Richard Botkin, author of “Ride the Thunder,” a new Vietnam history with a unique twist – a happy and inspiring ending, will be featured Sunday on “Book TV,” a weekend-long look at some of the nation’s most important nonfiction books.
The 24-minute profile was filmed at the Marine Heritage Museum in Triangle, Va., and includes an appearance by Col. Gerry Turley, one of the soldiers profiled in Botkin’s book. The “Ride the Thunder” segment will air on C-SPAN2, Sunday, Oct. 11, at 5:30 p.m. ET.
Botkin’s book has been an instant hit with booksellers and reviewers, Vietnam vets and the South Vietnamese community in the U.S. The book reveals the heroic and largely untold story of how Vietnamese Marines and their U.S. advisers actually were winning the Vietnam War.
Marine Capt. Botkin toured battlefields in Vietnam and has chronicled the Vietnamese military organization called TQLC, whose members, with their American advisers, “fought, bled, endured and triumphed against communism.”
Botkin tells the story of Capt. John Ripley’s daring raid to destroy the Dong Ha Bridge; Maj. Le Ba Binh and his seven hundred Marines bravely holding off more than 20,000 North Vietnamese troops; Lt. Col. Gerry Turley’s leadership and bravery that helped thwart the Easter Offensive – and much more.
In an earlier exclusive interview with WND, Botkin explained how he believes what Americans know about the end of the Vietnam War is wrong – because they were 8,000 miles away and were told only one side of the story.
“From the American side, I think most people have a completely uninformed or misinformed opinion of the Vietnam War,” Botkin told WND. “Most Americans, including people who served in Vietnam, didn’t appreciate the level of sacrifice of the South Vietnamese. These people love freedom.”
He documents how the Viet Cong, a band of communist guerrillas in South Vietnam, blended in with the civilian population and even posed as police officers. Known for their stealth and deception, they often poisoned wells and intimidated civilians into silence, forcing them to endure classes of communist propaganda and indoctrination.
Also, soldiers of the communist North Vietnamese Army, or NVA, routinely attacked thousands of helpless civilian refugees – including young women, elderly citizens and crying children – with intentional and indiscriminate artillery fire. In 1968, communists murdered between 3,000 and 6,000 innocent civilians and buried them in mass graves. Families endured pain, suffering, and indignities that many Americans might never imagine while communists released propaganda readily consumed by Western critics of the Vietnam War.
See WND’s exclusive video interview with “Ride the Thunder” author Richard Botkin:
Botkin writes about the propaganda that was issued by the communists – and snapped up by Western media. Such media demonization of U.S. and South Vietnamese efforts played a role in turning the tide of American support for the war, he said.
Many times, correspondents conveyed the idea that the enemy had networks of tunnels and hideouts, with Viet Cong fighters running rampant in jungles and lurking in villages. While the press gave many Americans a feeling that Marines and soldiers were always in harm’s way, the Republic of Vietnam’s fledgling democracy was beginning, by 1966, to show progress and promise.
Botkin wrote that by 1968 the ongoing struggle to win American hearts and minds through television in the country’s living rooms was not going well, and the enemy used the Western media’s depressing war coverage to their advantage.
Botkin noted that American media and movies often still portray the Vietnamese as corrupt, weak, effete and treasonous rather than people who were fighting for their freedom. But he said “Ride the Thunder” reveals the untold inspirational story the media neglected – one of friendship, bravery, patriotism and courage.
On Jan. 23, 1973, President Nixon proclaimed “Peace with Honor” in his televised speech to the world.
“We used that as a cover to disengage,” Botkin said. “History is replete with examples of communists only abiding by treaties that are to their advantage and shrugging them off every other time. It was the honorable exit, or ‘Peace with Honor’ – even though there was no honor and no peace.”
Read WND columnist Jim Fletcher’s review of “Ride the Thunder” and his other Writer’s Bloc commentary and book reviews on the new, WND Diversions page