionalized to a significant extent.

John Ketwig, And a Hard Rain Fell. New York: Macmillan, 1985. xii, 303 pp. pb New York: Pocket Books, 1986. xiii, 336 pp. Updated, with a new introduction and photographs added, Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2002. xvii, 368 pp. An army private who arrived in Vietnam in 1967.

Dennis J. Marvicsin and Jerrold A Greenfield, Maverick: The Personal War of a Vietnam Cobra Pilot. Marvicsin flew first Huey slicks, later Cobra helicopter gunships in Vietnam. He claims that everything in the book is true, but at the same time he notes that he has not only changed names, but also altered chronology to some extent. There is serious doubt that the episode in which he is supposed to have been captured by the enemy ever happened (see Stolen Valor, by B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley, for details).

Paul A. Newman, Bob Wallace, and Jack Bick, Nine from the Ninth. Lincoln, NE: Writers Club Press (iUniverse), 2002. Three stories each by three veterans of Company E, 75th Infantry, a LRRP (Ranger) unit of the Ninth Infantry Division. Based on true events.

Tim O'Brien, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home. (Subtitle sometimes given as Box Me Up and Send Me Home.) New York: Delacorte, 1973. 199 pp. pb New York: Laurel (Dell), 1979. 205 pp. O'Brien served from early 1969 to early 1970 in A Company, 5/46 Infantry, Americal Division, near Chu Lai. Names have been changed; I am not sure whether there is other fictionalization.

David Parks, GI Diary. Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1984. xxi, 138 pp. Parks arrived in Vietnam January 1967. Personal names, unit designations, and some place names have been altered.

John Peck, Navy Corpsmen in Vietnam: The Story of Doc John Peck. Baker Publishing Company, 2023. 275 pp. Significantly fictionalized.

Mark St. Pierre, Of Uncommon Birth: Dakota Sons in Vietnam. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003. 320 pp. Two young men from South Dakota, one white, on Lakota, in Vietnam. The publisher calls this "creative nonfiction," meaning that it is based, I don't know how closely, on a true story.

Elaine Shepard, The Doom Pussy. New York: Trident Press, 1967. 241 pp. Air operations over North Vietnam. Seriously fictionalized--more than just changing names or even creating composite personalities.

Roger Soiset, Two-Dollar Bill. Columbia, SC: Palmetto Bookworks, 1993. 249 pp. Soiset served as a lieutenant with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, 1969-70. This is basically a memoir, but with names changed and some composite characters.

Ernest Spencer, Welcome to Vietnam, Macho Man: Reflection of a Khe Sanh Vet. Corps Press, 1987 pb New York: Bantam, 1989. 269 pp. Significantly fictionalized. Spencer arrived in Vietnam in June 1967, and was given command of D Company, 1/26 Marines.

C.W. Standiford, Bury Me With Soldiers: One Grunt's Honest Story About Vietnam. 1stBooks, 2003. 184 pp. Standiford served in two units of the Third Marine Division 1967-69, the first apparently a line company, the second a recon company. He says that the story is true except that events have sometimes been re-ordered for narrative flow, but his description of the book, on the publisher's web site, makes me a bit suspicious. I doubt, for example, his claim "I have talked to veterans who were the only survivors of their entire company."

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