21 Months, 24 Days ISBN# 9781499745542, by Richard Udden review for VVAW by Daniel C. Lavery

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 Months, 24 Days  ISBN# 9781499745542, by Richard Udden takes the reader from his enlistment hoping to avoid becoming a grunt as an inexperienced eighteen year-old kid, to an articulate curious soldier with unbounded energy learning on the run. Expecting an easy two years working in a trade, he was assigned infantry and sent to Vietnam to fight in a jungle he accurately describes in such detail the reader is with him experiencing the toughest life imaginable. Most every chapter contains photographs that show details he writes passionately about.

Because of his certificate in Machine Shop Technology, he hoped the Army would use that skill to assign him away from infantry, instead they made him a grunt.  After advanced Infantry in Alabama they sent him to NCO school in Anniston, Alabama delaying his entry to Vietnam by five months! From Oakland Army Base in California, he boarded an airplane for Vietnam where he landed a day later.  Assigned to A Company, First Cav Division, he looked around and felt he had “dropped down through a rabbit hole, to where there was no escape.” He would be stuck here for a year at nearby Bien Hoa Air Force Airbase.

Standing guard was grueling as he had to do seven days a week at night, where trip flares were in place in case VC approached. Once they tripped a wire connected to one, the whole sky would light up. If there were others approaching he could send up a parachute flare to illuminate a larger area. Barbed wire weaved through the area to prevent crawling or running through. Many weapons existed to handle any size of force including claymore mines, machine guns and calling in jet aircraft.

His loneliness grew as he kept sending letters home but had not received any in return though he knew they were writing.  Much later he was able to receive their mail and gifts. Soon he was transferred to Fire Support Base called “Buttons”, twenty miles from Cambodian Border, with A Company known as “Ace High” where he received his own M16 rifle, helmet, and joined his fighting group of many experienced veterans.  He was in awe of their appearance and proud to be a part of such a unit. Immediately he earned a nickname “Boston Bean” and became emotionally attached.

His first combat assault was when Ace High moved by helicopter into the jungle for about two weeks where they would resupply soldiers in the field. Flying over a jungle with six Hueys at two thousand feet at one-hundred-twenty knots they moved in, landed, and dug a large hole to sleep near and store their machine guns, ammo, and equipment. Leeches, bees, and termites attacked where they hadn’t sprayed insect repellent. This was living hell. In two weeks they were back having completed that mission.

March 1970 Udden states Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and extension of the war, was to not to allow North Vietnam to take over South Vietnam because that would make us “look helpless and lose face in the world.” Many contend though, by extending the war, Nixon’s solution cost three million more Vietnamese and more than 20, 000 Americans.

Soon Udden was transferred to Firebase Candy for guard duty seven miles from the Cambodian border. He was informed the VC used Cambodia for rest, food, ammunition, and relaxation just as our troops used the VIP center. But artillery constantly bombarded the area “to soften up the VC and NVA soldiers just over the Cambodian border.” The noise bothered him so much he wanted a transfer to door gunner on a Huey. Soon they moved out of Candy to find action near the Cambodian border.

Udden was selected for Combat Leadership Training and even spoke with his family using a ham radio link that picked up his sagging spirits like “standing on the moon.”  Rainy season was far more annoying than the heat of the sun.

Everyone liked Steve from California who was married just before Vietnam meaning he was not to do combat. Their Colonel was replaced by another whom the men despised for his annoying new orders that exposed them to more danger. Udden later saw a VC up close while foolishly reading a book on patrol. Both dropped to the ground. He felt vulnerable and angry at himself.

In his first real firefight a few days later while in the jungle in single file, VC machine gun fire hit the group. Dave was shot in the stomach and a Huey took him away. Udden changed that day. It hurt him personally and he felt the need for revenge of his military family. He recalled Biblical support for eye for an eye retaliation in the Old Testament. Three more men were killed shortly afterwards. When a howitzer sent a shell into their midst three more were hurt badly.  He received a promotion to Specialist 4 and made Fire Team leader. A few months later Udden was promoted to sergeant.

While walking on patrol someone tripped a wire tied to a grenade in an artillery shell throwing him in the air with shrapnel in a thigh while Steve went down. No Medivac could reach there nor could volunteers despite hours trying.  Steve’s death deeply affected Udden.

After his Army life he married, had two children, and is a retired Control Systems Engineer.  He attended a reunion with many of his war pals, visited Steve’s family, and honored the dead at the Vietnam Wall. His life stands as a tribute to many who served in our most controversial war.

BIO: Dan graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, was carrier qualified, and earned NAO wings in Florida, and then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, turned peace activist, joined VVAW, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU, and private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to a crusader for justice. http://www.danielclavery.com (Author website)

 

 

 

 

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STRINGS: A LOVE STORY by Megan Edwards Reviewed by Daniel C. Lavery

               

STRINGS: A LOVE STORY by Megan Edwards  Reviewed by Daniel C. Lavery

I devoured my pre-publication copy as a classical music lover, and one who had an immediate connection with my wife the moment we met some refer to as a soul-mate. Megan Edward’s creative writing shown by spectacular descriptions and themes followed by a phenomenal ending makes a powerful combination. This review is but a skeleton of a much greater whole spanning the lives of two lovers in high school through many years of professional life, marriage, an ugly divorce and many vibrant surprises. STRINGS combines these with a unique classic musical instrument: "The Violin of Angels." We are soon greeted with an unusual love that survived extreme hurdles. Ted Spencer, a rich boy fell for a cleaning lady’s daughter, Olivia de la Vega. They played Lancelot and Guenevere in Camelot at a private school called Haviland with interference from his family who thought he deserved better, and much fickle fate thereafter. His mastery of the violin admitted him to Julliard but separated them when his parents interfered making her doubt his love as one of the many “strings” that obstructed their romance.

Olivia, a stunning beauty, and talented actress, introduced Ted to a different world of Celtic harps, a music festival, and hippies instead of the upper crust of society in which his parents sheltered him. This helped free him from the rigid control his parents and Classical music teachers stressed. At his home his Dad produced a sparkling diamond he had cut for Ted when he married someone acceptable. Soon Ted announced he wanted to marry Olivia and was going to Julliard, not Yale as his father wanted. Taking two cigarettes to lite, he handed one to Ted and informed him if he did, that was the last thing he would receive from him! His parents ensured Olivia would leave the scene by lying that Ted had a girlfriend he planned to marry and had a diamond ring for her. Naturally, she failed to show at a time Ted asked for her to join him at their secret shelter and disappeared.

           

(Megan Edwards)

 

As fate would have it, Olivia found work in Television and soon became a talented actress in Los Angeles, married, and named her daughter, “Theodora.” Meanwhile, Ted developed his violin expertise at Julliard, played at Carnegie Hall, and became Concertmaster with the Vienna Philharmonic. Fast-forward nineteen years when Olivia met Ted at a concert where he played Paganini’s “Last Caprice in A major,” his audition piece for Julliard, “he consigned to his heart along with memories of Olivia too melancholy to open.” Later when she visited during a contentious divorce, he bought a tiny porcelain ballerina that pirouetted before a mirror to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” as a present for her seven year-old daughter, Teddy.

 

After another hiatus, Ted met Sophie Reinhardt who helped his career take off while they lived together noting her “pale blonde hair swirled in soft unruly curls to her shoulders” while “her confident grey-blue eyes met his gaze.” Divorced five years, she was free and helped his career blossom during their extended affair. So successful his career became from their liaison, he bought an eight bedroom three story home with four fireplaces at Westchester County in Sleepy Hollow next to his Rockefeller neighbor!

 

Soon Olivia’s letter from Malibu re-connected them. Her husband of ten years had died leaving her the entire contents of his study which contained an extraordinary violin: Joseph Guarnius…1742 HIS! She asked him to appraise this gift since he had become a violin expert and exclaimed, “It wasn’t the amazing Violin that made his head damp, but Olivia returning to his life!” When she arrived he set up his fiber optic camera. The remainder of the process unfolds like a Sherlock Holmes mystery revealing a violin, The Merino Rose, worth millions. Ted generously made a bequest of this gift to Teddy for her future. The spectacular ending on a beach at sunset, waves crashing, the sand turning gold, and the wind blowing in Olivia’s hair, left this reader in tears with Ted’s final words: “You and I have a symphony to finish.” Readers will want to order a copy to fill in the amazing details of this extraordinary and unforgettable fictional romance novel.

