What They’re Saying About
Mike Five Eight
Review: Baggy Zero Four and Mike Five Eight: Air War Over Cambodia
The literature dedicated to the Vietnam War runs the gamut from concise military histories to incoherent, babbling, anti-war, anti-America diatribes. This broad spectrum of purview concerning the conflict makes developing a clear understanding of Vietnam difficult at best; especially for those too young to have served in Southeast Asia or those whose only information about the conflict comes via America’s troubled public school systems. America’s Vietnam experience seems destined to forever remain an enigma wrapped in a riddle. Fortunately, we have the literary mastery of Lieutenant Colonel Rocky Raab to help us unravel the mysteries that have so long clouded our understanding of what Vietnam was and why it still troubles us so.
In the pages of Baggy Zero Four and Mike Five Eight: Air War Over Cambodia, the author brings the sights, sounds, and smells of Vietnam to life—vivid, Technicolor, terror filled life! Unlike the critically acclaimed text of Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War, which leaves the distinct impression of a whiny REMF lamenting the interruption of his collegiate experience, or Tim O’Brien’s broadly hailed If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Send Me Home, that is far too much a flight into sophomoric literary license, Lt. Colonel Raab’s volumes magically blend fact and fiction into concise portrayal of what the Vietnam experience was for those who fought and died there.
From the initial, “world had farted in his face. . . garbage gelatin: smothering . . . sewage, dead fish, diesel smoke and jet exhaust” envelopment to the whispering of “I am home. Just like I promised,” greeting to his loving wife at the end of his second tour of duty, Raab’s alter ego Lt. “Rusty” Naille takes the reader on a whirlwind trip through the emotional peaks and valleys of Vietnam. One becomes mesmerized by the tales from the life of one of Vietnam’s most intrepid Forward Air Controllers as he did his part to insure the success of the clandestine Special Operations missions along the border of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Raab’s well-constructed prose shares the stark terror of antiaircraft fire, ambush, and foul weather flying and the bonds forged among the FACS and Green Berets with the reader in a way few other texts can match. The pinging of bullets off the aluminum panels of the lowly but generally reliable Cessnas to the gnawing grief of loosing a fellow FAC draws one deeper and deeper into the Vietnam experience. These elements are reinforced by the poignant appreciation of the small things in life such as Lt. Naille’s tearful reaction to a glass of milk and a heartfelt “thanks” from a Honolulu waitress during his R&R visit back to the World. If one reads and takes to heart Raab’s words then they cannot help but to learn and better understand what Vietnam was and how it forever impacted the lives of the men and their families who served there.
I heartily recommend Baggy Zero Four and Mike Five Eight: Air War Over Cambodia to anyone with an interest in better understanding what Vietnam was all about.
Joseph Shannon Parsons
Adjunct Instructor of History
Appalachian State University