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:

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

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:

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.

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