Imagine a place that is so hot your clothes stick to your skin and body and need to be peeled off. Imagine living in conditions that are so horrific, wondering where the next bomb will hit, listening to the helicopter overhead and wondering just where your next deployment will be.
Vietnam: a war that took so many lives, destroyed minds, left many maimed and never the same. A memoir filled with one man’s story dealing with his lack of experience in a military riddled so many whose ignorance of the conditions they were about to experience, the events he and others were forced to endure and a world that would change so many before the last Viet-Cong is killed, and the final bomb is set off.
Hostage of Paradox: a true story recounted by the one person who lived it: John Rixley Moore our narrator who carefully and skillfully takes readers inside the trenches, outside in the sweltering heat, inside the aircrafts that transported him filled with so many men whose body language said it all. Leaving an army camp that was relatively safe where the helicopters and aircraft loomed overhead, but no one worried or feared for his/her life. The author begins with the day he receives his orders to a place that has yet to be defined with men whose mission is still unknown. Imagine seeing firefights and living in a camp that comes under attack at night and wondering if the enemy would come down on you in your sleep.
How is he able to become one with the environment and be able to bear the heat, the stench and the dirt? Taking his equipment, his rifle, radio and sidearm he begins to assess his surroundings. As one soldier tells him that clothing, rather less is better, and wearing underwear might not be advisable. Food and water are limited and taking a bath might be a luxury not often afforded.
Told in the first person in the author’s own words we enter the battlefield, deal with the dangerous situations and find ourselves on those helicopters, facing the attacks by the enemy and understanding the fear and the tension that each day brought in a different way.
Moore enlisted in the army and was raised to the rank of Sergeant First Class, E7. Only there for a short time this was quite remarkable and the unit he so vividly describes within the 504 pages of this memoir was part of SOG: the secret Studies and Observation Group. As you learn in the author’s bio, he served in Vietnam and was a Green Beret or Army Special Forces who actually had to wear a beret in Vietnam. Walking wounded is a mild way of describing what happens when he’s in his barracks, and they are under attack. The devastation, the deaths, the stench of death, the peeled and burned bodies so badly charred that they would have to piece them together before being able to send their remains home, the author describes his personal account of this war and what he endured.
Sent to a hospital for treatment, his stay was cut short even though his injuries were many, and his legs needed more attention. Blood coming through his bandages, difficulty walking and hardly anything left of his clothing, John ventures back only to be given a detail that would make most cower, sick to their stomach and want to escape. But, endure he does until he learns of this real mission, and he is no longer just a Sergeant or soldier but hi charge of a secret group and their leader. What he learns will toughen him up even more, destroy him completely or require that he use every ounce of training and intelligence to survive.
How do you manage to get the respect and confidence of mercenaries called Nungs if you are unsure of yourself? How do you empathize with them and why would they realize that you are someone to trust? When John learns his true mission and gets his orders little did he know that he would become part of a secret special forces group and meet Johnson the team leader. Learning what equipment he needed, how to dress, what weapons he need to become proficient in using and somewhat of what was in store for him his world was about to change and his level of trust would have to be on high alert.
Enter the jungle, feel his heart pounding, the anticipation as he and his team of Nungs, his leader and himself find themselves in the real war. Having to survey the scene, deal with bugs in his eyes, the heat, the smell, the fear and the blank stares of the Chinese that were part of his team, John would learn the true meaning of The Vietnam War as he begins his mission to see if there was a POW camp even though there were cameras and more photos readily available. Why risk these men’s lives?
Listening to his heartbeat, the pain in his injured legs, the sleeplessness, the fatigue and the fear that anything could break the stillness of the night as he attempted to fill his canteen, not be heard. The rain that came down unannounced and the deadly insects that could take a life were only a fraction of what he and others encountered. But, when he’s woken up to begin their mission, the movement, the three to four word transmission or status reports, his lack of experience and his attempts to overcome so many obstacles you wonder as you read this compelling memoir just how he and others managed to survive and stay sane.
Becoming a team leader when the man in charge goes back to the states leaves John in a vulnerable position having to decide his own manner or course of action when dealing with the Nungs. Decidedly different and using a more team oriented approach he gathers 12 beers, brings them to where they are bunked, and the barriers seem to fall, names are spoken, and silent friendships born. Getting to understand and know them and to give on man named NHI more respect and a special pair of binoculars, would create a certain level of trust that would save them all during many missions.
The plane goes down, and your job and role is to recover the pilot’s body. A glint of gold and you realize that all you can save is his gold ring. The flies hover over you and the body as you hold your breath, takes in a stench that would make an ordinary man wretch on the spot and slip the ring into your pocket as you decide that your mission is complete. Debriefings varied, but the detachment of the sergeant in charge did not as he was questioned, grilled and asked why he did not report certain information about the enemy counter right away. Information withheld form him that might have saved lives and prevented injuries, thoughts that the command thought him and his team expendable made John wonder why he was sent on certain missions, the rationale behind doubling Intel information when cameras and videos and more told the same story.
Reporting each and every detail each time to an audience that seemed more than distant and did not react. A huge attack that caused more than just the usual injuries and the devastation unspeakable at times. Training, experience and the trust within his team knowing that the Nungs had his back, respected his decisions and would risk their own lives for him, were the primary reasons why he was able to survive and forge ahead. Communication not always forthcoming and the military following its own rules for information disclosure, John often had to make on the spot choices, decisions that would determine not only if he lived but the outcome of the mission too.
Frustration, hate, deceit, lies and fear reigned as you feel every shot that hits its target, every insect bite and every distraction as the author relates what happens during the Archlight strike. As the author relates that he had doubts as to whether the Archlight Command was well coordinated with his team’s long- range operations on the ground. Asking if the bomb strikes had been the order on the target groups during the time his team would be out there would hopefully make them aware of the larger picture but did it. In the end, you will have to find out what happens and listen as he tries to shake off the morbid thoughts and feelings with the plans yet to be made to pull off this operation.
A war that ended for him with a stay in a hospital that he barely remembered. Incoherent, in a daze, severely injured, calling for help to get them out and to pray that he and his team would be found, the last memories of the last mission will go down in his mind and be indelibly imprinted forever.
As the bullets filled the air, they swiftly swirled around him and with the edge of the jungle just years ahead he hoped that his vision would clear, and he would be able to survive. But, what happens will surprise you as he finds one man who was left by his men, dragged him back to the field, the situation more than frightening and the resulting death. As the air was let out of this young man, and the knife protruded from the side of the body, the situation seemed surreal. Men were hurt and with the help of Nhi he and his team took care of their wounds and waited that long wait to be extracted. Imagine being in a chemical twilight. Imagine finally being free from any more dangerous missions. Imagine handing over the company to the Number Two Man. How did Grayson feel? Would he follow in John’s footsteps and allow the Nungs to support him along with Nhi’s leadership among them? An ending that will bring tears to your eyes and one man who did not believe he would survive.
As the plane lifted him and others off the ground, and all that was left of the jungle was a small dot seen from the air, John Rixley Moore realized that now it was time to readjust his life, go back to his family and try to rid himself of the nightmares and his long journey into the darkness, hatches, mountain tops, cliffs and danger zones along with Ho Chi Minh trail. Hostage: A person who is captured by someone who demands certain things before a person is realized. A paradox: A situation that is comprised of two opposite things that seems impossible but is actually true or possible. Imagine being held hostage by a war and living through situations you can hardly believe are true or even possible. Welcome to this war. Some often still ask WHY?