ONE DAY TOO LONG by Timothy N. Castle


Top Secret Site 85 and the Bombing of North Vietnam
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A combination of history, analysis, investigative journalism, and personal crusade focusing on the fate of nine US air force personnel missing in action in Laos. Castle (At War in the Shadow of Vietnam, not reviewed) is an accomplished historian whose area of expertise is the American “secret war” in Laos. A Vietnam War veteran, university professor (National Security Studies/Air Univ.), and former Pentagon POW/MIA researcher and investigator, he brings unmatched qualifications to the task of telling the story of Site 85, a secret air force radar base in Laos overrun by the North Vietnamese army in March 1968. Of the18 men at the base, 7 escaped, 2 were killed, and 9 remain missing. Accounting for the missing was complicated by subsequent American bombing of the site and by the fact that American officials were reluctant to publicize US military actions in putatively neutral Laos. Castle makes an impassioned case that two other factors are also involved: Vietnamese and Lao communist intransigence—what he terms “well- documented deceit and obfuscation”—along with the mistakes and “duplicity” of American military officials, especially the US Air Force and the Pentagon’s Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Office. The author does a thorough job of relating the history of Site 85 and gives a conscientious overview of the not-very-secret American war in Laos, concentrating on air force covert activities directing the air war over North Vietnam. The narrative changes direction, however, when Castle switches to the first person and chronicles his involvement in an NBC News documentary on the subject. He deserts his objectivity here for impassioned advocacy. Still, Castle’s impressive massing of facts shows why the fate of nine missing Americans will likely never be learned. An unorthodox but effective telling of what the author rightly calls an “ugly chapter of US history.” (36 photos, 1 map, not seen)

Pub Date: March 25th, 1999
ISBN: 0-231-10316-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999