From Memoir to Novel – the metamorphosis of a manuscript about war as hell – Part 3/3

According to Vietnam: Looking Back at the Facts: “About 5,000 men assigned to Vietnam deserted and just 249 of those deserted while in Vietnam.”

Then there were crimes other than rape. Near the end of my 1996 combat tour, the armorer of our gun company was caught selling weapons on the black market in Vietnam—weapons that ended in the hands of the Viet Cong soldiers that ambushed a Marine patrol—The Marines won that fight, and that’s how they discovered the weapons that led back to our armorer.

The armorer was sentenced twenty years to life in a federal prison.

“Fragging” and “Combat Refusals” in Vietnam were not unknown and some of these incidents have been documented. I recall one fragging in my unit. A lieutenant, considered an asshole by many, was taking his shower at night when his quarters were fragged. He survived because he wasn’t in the tent. The next day, he was a different person—a reformed asshole turned nice guy.

The question of crimes such as ‘fragging’, ‘combat refusals’, desertion and AWOL within the Vietnam conflict is one which brings emotions to the fore. Many veterans deny that ‘fragging’ or ‘combat refusals’ occurred, whilst others feel desertion and AWOL was merely a means of resisting what was felt to be an unjust and illegal conflict.” Source: http://home.mweb.co.za/re/redcap/vietcrim.htm

Then there is the CIA’s role in moving drugs from the Golden Triangle to America where they were sold to fund illegal operations that the US Congress did not approve. To this day, the CIA denies doing this.

However, “The KMT exported their opium harvests usually by mule train across the mountains or by unmarked American C-47 transportation planes to Thailand for processing. Some was flown on to Taiwan. In 1950 the CIA purchased bankrupt Civil Air Transport (CAT) for $950,000 and used their fleet of planes to run weapons to KMT General Li Mi in Shan province, and the planes returned to Bangkok filled with opium.” Source: Dark Politricks.com

In addition, “Bob Kirkconnell, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant spent 27 years on active duty, and was involved in an investigation of heroin smuggling into the US using killed-in-action human remains out of Vietnam.” Source: http://www.wanttoknow.info/militarysmuggledheroin

For more information on drug smuggled into the US during the Vietnam War, I recommend reading The Cadaver Connection from History Net.

Then there was the Marine I met on the flight to Hong Kong from Vietnam. He asked me to share a hotel room with him—to double up because he was on his third tour in the combat zone (I was into my fifth month by then), and he had to have a white, round-eyed face wake him in the morning before any strange Asian, almond shaped eyed face (like the women or men that cleaned the hotel rooms in Hong Kong), came into the room while he was sleeping.

Note: the French left Vietnam in 1956, which is when the US sent advisers into Vietnam to start working with and training the South Vietnamese military. The National Liberation Front, known by us as the Viet Cong, wouldn’t be formed until 1960. The U.S. started using Agent Orange in 1962 and the Declaration of War by Congress would not become official until 1964.

The first time I crossed from my bed to his and shook his shoulder, he quickly rolled over, pulled a Colt forty-five from under his pillow, and centered the barrel between my eyes as he clicked off the safety.  He blinked to clear his vision and stared at me before he lowered the weapon.

He had a Chinese girlfriend in Hong Kong, and they had a child together.

After that first morning in Hong Kong, I didn’t see him for a while since he was staying with his Chinese girlfriend and child—that is until she got angry with him and threw him out.

At the time, no one had put a clinical, psychological name on PTSD and it wasn’t officially studied.  That wouldn’t happen for more than twenty years.  What’s ironic is that I now sleep with a .38 caliber loaded with hollow points and the first thing I do when I wake up each morning is to listen for any out of the ordinary sounds in the house before I get up and sweep the house to see if any of the windows and/or doors have been forced.  Once I’m satisfied the house is secure, I store my weapon in a safe place—not for me but for my family.

When my novel was completed to Miller’s satisfaction, she contacted a reputable agent to represent it. Several of the writers in the workshop were published thanks to Miller’s support. However, the agent for my work, which was originally called “Better a Dead Hero“, could not sell it. The publishers responded that the Vietnam War as a topic was not selling and they were not interested.  That was in the late 1980s.

The manuscript that is now  “Running With the Enemy” sat gathering dust for more than twenty-two years before I found it on a shelf in the garage, renamed it  and ran it through several edits and revisions. I expect the novel will be released in the next few months hopefully before the end of September 2012.

