One of the Vietnam War's most closely guarded secrets-a highly classified U.S. radar base in the mountains of neutral Laos-led to the disappearance of a small group of elite military personnel, a loss never fully acknowledged by the American government. Now, thirty years later, one book recounts the harrowing story-and offers some measure of closure on this decades-old mystery. Because of the covert nature of the mission at Lima Site 85-providing bombing instructions to U.S. Air Force tactical aircraft from the "safe harbor" of a nation that was supposedly neutral-the wives of the eleven servicemen were warned in no uncertain terms never to discuss the truth about their husbands. But one wife, Ann Holland, refused to remain silent. Timothy Castle draws on her personal records and recollections as well as upon a wealth of interviews with surviving servicemen and recently declassified information to tell the full story. The result is a tale worthy of Tom Clancy but told by a scholar with meticulous attention to historical accuracy.
More than just an account of government deception, One Day Too Long is the story of the courageous men who agreed to put their lives in danger to perform a critical mission in which they could not be officially acknowledged. Indeed the personnel at Site 85 agreed to be "sheep-dipped"-removed from their military status and technically placed in the employ of a civilian company. Castle reveals how the program, code-named "Heavy Green," was conceived and approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government. In spine tingling detail, he describes the selection of the men and the construction and operation of the radar facility on a mile-high cliff in neutral Laos, even as the North Vietnamese Army began encircling the mountain. He chronicles the communist air attack on Site 85, the only such aerial bombing of the entire Vietnam War. A saga of courage, cover-up, and intrigue One Day Too Long tells how, in a shocking betrayal of trust, for thirty years the U.S. government has sought to hide the facts and now seeks to acquiesce to perfidious Vietnamese explanations for the disappearance of eleven good men.
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(229mm x 152mm x 26mm)
Columbia University Press
Publisher: Columbia University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
A combination of history, analysis, investigative journalism, and personal crusade focusing on the fate of nine US air force personnel missing in action in Laos. Castle (At War in the Shadow of Vietnam, not reviewed) is an accomplished historian Whose area of expertise is the American "secret war" in Laos. A Vietnam War veteran, university professor (National Security Studies/Air Univ.), and former Pentagon POW/MIA researcher and investigator, he brings unmatched qualifications to the task of telling the story of Site 85, a secret air force radar base in Laos overrun by the North Vietnamese army in March 1968. Of the 18 men at the base, 7 escaped, 2 were killed, and 9 remain missing. Accounting for the missing was complicated by subsequent American bombing of the site and by the fact that American officials were reluctant to publicize US military actions in putatively neutral Laos. Castle makes an impassioned case that two other factors are also involved: Vietnamese and Lao communist intransigence - what he terms "well-documented deceit and obfuscation" - along with the mistakes and "duplicity" of American military officials, especially the US Air Force and the Pentagon's Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Office. The author does a thorough job of relating the history of Site 85 and gives a conscientious overview of the not-very-secret American war in Laos, concentrating on air force covert activities directing the air war over North Vietnam. The narrative changes direction, however, when Castle switches to the first person and chronicles his involvement in an NBC News documentary on the subject. He deserts his objectivity here for impassioned advocacy. Still, Castle's impressive massing of facts shows why the fate of nine missing Americans will likely never be learned. An unorthodox but effective telling of what the author rightly calls an "ugly chapter of US history." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Timothy N. Castle
Timothy N. Castle served two tours in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, flying over Laos from Nakhon Phanom Air Force Base on thirty-eight combat support missions. Since 1990, he has traveled to Laos frequently as a researcher and senior Department of Defense POW/MIA investigator for Laos, and as a consultant for NBC News. He is senior researcher at the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence. He is also the author of At War in the Shadow of Vietnam (Columbia).