Ripcord: Screaming Eagles under Siege, Vietnam 1970

By Hauser, William L. | Military Review, March/April 2002 | Go to article overview

Ripcord: Screaming Eagles under Siege, Vietnam 1970


Hauser, William L., Military Review


RIPCORD: Screaming Eagles Under Siege, Vietnam 1970, Keith W. Nolan, Presidio Press, Novato, CA, 2000, 447 pages, $29.95.

In Ripcord: Screaming Eagles Under Siege, Keith W. Nolan gives a brilliant account of a crucial engagement at Dienbienphu during the latter stages of the Vietnamese War. I have corresponded with Nolan for 20 years, ever since he was a teenager so articulate and knowledgeable that I initially doubted his authenticity. Since then, I have observed with admiration the development of his historical and literary skills. Also, I have been a friend, subordinate, colleague, or superior to several key figures in the RIPCORD story. From my observation of these men in other circumstances, I find Nolan to be a keen judge of character and an unsparing, but not gratuitously unkind, appraiser of professional behavior under the horrendous pressures of close combat.

In 1970, a year into America's withdrawal from the war, the U.S. military decided to buy time for the said-to-be-improving South Vietnamese forces by interdicting a segment of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. The A Shau Valley, running north-south for 50 kilometers just inside the Vietnam border with Laos and dominated by a chain of hills previously occupied by U.S. forces, seemed the logical choice for the engagement. …

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