Shadows of Saigon is a work of fiction based upon real people and factual events during the Vietnam War. The book covers the time period from the American Invasion of Cambodia in May 1970 to May 1971 when Vietnamization and U. S. troop withdrawals are well underway. During this time, the Vietnam War takes a major swing westward into the neighboring country of Cambodia. Shadows of Saigon is a compelling story of a young man who for various reasons leaves his chosen profession and the woman he loves to volunteer for service in the U. S. Air Force. The setting of the story revolves around Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. Former teacher, Lieutenant Paul Knight is fresh from officer’s school and pilot training in Texas. He volunteers for Air Commando duty in the AC-119 Shadow gunship. Reporting for duty with the 17th Special Operations Squadron in Vietnam, he is assigned to Fighting C Flight at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon. It is not long after American ground troops are withdrawn from Cambodia that Charlie Flight with its five fixed-wing gunships is assigned the task of providing twenty-four hour air support for the Cambodian Army. Flying antiquated, propeller-driven transport planes converted to attack-gunships, the Air Commandos are designated with the radio call sign "Shadow". The Shadows are accustomed to hiding in the darkness of night on combat missions, but now they must also operate during the day. The big black warplane becomes a most inviting target for enemy gunners as it flies low and slow to encircle the enemy with four side-firing Gatling guns that rain death. Knight and his fellow Air Commandos deal with the increased dangers of flying missions eye-to-eye with the enemy in broad daylight.Knight's chances of surviving his twelve-month tour of duty in Southeast Asia lessen with each combat mission. He soon learns that the gunship he pilots is not always reliable and that the monsoon season creates extremely hazardous combat flying conditions. No larger than the State of Missouri, Cambodia is a hotbed for U. S. air operations. Twenty-four hours a day, Shadow gunships from Saigon rotate every four hours to provide continual close fire support for the Cambodians. From the provincial capitals of Prey Veng, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap and the ancient ruins of Angkor to the nation's capital city of Phnom Penh and the nation's major seaport at Kompong Som, Shadows of Saigon are hell-bent to provide uninterrupted direct air support for the newly formed Republic of Cambodia. Knight's world of war ranges from sheer boredom to stark terror. It constantly transitions back and forth between the relatively safe sanctum of Tan Son Nhut and the dangerous combat environment over hostile enemy territory in Cambodia and Laos. Laying his life on the line for an unpopular and seemingly never-ending war, Knight struggles with his convictions that motivated him to volunteer for service. He wrestles with fears of getting killed or captured. With the enticement of Saigon just outside the gates of Tan Son Nhut, Knight takes advantage of the city to escape the rigors of war. Knight meets and eventually falls in love with a Eurasian war correspondent from Paris. She hates the Americans and what they have done to Vietnam. Three of Knight's pilot training buddies are also stationed in Vietnam. Their paths cross frequently as they too face the realities of war and the possibility of never returning home alive. Killer Dameron pilots AC-119G Shadow gunships along with Knight at Tan Son Nhut. He rejects his past life to become a renegade obsessed with killing the enemy. Joseph Eric Thomas, better known as JET, flies AC-119K Stinger gunships that carry much greater firepower than its sister-ship, Shadow. Youngblood is stationed at Phan Rang where he flies F-100 fighter/bombers.
About Elton Fletcher
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Published February 4, 2003
War, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Action & Adventure, History.