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The Only War We've Got:
Early Days in South Vietnam

The Only War We've Got
In The Only War We've Got, you'll meet the men and women--soldiers and reporters, foreigners and locals, heroes and fools--who populated South Vietnam in the early years of what turned into the longest and most bitter war in American history (so far, anyhow!). These dispatches were written on a Hermes portable typewriter in spare moments between one adventure and the next. It's impossible not to read them with a sense of dread for an American enterprise that began with such good intentions, and that turned out so badly.

In the spring of 1964, I took the $1,250 advance for Now Comes Theodora and bought a ticket to Saigon. I rode through a mangrove swamp with the armored cavalry, walked to the Gulf of Siam with the Rangers, flew with American helicopter and flare-ship crews, and went on a search-and-destroy mission with a montagnard Strike Force.

Though intended for publication, my journal of those months in Vietnam was made old news by the larger war launched by President Johnson that fall. Instead, I used the experience as grist for a black novel, Incident at Muc Wa, which became the Burt Lancaster classic, Go Tell the Spartans.

But thirty-five years later, I got out the old typewritten dispatches and read them again. I was amazed at how well they stood up, so I decided to put them in print, with some of the photos I took, as a sort of freeze-frame of how the war stood on the eve of LBJ's escalation of it.

The book was published as a quality paperback by iUniverse in May 2001, and an updated version by Createspace in 2012. The book is 6x9 inches, 170 pp, with black-white photos, notes and bibliography. It sells for $9.95 plus shipping. Electronic editions (no photos) available for Amazon's Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook e-book readers.

Sergeant Sindledecker

Here's the half-title page, showing Sergeant Sindledecker, a fine "old" soldier. A helicopter put me down in a village through which the Vietnamese Rangers were sweeping; I trotted along until I found an Anglo-looking type to whom I could attach myself. At first I had so much trouble understanding his North Carolina accent that I wondered if he wasn't perhaps a French soldier who'd stayed behind and cast his lot with the ARVN.

After the book was published, the sergeant's daughter spotted this page on the web and wrote me about her dad, who'd quit the service in order to bring up his children after a divorce. I sent her the original. I love these meetings that the internet makes possible! Blue skies! -- Dan Ford