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On the other side; 23 days with the Viet Cong.

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Reviews of On the other side; 23 days with the Viet Cong.

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BernWei1aolcom

"Twenty Three Days of Pure Hell!"

by BernWei1aolcom on Jul 10, 2011

Written by Bernie Weisz Historian/Vietnam War May 28, 2010 Pembroke Pines, Florida contact: BernWei1@aol.com Title of Review: "Twenty Three Days Of Pure Hell!" This book, "On The Other Side:23 Days With The Viet Cong" by Kate Webb, sharply contrasts another book called "The Massacre at Hue" by Alij Vennema. Webb's book shows a humanistic side of the Viet Cong that is hard to picture after Vennema's description the Viet Cong's "blood debt" they extracted from the citizens of the beleaguered citizens of Hue during and immediately following the January, 1968 Tet Offensive. In that scenario, the V.C. and North Vietnamese Army executed almost 1000 citizens of Hue, with their only crime being that they cooperated with the South Vietnamese Government in one form or another. School teachers, lawyers, tutors, social workers, religious clergy etc. with any connection to the "The-KY" South Vietnamese/American camp were executed and buried in unmarked, mass graves. "On The Other Side" is the story of a UPI reporter named Kate Webb, a 28 year old woman originally from New Zealand. To understand this review, I would like to preface it with some background to the subject. Cambodia during the Vietnam War tried to stay neutral. It's ruler, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, tried to keep a balance between the U.S. on one side, and North Vietnam and China on the other. In fact, he detailed his ordeal in his memoir entitled: "My War With The CIA;: The Memoirs of Prince Norodom Sihanouk." Sihanouk allowed 50,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong to create base areas on the Cambodia-South Vietnamese border, but these troops were never to stray more than a few miles from it. Sihanouk warned the NVA not to play too rough in his country and at the same time warned South Vietnam and the U.S. to keep out when they tried to attack VC border sanctuaries in Cambodia. Trying to "play both sides of the fence," Sihanouk's act would fail. NVA and VC bases actually increased, and Sihanouk allowed U.S. B-52 bombing raids on the Communist base areas. Webb does a good job of describing her captors, the Viet Cong. We learn of their "impressive discipline", their "history/propaganda lessons", their (what Webb describes as) "think positive training" (one must know what to do if the U.S. comes, then there is nothing to be afraid of). Webb also writes of the V.C's jokes and their talk of victory. The climax of this book is the V.C. interrogations, where the V.C. realize that Webb and her associates have no military nor intelligence value as independent journalists. It is interesting to read how Webb describes to her captors why she was at Highway 4 during a pitched battle knowing she might be killed. Webb explained it to the V.C. as a burning "quest for the truth". Also, Webb relates her thoughts after a U.S. B-52 airstrike: "The guards with some amusement told us the bombing had stopped. We were so shaken we still lay there sheltering our heads with our hands-as if that would have done any good. I looked up into the bright moon towards the sound of retreating bombers. "Have a beer for me, when you get back," I thought wondering how many allied prisoners had died like that. Maybe the only goodbye they would have said would have been to the men that killed them." There is a second quote that deserves mention. After a survived strafing from attacking U.S. Cobra gunships (the P.O.W's were dressed in black pajamas-the "uniform" of the V.C.) Webb related: "I envisioned what I had seen one hundred times from helicopters and observation planes-tiny black stick figures breaking into a run at the approach of the "machine in the sky". The chatter of 30, or sometimes 50 caliber machine gun or the whoosh of "willey peter" (white phosphorus rockets), and the black figures lay dead like ants. Up there you don't see their faces, unless you are really up on a close support mission. If someone shot me now, I'd be on a U.S. "body count". No one would investigate the black figures sprawled on the ground. The pilots and door gunners would be tense keeping high worrying about ground fire or fuel, their ears tuned to the tiny sounds in the pulsing engine roar that would signal danger. Their nerves would be strung around themselves, around the words "crashed and burned-all four crew members killed in action". Down here it was more like a W.W. II cartoon of London during the blitz, all ears stretched to the sky. I wished my clothes were blue or green or gray or brown, anything but black". Incidentally, "On The Other Side" starts with Webb's obituary from the N.Y. times dated April 21, 1971 and ends with her release 23 days later. In between these pages are incredible anecdotes, most notably her remembrance of her coverage of a particular marine company in South Vietnam. Webb wrote: "I remembered an evening on the north coast of South Vietnam called Batangan Peninsula, where the marine company I was with lost 18 men in three days to mines. All 18 had one or two of their feet blown off. The whole company wore their dog tags on their boots in the vain hope that if it hit their foot it could be picked up, matched, and some surgeon could work a miracle". Another story she dealt with was the problem of menstruation in captivity, where she was given parachute silk by her captors to alleviate her problem. Webb recounted: "My attention was diverted from an unleashed flood of doubts and hopes that afternoon by the uncomfortable knowledge that I needed a tampax. I asked for the "pony tailed woman" in camp, only to be told by the guard that she'd gotten a fever and left. I was embarrassed and bemused. I'd never make a jungle heroine. Wonder what the women in Dachau did or the women in Japanese P.O.W. camps? I debated tearing up my jeans, but vetoed the idea. Too precious to sacrifice to embarrassment".

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BernWei1aolcom

Twenty Three Days of Pure Hell!

Written by Bernie Weisz Historian/Vietnam War May 28, 2010 Pembroke Pines, Florida contact: BernWei1@aol.com Title of Review: "Twenty Three Days Of Pure Hell!" This book, "On The Other Side:23 Days With The Viet Cong" by Kate Webb, sharply contrasts another book called "The Massacre at Hue" by Alij ... Read more

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