Michael D. Guard


about the cover

cover design by: Mike Guard

Struggling through many design variations the author was aware that this would likely be the single most challenging aspect of the book. The importance of making a favorable “first-impression” did not go unnoticed, and with that the author set out to create a not only a graphically pleasing design, but somehow it had to be meaningful also.


First a little history; the current flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is the flag of the Communist Party of Vietnam, a duplicated one of Fujian district Communist Party, China. The "yellow star on red background" flag of communist North Vietnam first made its official appearance in September 1945, when Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam. After 1975, the flag as a symbol of united Vietnam is still questioned by all free Vietnamese around the world. Firstly, it is the symbol of a party imposed on the Vietnamese since August 1945. It was the official flag of the Indochinese Communist Party (1930-1945). Secondly, it is an international flag, not a national flag. By maintaining this flag, communist Vietnam on the one hand, harks back to a period of French colonialism, while on the other hand, keeping alive the imperialist ambition of an Indochinese Federation under Hanoi's thumb. Thirdly, it is a communist flag. The blood red color of the background refers to the violence of class struggle and the ultimate victory of the working class revolution throughout the world, as proclaimed by international communists.


The flag of South Vietnam (the Republic of Vietnam) has a yellow background and three horizontal red stripes along its entire length. The "golden yellow" has been the traditional color of Vietnam for over two thousand years. It is also the color of earth, as understood in universal scheme of five elements in Oriental cosmology. The three stripes represent three regions of Vietnam: North, Central, and South Vietnam as united in a national community. The vibrant red color of the stripes is the color of blood flowing through one's veins-symbolic of Vietnam's unflagging struggle for independence throughout its recorded history. The three-red striped yellow flag championed by free Vietnamese everywhere was flown for the first time at a ceremony marking the official recognition by France of Vietnamese unity and independence, which was recognized by the United Nations from 1950 to April 1975. 


Another version of the North Vietnam flag is the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP). On April 30, 1975 the North seized control of the South. Within the first few months, to manipulate the south Vietnamese people, directed its puppet organization, “The National Liberation Front of South Viet Nam,” to establish a “Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Viet Nam.”, which created a new “national flag,” consisting of a red top half, a blue bottom half, and a centered yellow star similar to that of the North Vietnam’s flag. On July 2, 1976, the VCP unified the two regions to form the “Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” (SRVN), discarded the Liberation Front flag, and used the Red flag as the national flag for the whole country. It has lasted until this day.


Bringing the two flags together on the cover seemed impossible and the author desired to make the South’s flag more pronounced, after all the author did serve in South Vietnam and those Vietnamese were American allies, therefore the south’s flag had to dominate. The commie flag was set to reside behind the three red stripes with its yellow star lowered and off center, (perhaps a symbol of the declining communist era?). The two black bands are in memoriam of those American & Allied troops who perished during the conflict.


Initially the author considered many titles but the manuscript was not complete at this time. At one point in the book a sentence containing the phrase, “back in the sanctity of the snake pit” was written. “Snake Pit” was where the gunships parked their helicopters back at the base, a safer location than the area’s they regularly flew into. The phrase became the title.


Now the graphics had to be considered, the very first cover was a collage of photographs taken in Vietnam in 1969. Then a friend made the statement, “the helicopters needs to be larger”, and that rang true to the author who then decided to use a photo of an actual Taipan gunship like those mentioned in the book. However finding a suitable photo proved to be a challenge in itself. Many of the original photos were taken with instamatic film or 35mm film, unfortunately that type of film does not age well and after almost forty years of handling, or lying between the covers of a photo album they were not suitable for reproduction. 


Then came along a photo sent via email to the author by a long lost member of the 135th , Mr. Melchor Batista had a photo of a UH-1C Taipan Gunship in flight. Like the book, the photo said to the author,  “come with me, back to the jungles over Vietnam”.           

He then began to manipulate the photo and liked the image modified in “yellow sepia” tone which worked well with the overall theme on the cover.


Now with the flags and photos in place the cover was taking form but still lacked depth. So, to give the picture the proper effects, Jason Raizen, a Miami, FL. based computer graphics and art designer, added the effects to bring the flags to life and sharpen the title fonts thus completing the cover, much to the delight of the author.

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