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This is a story that shatters our illusions about how America conducts its wars. You will not want to believe it. Two U.S. Marines, both totally loyal to the same beliefs: one is turned into a hunter, and the other into prey. Such a distortion of patriotism would not be credible unless buttressed by hard facts, and by the testimony of both men. In 1965, Marine private Robert Garwood, ten days short of the end of his tour, was sent on a mission from which he did not return. Ambushed by the Vietcong, he was held prisoner for fourteen years. In 1979 he escaped and returned to the United States, where he was hastily court-martialed and convicted of collaborating with the enemy. Now at last we learn Garwood's true storya harrowing, profoundly moving fourteen-year struggle to survive and prevail, not only over a cruel and manipulative enemy but over his own country's secret efforts to kill him. The secret part of Colonel Tom McKenney's job in Vietnam was organizing killer teams to eliminate such "traitors," and Garwood became an obsession to him. Only twenty-five years later did he come to the conclusion that Garwood was innocent and, more than that, a hero. Thanks to McKenney's courageous testimony, and to the author's fearless pursuit of the facts, an injustice is at last set right, and the workings of a dreadful secret machinery are laid bare. Colonel McKenney had hunted Garwood for years, with intent to kill. But when he met the author at a Vietnam veterans meeting in 1994, his message was "Tell him [Garwood] that I would crawl on my hands and knees to ask his forgiveness."
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This book uses impressive spadework to tell the story of what its subtitle calls "the last secret of the war in Vietnam," namely, what really happened in the case of Marine Private Bobby Garwood, the last soldier to return from the war alive. He returned in 1979, after 14 years missing in action. Jensen-Stevenson, a former Sixty Minutes producer, managed to get on the record people who have spent years staying off it: several well-placed military intelligence figures and Garwood (court-martialed for consorting with the enemy upon his return) himself. The main contentions of the book are that Garwood didn't desert but was captured after a firefight, that despite the sorts of lapses that virtually all Vietnam POWs fell prey to from time to time, he remained a loyal American throughout an incredibly arduous captivity, and most explosively of all: that before his return, based on the idea that he was a defector, there was an organized effort by U.S. forces to assassinate him. Readers will conclude that the Garwood case needs re-opening.From Library Journal:
While every American prisoner suffered under Viet Cong and North Vietnamese control, few can lay claim to the physical and mental duress endured by Robert Garwood. This young Marine driver was captured only ten days before the end of his tour of duty in 1965. He spent the next 14 years as a POW and, when finally repatriated in 1979, was immediately arrested by the U.S. military and charged with collaborating with the enemy. The charges against Garwood were never substantiated but were widely believed by U.S. intelligence officers in Vietnam. Jensen-Stevenson (Kiss the Boys Good-bye, NAL Dutton, 1991, pap.) describes Garwood's ordeal both from the standpoint of the hapless Marine, caught up in events far beyond his understanding, and from that of Col. Tom McKenney, a Marine officer obsessed with killing the man he was told was a traitor. A fascinating and disturbing story, it is a useful addition to Vietnam War collections. Recommended for academic and public libraries.?John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib., Loudonville, N.Y.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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