POINT MAN by James Watson


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 A veteran's salty recollections of what it meant to be a member of the Navy SEALs. Following repeated requests, Watson (whose 1955 enlistment was prompted by a 1952 film, The Frogman) was finally picked for Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) training in 1959. Having survived an ultrademanding regimen that washes out approximately nine of every ten volunteers, the author (by then a senior petty officer) was assigned to the first SEAL (sea, air, land) unit. Watson went on to three combat tours in Vietnam, where he served under the hard-nosed Richard Marcinko (Rogue Warrior, 1992). Here, with an assist from Dockery (Seals in Action, a 1991 paperback), the shotgun-toting author (who invariably took the point on behind-the- lines missions even after he was promoted to chief) offers vivid accounts of his platoon's operations, which ranged from patrolling rivers through interdicting enemy supply lines, liberating POWs, and kidnapping Communist officials. With evident relish, the highly decorated Watson offers brutally candid commentary on the merits of #4 buckshot (which ``would knock down any gook I aimed at...''); indigenous allies (too many of whom, he says, ``were like their flag--what wasn't Red was yellow''); rear-echelon commanders; and a host of other still sore subjects. Nor has his postretirement position as curator of the UDT/SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida, mellowed Watson. Toward the end of his unsparing narrative, he asserts: ``The Americans and South Vietnamese may have lost the Vietnam War. But the SEALs won their part....'' An unreconstructedly bad dude's testament to the rewards and risks of going in harm's way. The text, which has about as much subtlety and sensitivity as a swift kick to the groin, includes 12 b&w photos--not seen.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1993
ISBN: 0-688-12212-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1993


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