WASHINGTON – The release of the war film, “Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam War Story of Victory and Betrayal,” suddenly is generating new interest and excitement over the critically acclaimed 2009 book that inspired it.
Richard Botkin’s book, “Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam War Story of Honor and Triumph,” has received overwhelmingly superlative reviews at Amazon.com, with 88 percent of readers giving it five stars. Despite being out for several years, the book is skyrocketing now and has become the No. 4 best seller in Military History.
- “Ride the Thunder” is fresh in every respect, well written and often thrilling. Most of it you have never read before. The final pages detailing the years of untold suffering endured by Maj. Le Ba Binh and his family are heart wrenching (and among the best in the book). I heartily recommend Botkin’s book as an antidote to the monographs and storylines heretofore offered up as truth.
- Great story of honor, courage and commitment to something larger than yourself. Botkin has done what I might have thought impossible – get me to keep reading for almost 700 pages and wish there was more when I finished.
- I just finished reading this book and, to be honest, it brought tears to my eyes as I read about the heroism and sacrifice of the brave South Vietnamese and American Marines whose stories are told within its pages. As a Vietnam vet and former U.S. Marine, I found this book truly spellbinding and enlightening. Mr. Botkin is an exceptionally gifted writer who relates his story in a very compelling and entertaining way, filling every page with pathos, historical detail, action and political insight. I personally know several of the participants in Mr. Botkin’s book, and he captures their personalities perfectly and in the most engaging way. … I consider this one of the very best books ever written about the Vietnam War.
But Botkin, a 15-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and executive producer of the film, said introducing the book to new readers is just part of a long battle to educate the American people about the war to save South Vietnam from the Communists.
In an exclusive interview with WND, Botkin observed, “Academia is so controlled by leftists who hate America or are at best indifferent to her. And it’s hard to show the reality that the South Vietnamese were the good guys, not the bad guys.”
For that reason, Botkin is gratified, though not surprised, by the success of the film generated by his book.
“Film is the first way to reach people and hopefully move them to read the book and found out more about what really happened in that war,” he said.
As WND reported, the film, “Ride the Thunder,” reduced audiences to tears with its portrayal of South Vietnamese Marine commander Le Ba Binh, who served 13 years in combat and then suffered for 11 more years in a Communist prison camp after the war.
One Vietnamese-American gentleman who attended the premiere said his brother, a Republic of Vietnam general, was his hero, but he called Botkin his “second hero” for bringing “Ride the Thunder” to the screen and showing the struggles of the South Vietnamese.
Botkin reported “Ride the Thunder” generated more revenue per screen than any film in any theater in the nation. The Vietnamese-American population of California has been especially receptive, providing the film with near constant coverage through Vietnamese language media.
Botkin believes the film version of “Ride the Thunder” will awaken Americans to the sad fate of Vietnamese anti-Communists left to certain defeat after the U.S. government abandoned the war effort. But the full story, he says, is more complicated than anything that can be shown in a film.
“I hope the film will lead people to the book, and the argument of the book is that we abandoned them shamefully. Most people in the know are still embarrassed about it. We guaranteed their defeat by starving them.
“But the reason that happened was because of larger trends in both domestic politics and foreign policy. I always say the biggest victims of Watergate, for example, were the Vietnamese people, because it helped lead to a chain reaction where President Nixon was no longer in office to forcefully respond to the Communists breaking treaty arrangements,” Botkin said.
“There are a lot of intricacies in all of that. You can’t reduce it to sound bites. That’s why the book version of “Ride the Thunder” is so important.”
He said, “The film was inspired by the book and it would not have happened without it, but the book can tell more of the whole story.”
Veterans are rallying to both the film and the book versions of “Ride the Thunder” because they are tired of being portrayed as victims, Botkin said.
But he suggests Americans in general are hungry for a history of the war that doesn’t portray Americans and their allies as dupes or villains.
“I think the film is succeeding and the book is doing well because we nailed it. No. 1, because it’s the truth and people want to hear the truth. And No. 2, the truth is pro-American and pro-Vietnamese, non-Communist Vietnamese.”
Botkin reports theaters already have asked to expand screenings of the film version of “Ride the Thunder,” and the intent of Botkin and his team is to take it nationwide.
And with sales of the book that inspired the film increasing, he has hope Americans may finally begin to understand the true history behind the Vietnam War.
“Most Americans will like it, though the likes of John Kerry and Jane Fonda probably won’t,” he said.
Watch the trailer for the film, which was released on March 27 at the Regency 10 theaters in Westminster, California, where it’s being shown eight times a day for a week: