This book was actually in the making for over forty years. Lt. Cmdr. Hoch died in 2004, thereby leaving his manuscript unpublished.
Thankfully, his legacy has been preserved in this wonderful book that was brought to life by Hoch’s brother Dave, and his wife Isabel. Dave felt strongly that the book should be published, and we are richer for it.
Wes Hoch served in Vietnam as the Senior U.S. Navy Advisor to the Fourth Coastal Junk Force in Phu Quoc, for eighteen months. Hoch was a “strange mixture of soldier, sailor, dentist, mechanic, linguist (he spoke fractured Vietnamese) doctor and teacher.”
Senator Margaret Chase Smith read a letter into the Congressional Record which spoke of Hoch’s accomplishments. In part it says “Wes Hoch is presently in charge of a fleet of junks manned by natives who adore their husky leader. He shares their somewhat primitive existence and all the experiences of a jungle land warfare which is both physically uncomfortable and perilous.”
Lt. Cmdr. Hoch was instrumental in constructing a small hospital on the Island of Ph Quoc. The military personnel there, the villagers themselves and the men in Hoch’s armed junk force, volunteered to work with a few sacks of cement and a donation from the local church. The result was a four-bed hospital to serve the eleven-hundred villagers. About four-hundred natives were treated on the first day the hospital was open.
Cmdr. G. Ashcroft, senior junk force advisor, issued a statement on the installation saying “The concern and drive of Lt. Hoch was like a dream come true to the natives of An Thoi.”
A Christian-raised man, Hoch attempted to fully understand and help the natives in their impoverishment. He wrote letters home to ask for medical supplies, used blankets and clothes for his Vietnamese Junk Navy and villagers on Phu Quoc.
He noted “A blanket sounds like a stupid thing to need in a country where the average temperature is eighty degrees … but a blanket is the most useful thing a junkman has. He uses it to sleep on, to keep warm on cold, damp nights, as a shelter against the sun and a thousand uses. To give a blanket to a junkman is the same as giving him a house.”
Lt. Cmdr. Hoch endeared himself to the Vietnamese people that he lived with. He won numerous awards, including A Medal of Honor First Class; bestowed by the Vietnamese Government, as well as a Bronze Star bestowed by the United States Navy, plus many more honors.
This is a fascinating story about an outstanding individual who truly lived his Christian religion, made tremendous personal sacrifices, and had a lasting, positive influence on numerous lives. There are many different ways to win hearts, minds and wars.
This book provides great insight into an aspect of the Vietnam War that might have gone unappreciated and unnoticed. A very worthy and inspiring read.
Reviewed by: Charlene Rubush (2011)
"With a strong faith, you can fight a war in more ways than one," the authors brother, David R. Hoch, says. " I hope that this book will point out the tremendous effort and dedication that all Vietnamese veterans displayed when they showed how your faith can give you tremendous strength.