Abandoned in Hell Review - The Fight for Vietnam's Fire Base Kate

Here’s my book review of Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Firebase Kate by William Albracht and Marvin J. Wolf.

Nonfiction Vietnam War memoir Abandoned in Hell (Penguin Random House)

In 1969 Bill Albracht was the youngest, greenest Green Beret captain in Vietnam. One night, six thousand of the enemy attacked his 200 troops. They held out for five days through heavy fire, sporadic aerial support, and hand-to-hand fighting. Given up for dead by the brass, Albracht led survivors through enemy lines under cover of darkness. He went on to become a Secret Service agent, and served four presidents.

Author and captain of Firebase Kate (Penguin Random House)

Just three years earlier, Bill had passed the officer candidate exam by one point. His best friend Joe failed – also by one point. Albracht told Joe he might be the happier guy. Bill wasn’t sure he wanted the responsibility.

Abandoned in Hell is not a Hollywood action-adventure story. It’s the real deal. Veterans know war as years of tedium interrupted by short periods of pure terror. In the case of Firebase Kate, those horrific moments stretched into five seemingly endless, bloody days, then a harrowing escape trekking through the jungle and open-field running in almost total darkness.

Coauthor Wolf, in Vietnam (Marvin J. Wolf)

Albracht shielded the bodies of soldiers with his own. He carried fallen comrades through firefights – into a waiting chopper at the best of times, or just into a protective ditch.

This book is about what’s most inspiring about bravery under fire. It has little to do with wanting to fight or why you’re there. It’s doing the right thing by your friends, from one desperate moment to the next.

Capt. Albracht and troops at Kate (Moline Memories)

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should … be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

Yours truly shown with my humorous novel about the Pen Wars of 1945 (Gabriella Muttone Photography, LaPuerta)

Gerald Everett Jones is the author of Bonfire of the Vanderbilts and host of GetPublished! Radio.

Listen to the podcast of this review:

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