 

BIO: Dan graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, was carrier qualified, and earned NAO wings in Florida, and then a ship to Vietnam with 300 marines. He resigned, turned peace activist, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU, and private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to a crusader for justice. http://www.danielclavery.com (Author website)

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The Light Where Shadows End : A Book Review by Daniel C. Lavery for VVAW,

cantalupo-the-light-where-shadows-end

The Light Where Shadows End :  A Book Review by Daniel C. Lavery for VVAW, A War Hero’s Inspirational Journey Through Death, Recovery, and a World Without Home by r.g.  cantalupo (He uses no capitals in his name on the cover: New World Publishers, paper, 2015, 171 pages) A member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the author took part in the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigations where he confessed to committing crimes and atrocities. A Radio-Telephone Operator (RTO) with the 25th Infantry Division in 1968-69, Cantalupo (a nickname, actually H. H. Gregory), served in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star with a Combat V and three Purple Hearts. He describes himself as a war criminal who fired white phosphorus mortars and called in napalm bombs on civilians using weapons banned by the Geneva Convention. He returns to the scene of his action in 2015 “to survive my looming suicide… to Trang Bang where Nick Ut photographed the ‘Napalm Girl’. That was also where he ordered villagers to lie down while they destroyed their village and where Lonny, Baby, San, Devil and I lay dying not for God, or flag, or country, but simply because we were “the chosen”, draftees offered up from poor black, brown, or white families by an upper-middle-class draft board that didn’t want to take sons from their own.

 

He describes his boot camp training droning into him like a mantra: “They are gooks, dinks, commies, savages, nothing resembling us, nothing close to human. And, it worked-when I was shooting at a cardboard man, when I was stabbing a dummy to death with a bayonet, when I was on the edge of terror--it was the only voice I heard. But four months in Vietnam had changed me. The kids along Highway 1 chanting “G. I. Numba One” as they begged chocolate bar or cokes looked no different than the kids from my tenement—Asian versus black, or Puerto Rican or Pollock or Jew—hungrier maybe, more desperation in their eyes, but under the grime and stink, they were no different than the kids I grew up with carrying hopes and fears and dream. And so I heard a different voice—my own… How long does it take to kill a man-- from inside? …How long before I was no longer a man but a rifle. A bullet, and I inside a soulless body?

 

After his good friend Lonny is killed when he makes eye contact with an enemy soldier who is badly wounded and groaning in the Elephant grass, Cantalpo raises his rifle: "I put his head in the crosshairs, held my breath, and put my finger on the trigger guard. I didn’t squeeze the trigger. I couldn’t. Not anymore. Lonny was dead. Nothing I could do would bring him back. Not killing this soldier. Not killing the whole fucking North Vietnamese Army. Lonny was dead. Shot in the throat and chest by his own men. Friendly fire. Friendly. As if killing was somehow friendlier if done by your own men. And who was to blame? The soldiers on the perimeter who opened fire from fear of being overrun? The C.O. who sent us out? General Westmoreland? Nixon? Kissinger? The Pentagon? The Army? The rich? The whole fucking US of A? My mother? My war-hero father? Yes, everyone was to blame. Everyone carried Lonny’s blood on their hands. I lowered my rifle. I was done. I was done with killing, done with death, done with war. For a long moment, the wounded soldier held my eyes, then he turned and slowly crawled away."

 

He recounts his horrendous injuries from a mortar exploding a few feet away that hurled his body into the dark sky and then crashed down leaving him covered in warm blood and a nurse nicknamed “Peaches” helped him through hours, days and weeks of care with whom he says he seriously fell in love. “And then I rose. Above my body. Above my life. Is this my soul parting from my flesh, my spirit rising toward eternity, flying through the tunnel of white light toward people I loved? I rose in darkness, in shadow, the body below me—my body—graying to a shade, the medic slowly dimming to a hazy silhouette. I rose, but my wounds did not fly away on angel’s wings, nor did I see my mortal life bleeding into light as if I were eternal. I merely slipped in and out of a world filled with fire and burning pain—“

