CODE-NAME BRIGHT LIGHT by George J. Veith

CODE-NAME BRIGHT LIGHT

The Untold Story of U.S. POW Rescue Efforts During the Vietnam War
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An all-encompassing examination of the history of American POWs in Vietnam. Veith, a former army officer, sheds much-needed light on the history of American POWs in Southeast Asia. Using recently declassified wartime POW material, and extensive interviews with former POWs and those who worked to rescue them, Veith includes many, many details on how dozens of Americans were captured, how they fared in captivity, and how they tried to escape, were released, or died in captivity. The heart of the book is a close examination of the military's efforts to find the POWs in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam and free them during the war. Veith provides an illuminating (if at times overwritten and acronym-clogged) road map of an effort that began with various military Search-and-Rescue (SAR) teams and the covert Studies and Observation Group (SOG), which worked behind enemy lines. In 1966 the SOG and SAR POW duties were folded into a new unit, the Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC), sometimes referred to by the unclassified code name Bright Light. As Veith shows, the often courageous and heroic work by these men came to naught. The Americans freed some 500 South Vietnamese POWs and recovered 110 American bodies, but not one captured American was rescued from an enemy camp. The many reasons for that failure included intraservice rivalries, intelligence breakdowns, and high-level political intransigence, especially in supposedly neutral Laos, where the Americans were waging a so-called ``secret war.'' Veith briefly addresses the heated issue of whether all American POWs were returned in 1973 and provides some food for thought about men left behind, primarily in Laos. But Veith's main task, and one at which he succeeds very well, is to offer a much-needed historial look at the vast array of efforts undertaken to recover American POWs during the war.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-83514-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1997