Firefight on Brown Water by Lynn Salsi

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Firefight on Vietnam Brown Water is war seen through the eyes of a scared young man. Al Lupo is a football star at a small college in Pennsylvania, and safe from the draft. But a paperwork error sees him drafted, so he opts for the Navy to avoid being a grunt. His first two years in service are spent in Florida working in air traffic control, but his life gets turned upside down when he receives orders to Vietnam and to SWIFT boats.  Having never seen more violence than a college football game, the young Lupo makes a vow to do whatever it takes to get home in one piece. Will it be enough?

This story is obviously well researched, and the author did an excellent job of putting experiences from several interviewed SWIFT veterans into the story (among the interviewed veterans was her husband). It portrays the rigors of combat and the rawness of being in a combat zone accurately, but without being overly gory or profane. It is a relatively easy read, and contains a helpful glossary and a short but well done picture section. I especially like the author's note at the end, where she explains her reasons for writing the book.  

Vietnam veterans in general and SWIFT or PBR veterans in particular will relate significantly to this book, but anyone who reads it will learn a lot about this little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Reviewed by: Rob Ballister (2010)

Author's Synopsis

Al Lupo, an 18 year old college freshman with a passion for football, lives in a small town near Pittsburgh. He is living his father's dream--playing football, when he is drafted. His world falls apart as he loses his girlfriend and is deprived of his chance to please his father. To avoid serving in Vietnam, Al joins the Navy. Yet, he is ordered to serve on a 50-foot SWIFT boat on the dangerous brown-water rivers of Vietnam, which puts him in the middle of war. He is faced with learning new skills, excelling despite the disdain of officers for enlisted men, living through daily uncertainties, and surviving the war. 
With historically accurate scenes and action, this is a different view of the Vietnam War. The story centers on one small crew of men fighting for their country on a small boat in a primitive wilderness environment where rivers are the only roads.