Michael D. Guard .com


>>>>>>> 1st Place <<<<<<<
2010 International Book Awards
Military / History

>>>>>>>  1st Place  <<<<<<<
Royal Palm Literary Awards
Military / History

Written in narritive non-fiction and based on the true portrayal of a Vietnam Veteran, the book describes in keen detail the ambience of the Vietnam countryside, life in the barracks, and the innermost feelings of the combatant. Taking place along the actual timeline between March 1969 and March 1970. the protagonist is a helicopter crewman on a Huey gunship, and a member of the factual 135th Assault Helicopter Company.

After being separated from his best friend with whom he joined the Army, he finds himself alone and vulnerable in a hostile country. Assigned to his new unit MITCHELL COLLINS begins his tour inadvertently going AWOL in Saigon his first week in country.

Spending his early days performing monotonous duties Mitchell’s desire to fly is soon realized. His third week brings home the seriousness of the routine combat assaults, when a gunship is shot down and Mitchell replaces a fallen crewmember. On board now with the U.S. Army’s most feared weapon in Vietnam, the Huey Gunship, Mitchell is assigned to the Taipan platoon. At the tender age of eighteen, the fledgling gunner learns his responsibilities via “trial by fire”! He quickly metamorphoses into a combat aviator flying in the hostile “Delta” region of South Vietnam. From that point on Mitchell heads deeper into his role, and unwittingly begins to detach himself from “the real World”.

The helicopters returned to base each night and were “parked” in revetments that secured and protected the aircraft from frequent rocket attacks. Taipan, a black deadly snake from Australia, and the platoon’s call sign, referred to their revetment area as the “Snake Pit”, hence the title.

Each chapter unites the deliberately connected vignettes. Merged into every chapter are highlights of a different aspect of serving in combat until reaching a crescendo. Then descends at Mitchell’s bittersweet departure from the combat zone. In between Mitchell experiences all the horrors of conflict but also finds some sense of peace by accepting his own mortality and discovers a spiritual force relieving most of his own fear of death. 

Not until his six-month does Mitchell attain an opportunity to find out if he can reunite with the civil side of himself again when his request for R&R, (rest & recuperation) is granted. Here is the rarely told story of what really happened with young unmarried servicemen let loose in the sexually volatile environment of Bangkok, Thailand. But the time was short and returning to hostilities was made more difficult after realizing there could be more to his life other than combat.

Bob Hope’s road show at Bien Hoa, Christmas 1969, was a highlight and turning point for Mitchell. From this point on the 135th missions brought them closer to the Cambodian border and increased hostility. With three months left on his tour, Mitchell is selected to complement a special force called Hunter/Killer, flying all nighttime missions. With the increased hazards of flying at night also came increased anxiety to make it home alive. With just week’s left his helicopter crashes into the trees while on a nighttime preemptive strike. Surrounded by an estimated battalion of North Vietnamese Army, the pilot of the stricken craft barely maintains flight to a safe base where a second crash occurs.

Nearing the end of his tour, his desire to mentor new crewmembers is strong. He carries out his authority aggressively and has no patience for the mundane. Finally, Mitchell receives orders to return stateside the day following his last mission. Boarding the plane home Mitchell describes the so common unceremonious departure.

The story ends as the members of the Taipan platoon left behind, carry on with their duties and are caught in a trap while on a non-threat mission.


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