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White water - Red Hot Lead

Dan Daly
The Vietnam war is soooo last century! And this is certainly true but I find it a fascinating time and a most interesting campaign. It also had the best soundtrack of any war.

This book, with the quite dramatic title, is about that war but probably not the bits that we are most familiar with. This covers a year with the U.S.Navy, so not much in the way of 'humping rucks' or climbing Hamburger Hill. This is about a quite overlooked ( at least by Hollywood) area of the war, the coastal and river patrols.

Dan Daly is a graduate of Harvard, and af7ter graduation he took a comission in the USN, serving 18 months on a destroyer before volunteering to join a ( volunteer only) relatively new venture, the Swift boats. These small craft were 50' long, made out of aluminium and with two huge great engines made by GMC. They were also armed, with a twin .50 caliber mount on the roof of the pilothouse and a strange hybrid on the fantail; a .50 cal machine gun with a trigger-fired 84mm mortar mounted under the barrel. I suppose a grown up version of the M16 and underslung grenade launcher. Oh, they had those too, along with several M16s, and an assortment of pistols, grenades and flares. The crew comprised the Commanding officer and a senior nco ( usually a boatswain's mate) an engineer, a radio man, a gunner and a seaman. Not a large crew, but a formidable amount of firepower.

The narrative covers the period from Daly attending the Swift boat school and through his tour of duty in some hazardous places, and the people he met along the way. It is a very interesting journey.

Unlike most books that feature a personal narrative of a fighting man, this is short on what we have come to expect. I didn't count one “slotted“ nor any of the other expressions or invective that have become de rigeur in combat tales. Instead I found a thoughtful, fascinating and ........well, all I can describe it as is a human story. It is short on heroics, lacking in sexual content - other than a rather touching love story - and totally without a gung ho attitude. I have to say that it is one of the most pleasant books that I have read, and the comradeship and love that these warriors felt for themselves and others is a bright ray of sunshine in a war history. However, don't let this mislead you, it is not a tale of fun and frolics. It is a deadly serious story of courage and dedication, leavened with huge dollops of humour and ultimately an account of one small cog in a huge war machine, and a cog that I found to be most admirable.

An excellent book about a little known area of an almost forgotten war and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

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