 

A film crew from Vietnam TV International recorded his anguish following his journey toward reconciliation meeting with former members of The People’s Army against whom he fought. They share the truth of where the People’s Army hid in tunnels awaiting to attack and use a map to describe each of their locations in battles. After awkward embraces and they shake hands and say goodbye through the pain such a meeting engendered. The war’s legacy in Vietnam, Cantalupo says, includes “leaving hundreds of thousands of unexploded bombs to kill more children,” as well as “fourth generation birth defects and genetic mutations caused by our massive spraying of Agent Orange.” That situation “will not allow for my reconciliation. This was the most profoundly moving memoir I have read on Vietnam showing how a man changed from a war criminal to a sensitive human being aware he was lucky to have survived and gained an inspiration and an awakening that changed his life.

 

BIO: Daniel C. Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, turned peace activist and became a civil rights attorney for Cesar Chavez's UFW and the ACLU. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn to an advocate crusading for justice. HTTP://www.danielclavery.com(Author website)

           

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Long Way Out by Nicole Waybright by Daniel C. Lavery for VVAW

After eight years of writing and research, Nicole Waybright finished her memoir, Long Way Out that tells the story of her coming-of-age struggles while deployed as an officer on a U.S. Navy destroyer. Waybright reports the psychological critical moments that she experienced when she discovered she was not cut out for a naval career during her five-year military commitment. Her book sets forth the factual detail based on her service as an officer in the Surface Warfare (SWO) Navy when the initial group of women was stationed aboard naval ships. This intense offering gives the reader a view into a deplorable and tragic account of an egregious executive officer criticized by her seniors when removed from command for "cruelty and maltreatment" of her crew. Nevertheless, she was the first such United States female to command an Aegis destroyer and was infamously known as the female “Captain Bligh.”
(Female Naval Officer saluting an Admiral in the Surface Warfare Group)  

The author of this "fictionalized" story while true, uses the name “Brenda” regarding her 18 months aboard Navy destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) in 1997-1998. She reports the incredibly stressful Navy life during five years of service before her honorable discharge. Her nightmare removed the adventure, romance, and excitement her parents and others, including herself, thought would await her in a world of opportunity for a woman so few had previously had the opportunity she earned. This intense ordeal forced her to find her authentic self after studying the military for her career. That catalyzed her discovery when she submerged into an intense study of self-realization and Jungian psychology.

(Surface Warfare Ships cruising on a mission at sea)  

At Boston University on a Naval ROTC scholarship, she graduated with an M.S. cum laude in Mechanical Engineering. Later as a summer intern with the CIA, she had sea duty on a summer cruise aboard the destroyer USS Spruance (DD-963). After college graduation and then six months of Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, RI, "Brenda" flew to Sydney, Australia to rendezvous with her first ship, whose home port is the U.S. Naval Base at Yokosuka, Japan.

(Surface Warfare Destroyer launching a missile)  

A determined daughter of conventional patriotic parents, "Brenda" absorbed their goals and planned a practical career in the US Navy. She even dreamed she might attend Naval Nuclear Power School and hoped to serve on one of 10 U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers since women were banned from serving on the 70-plus nuclear submarines. To qualify for nuke school, she had to earn the essential Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) pin. However, she experienced chronic sleep deprivation, difficult technical duties, sea-sickness, and discovered her past academic success was insufficient for complex shipboard problems. Then she had to deal with a new Lieutenant Commander XO who made her life miserable.

(SWO pin ceremony for a naval officer who has earned the revered pin!)   Midway through her memoir, she meets the new Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Heather Gates: A woman's blue eyes piercing her "like daggers." The XO's routine of profanity and screaming at subordinates destroyed morale and endangered the ship. The Captain ignored her outrageous conduct since the Navy hierarchy wanted the XO to help recruitment of the new women naval officers.
(Task Force of Navy Jet Aircraft with the Surface Warfare Ships)  

Not surprisingly instead, after twelve years Gates was relieved of command and discharged from the Navy for cruelty toward her crews and conduct unbecoming an officer. Yet her record appeared unsullied until her discharge when enough was known to end her disgraceful naval career. At the end of her story, Waybright became a full-time writer, featured speaker, and resided in New England. She found her radicalized self as she explored building a culture of peace. This was truly an inspirational journey of determined woman to find herself under the most excruciating circumstances and achieve what in the past was only for hearty male Naval officers!

