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 Berent continues his highly detailed Vietnam War saga (Rolling Thunder, Steel Tiger), taking his Air Force flyers into 1968 and the Tet offensive. Quotations from Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, which they would probably like everyone to forget, open this volume that covers fewer than eight weeks of the war--the period of the final buildup to, and execution of, the single most important countrywide offensive by North Vietnam against South Vietnam. Captain Toby Parker, the gifted flyer who washed out of fighter training in a drunken fog, now flies forward observer missions in small propeller planes. When his reported sightings of North Vietnamese tanks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail are discounted by his superiors, he goes in for a closer look and photographs but is brought down and captured by the enemy. It takes the Special Forces to free him and to start the trip back to his base with the news that a really big action is underway. Major Algernon ``Flak'' Apple, shot down over North Vietnam, has been less fortunate. He is a prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton. Major Court Bannister, one shootdown short of becoming an ace (it takes five), has been pulled from the Hanoi bombing runs and sent to purgatory in South Vietnam after apparent violations of the Rules of Engagement. Lt. Colonel Wolf Lochert continues his one-man guerrilla war. And as the top brass continue to ignore the signs of a mammoth coordinated assault coming from the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, Lyndon Johnson hopes to deal with Ho Chi Minh like a fellow Texan. When the offensive finally comes, the surprised Americans and South Vietnamese stagger and then fight the enemy off. It's a military victory for the South--and a political and public-relations victory for the North. The high quality of Berent's reporting--as well as the professional insights that distinguished the earlier volumes-- continues to make this one of the best Vietnam War fictional histories.

Pub Date: May 9th, 1991
ISBN: 0-399-13603-7
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1991


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