Return to From Memoir to Novel – the metamorphosis of a manuscript about war as hell – Part 2 or start with  Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

Advertisements

From Memoir to Novel – the metamorphosis of a manuscript about war as hell – Part 2/3

Rape and the mutilation of women’s bodies are evidently part of the usual military fare in war. During the Vietnam war, rape was in fact an all too common occurrence …” Source: Karen Stuldreher, Political Science Department, University of Washington, Seattle

For example: “An August 1967 atrocity in which a 13-year-old Vietnamese child was raped by American MI interrogator of the Army’s 196th Infantry Brigade. The soldier was convicted only of indecent acts with a child and assault. He served seven months and sixteen days for his crime.” Source: George Mason University’s History News Network

In addition, there was a rape episode that I wrote about in a short story that was a runner up for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. A Night at the Well of Purity was based on a real event that I witnessed.

General George S. Patton knew what he was talking about when he predicted during World War II, “there would unquestionably be some raping.” Rape and the mutilation of women’s bodies are evidently part of the usual military fare in war. Source: Karen Stuldreher, Political Science Department, University of Washington, Seattle

However, now that so many women serve in the US military, “Rape within the US military has become so widespread that it is estimated that a female solider in Iraq is more likely to be attacked by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.” Source: The Guardian

[youtube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHk4TGWx0ZM]
Some victims were sexually abused, beaten, tortured, maimed and mutilated.

Then there was falling in love. Several months into my 1966 tour in Vietnam, I went on R&R to Hong Kong, where one young Marine fell in love with the Chinese prostitute he paid to have sex with for the week and deserted to stay with her.

He did not return to Vietnam with us. I’m sure he was caught and spent time in the brig before being sent back to combat.

In fact, while I was in Hong Kong I met another Marine that did the same thing several years earlier, but he was caught and spent time in a federal prison back in the states. Once his prison sentence was served (he said two years), he was sent back to complete his combat tour in Vietnam.

These Marines were not the only ones to desert while serving in Vietnam.

Continued on June 22, 2012 in From Memoir to Novel – the metamorphosis of a manuscript about war as hell – Part 3 or return to Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

From Memoir to Novel – the metamorphosis of a manuscript about war as hell – Part 1/3

I started writing my next novel “Running With the Enemy” in 1981 as a memoir of an American Marine serving in Vietnam in 1966.

In 1981, I was working toward an MFA in 20th century American literature/writing at Cal Poly Pomona where I earned a teaching credential in 1975 – 76.

I never finished the memoir and only wrote about 200 pages. In fact, the first forty pages took several months to write. It was on page forty-one that I arrived in Chu Lai, Vietnam by climbing down a boarding net into a landing craft in one of the Marine Corps last major amphibious landings.

However, later in the 1980s, I brushed the dust off that unfinished manuscript and enrolled in UCLA’s extension-writing program. My workshop instructor was Marjorie Miller and she recruited a few of her students into her off-campus workshops held in a small room above an Italian restaurant in Westwood near the UCLA campus. For several years on Saturday mornings, I drove 135 miles round trip to attend Miller’s workshop

There was a big difference in the quantity and quality of writing among twenty or more students in a UCLA classroom and the five or six writers around that table in a rented room above an Italian restaurant—same instructor with fewer writers meant more time for each writer.

After I read the first chapter of my Vietnam memoir, Miller said it was not going to work and I should consider writing it as a novel.

Miller was a tough taskmaster with a short fuse. She was NOT an advocate of fluffing up a sense of false self-esteem with warm fuzzies and was not into, “Let’s all have fun and follow our dreams.”

She was a tough and sometimes harsh critic. Miller understood that for most individuals to stand a chance to achieve his or her dream would require dedication and discipline in addition to never stop learning the craft of writing.

I recall that I revised one chapter more than thirty times and Miller lost patience more than once with me for taking so long to fix the problems in that chapter.

Moreover, I wanted to include as much reality as possible in the novel, so I borrowed from my experiences in Vietnam, the experiences of my fellow Marines, and what I discovered about the war later.

For example, early in 1966, a Marine in my unit, a cook, murdered the father of a Vietnamese adolescent that he either raped or paid to have sex with him. The cook claimed that he found the girl working in a rice paddy and offered her fifty US dollars to have sex with him. He said she agreed and while they were in the act, the girl’s father caught them. Later, the girl would identify the cook as her father’s murderer in a lineup, and he was convicted and sentenced to twenty years to life in a federal prison. At least, that’s what we were told, and then the cook was gone—shipped out.

That cook wasn’t the only American soldier to rape and/or murder innocent Vietnamese citizens.

Continued on June 21, 2012 in From Memoir to Novel – the metamorphosis of a manuscript about war as hell – Part 2

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”