Tiger Force Book Review

15 Apr

Tiger Force; A true story of Men and War

By Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss

Tiger Force is a book that exposes the atrocities of the Army unit of the same name, which operated for a period in the Vietnam War.

While the spotlight is on the Tiger Forces actions, the book connect a web for the reader to see the greater scale implicated as the cause of these actions.

First, that Tiger Force was itself a part of an imprudent and reckless overall strategy for the Vietnam War. That the higher levels of political and military command in both Vietnam and the United States imagined that they simply had to produce a high body count and pay no care or concern to the effects of their strategy on the friendly and neutral segments of the local population shows a complete lack of regard for human reality.

The use of such strategy was not only ineffective, but rather counter-productive. These methods were allowed to continue solely due to stubbornness. Without accountability or the willingness to question the overall strategy and goals, problems were allowed to continue until they simply ran into the wall they were lined up against in the first place.

As for Tiger Force itself, its atrocities are horrifying, worse than any acts by U.S. forces in the war. As it’s said in the book, My Lai was just one day, this was 7 months.

What made these soldiers shoot unarmed civilians and prisoners, collect ears and scalps, and in one case sever the head of an infant child?

Was it PTSD, did the suffering experiences of combat push them over the edge? The authors tell the story as it happened and there are instances of traumatic stress and retribution taking place.

Again we see the theme of lack of accountability. When soldiers reported the atrocities up the chain of command they were told to let it go. While leadership ignored the reports, even more shocking is the lack of concern by those committing these crimes in the field.

As Sam Ybarra and William Doyle receive attention for being the most vicious and enthusiastic killers in Tiger Force, it is worth noting that both had criminal arrest records and/or problems with authority/runs in with the law, long before enlisting in the Army. The same could be said for Ybarra’s friend Ken Green, while for other such as Terrence Kerrigan, who once had dreams of attending law school at UCLA, got into the act and befriended the likes of Ybarra and Green. Still for others such as Lt. James Hawkins and Sgt. Harold Trout, potential problems weren’t as obviously displayed.

Still for all of Tiger Force’s bad apples, there were many who attempted to have the situation handled only to be frustrated.

To go on a slight tangent, it’s interesting the way the PTSD story of Vietnam and Tiger Force is being replayed with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The story is as misdirected now as it was disregarded then.

Contemporary instances of veteran’s causing trouble at home leads to the immediate mentioning of PTSD as the cause, by those in the media both locally and nationally.

What’s left out of the news report is that the soldiers who’ve lost it in these occasions aren’t exactly hardened combat veterans, but more likely just run of the mill screw-ups who have the same arrest record, and drug and alcohol abuse problems as the screw-ups who didn’t enlist.

That’s not to say that PTSD doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem, but that it makes for more attractive headlines than “Chronic Screw-Up, Picks Fight with Police Again”.

For a clearer picture of the truth on events involving veterans and PTSD “cases” in the media, visit http://thisainthell.us for an accurate biography/history of the person in question. Their use of reliable sources and familiarity (read: competency) with military issues is conspicuously absent in the mainstream media.

Back to the book, Tiger Force is an interesting read for a look at some of the worst acts of the Vietnam War and the follow-up criminal investigation, all set against the general background of that period of time. While an easy book to read, Tiger Force may challenge readers who lack knowledge of the Vietnam War beyond the typical pop-culture, classroom repetition.

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