(Surface Warfare Navigation room with navigator and female naval officer working to earn her pin!)  

Published by SpeakPeace Press Copyright 2016 ISBN: 978-0-9972161-0-3 the first edition of Long Way Out was printed in the United States Softcover / 552 pages

(Nicole Waybright author of Long Way Out)  

BIO: Daniel C. Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, turned peace activist and became a civil rights attorney for Cesar Chavez's UFW and the ACLU. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn to an advocate crusading for justice. HTTP://www.danielclavery.com(Author website)

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Book Review of All the Difference from Author USNA Class of ’71

Book Review of All the Difference from Author USNA Class of ’71

4/8/14

Hello Dan,

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book.  I jotted down a few things that resonated for me.

My dad was a Beta at University of Cincinnati.

Reef Points!  How can we ever forget them!

Naval Academy indoctrination of plebes in etiquette

Rifle range.  Who can forget those Marines!Scientist CliffsTarget for BB gun

Heinz Lenz was still there for me, too.  (I think he died only in the last couple of years?)

Joe Duff.  He still coached baseball, but he and I never crossed paths.  I made the plebe and varsity sailing teams while I was there (1967-1971), but was not the athlete you were.  But those T-tables plebe year were a Godsend!  And for the sailing team, it was for BOTH fall and spring sets.

Joe Bellino.  I loved watching those games.  And Roger Staubach, how lucky you were to be there during his era, too.  Roger came and talked at our pep rally in 1967 before the Army/Navy game.  (He was trying to make it with the Cowboys at that time.)  We won that year and received "carry on" like you did.

Bancroft Hall Mishipman in Whites parading to meal

Like you, I thoroughly enjoyed being on the "plebe detail" second class year.  As luck would have it, the very next summer the Academy decided to put first class in charge of the detail, so I got to do it again!

Bancroft Hall USNA 1960

Pensacola.  Great times!  I certainly wasn't the "ace of the base," but finished high enough (4 of 30 that week) to choose any pipeline I wanted (helos, jets, or props)---and they were all open that week.

Vigilante Clamshell Cockpits opened

My A-7 primary instructor  in T-34's nearly shot me for picking helos, but guys from '68 and '69 were telling us how much fun they were having flying them (while we were still back at the Academy).  Plus, I found that whenever I climbed above 5000 feet, I lost the real sensation of flying.  I also found that to be true as a second class midshipman flying in the back of an F-4 at Oceana (the "Diamondbacks").  In helos I knew I would spend most of my flying career at 500 feet and below.  (In Desert Storm we frequently flew at 10 feet and as fast as that Blackhawk would go!)  I never regretted my decision.

Army helo pilot Hugh Thompson.  What courage!  (I used his example in my first book, Inspiring Leadership: Character and Ethics Matter, now used in the Leadership/Ethics curricula at Villanova and Regent Universities.)

Vietnam Hugh Thomspon forgotten hero

Olongapo!  Amazing place.  If you closed your eyes, you actually thought the Rolling Stones were playing---or any other big name group for that matter.  And those kids diving for pesos!  The helo hangout was the Roofadora Club, as I recall.

CHAPTER 27-Y RA5C landing on aircraft carrier 1965

Our helo squadron aboard the USS Constellation in 1974 made three daily trips ("liberty runs") to Bagio, Manila, and Clark AFB while we were in port at Cubi Point/Subic.  We charged a dollar per person (which went to the rec fund).  Needless to say, we were the most popular squadron on the ship, especially among the Filipino stewards!  LOL.

Cesar Chavez and dogs Huelga and Boycott

And last but certainly far from least, your amazing work as a lawyer for the UFW.  What a legacy for you!  You can be justifiably proud of those years!

 HKW19750308E_005

Anyway, Dan, thought you should know how much I enjoyed your book.  One of these days we'll have to meet for lunch.

All the best,

Stew Fisher (USNA '71)

book cover all the difference
 

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