Nilo Ha Tien: A Novel of Naval Intelligence in Cambodia
Author: HL Serra
Publisher: AuthorHouse (2009)
Binding: Paperback, 400 pages
Historical Fiction, U.S. Navy, Vietnam War In the early months of 1970, LT Thomas Medici, NILO Ha Tien, enters Cambodia on U.S. Naval Intelligence missions and negotiates a secret weapons agreement with the Cambodian Navy, then thwarts the destruction of of the Port of Sihanoukville- for which he is tried at a Naval Board of Inquiry."This remarkable novel relates many events that our Naval Intelligence Liaison Officers actually experienced during the Cambodia episode of the Vietnam War. The details of these events are fascinating." VADM Rex Rectanus (Ret.), former Director of Naval Intelligence and Ass't. Chief of Staff (Intelligence) for VADM Elmo Zumwalt, Commander Naval Forces, Vietnam (1968-1970)" HL Serra's novel draws the reader into the clandestine world of covert operations and Navy spy networks operating in Cambodia in early 1970. The book is a terrific read and one of those rare novels that speaks truth on every page about an innovative and effective strategic intelligence program." Prof. Larry Berman, UC Davis, author of books on Vietnam, including Perfect Spy, No Peace, No Honor, and the forth coming first biography of Admiral Elmo Russell Zumwalt, Jr.
In this fast paced book, our main character, a young NILO (Naval Intelligence Liaison Officer), finds himself stationed in a lonely, isolated hamlet, Ha Tien, on the border of Vietnam, and Cambodia in 1970. He monitors Russian arms shipments going into the Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville, which is occupied by North Vietnamese forces. The NVA take these shipments and filter them into South Vietnam for use against the U.S., and South Vietnamese military. It is a flagrant nose thumb at the world to use neutral Cambodia for this purpose, but it is tolerated by the Cambodian government in return for a cut of the weapons, and other payments. These events precede, and spur the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. The riveting story that leads up to this event, is a good read, historically, and militarily accurate. It is very well written. The reader is entertained, and learns some little known behind the scenes history of those turbulent times.
The war in Vietnam was as complex as it was long. It was fought in the rice paddies of the delta, in the jungles of the central highlands, the mountainous north, in the air, and on the many rivers that crisscross the country. The war in the south was vastly different than the war in the north, and so much had changed when it ended in 1975 from when it began over a decade earlier that no author has ever really captured all the facts, moods, smells, and accompanying emotions of those geographies, and time periods, in one book. The Vietnam War must be approached one year, one place, one unit at a time. Such is the case with Nilo Ha Tien, which focuses on a part of the war that few veterans knew was taking place. While it is written in a fictional venue, it is obviously written from personal experience, lived by the author, and it is fascinating. The intelligence gathering duties of a navy lieutenant, on his own, in Indian territory, with very little support, is scary stuff. If the author did not convey anything accurately, it is the fact that he had to be either very young, or very brave. Undoubtedly, both.
Reviewed by: Bob Flournoy (2010)