I am writing this review while listening in the background to "The Doors" singing "This is the End". That song played in the movie "Apocalypse Now" and still sends shivers up my spine. Reading "War On The River: A Swift Boat Sailor's Chronicle of the Battle for the Mekong Delta" by Navy veteran and author Weymouth D. Symmes - also did that same thing. His book however, is much more than a tale of swift boats in action in Nam. It tells a coming-of-age story that captures the emotions and spirit of those young warriors. In particular, the young author himself, as we follow him from through boot camp and his four years in the Navy.
Some day people will realize that these "river boat cowboys" made life hell for the VC. They were part of what is called "The Brown Water Navy". They were sometimes our only military resource in the Mekong Delta besides air power operations. Someone had to go down those muddy rivers and patrol places that were as dangerous as any place on this planet! Truly a group of brave hearted men. Many were killed or wounded but all of them were heroes.
Weymouth's memoir is not just about his river battles but also does a good job giving the reader an idea of what life was like for a sailor on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam. The book touches the personal lives of those men who lived in historic times, risking their lives for things many others would never support, or understand. It is well written and will engage the reader's fullest attention. This book does not try to glorify war, nor battle, but it comes across any way, as a strong tribute to these men. In the end, the reader will label them all as heroes! And truly they all were.
I have read many books over the last decade on swift boats and the river wars in Nam - however, this is best of the lot. If one had to read just one book on this genre, then this is the book they need to read. It is not some dry facts and numbers book told by someone with no connection to the events - this is from a real survivor of those times - and he has a personal and entertaining story to share.
Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2010)
This book is a memoir of a four year enlistment in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, from service aboard the USS Ticonderoga as she engaged in the air war over North Vietnam, to service aboard U.S. Navy Swift boats in the Mekong Delta. Although the focus of the book is on the war on the rivers, the book also considers the consequences for the warrior upon the return home.