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Legend: The Incredible Story of Green Beret Sergeant Roy Benavidez's Heroic Mission to Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Behind Enemy Lines Kindle Edition
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The true story of the U.S. Army’s 240th Assault Helicopter Company and a Green Beret Staff Sergeant's heroic mission to rescue a Special Forces team trapped behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War, from New York Times bestselling author Eric Blehm.
On May 2, 1968, a twelve-man Special Forces team covertly infiltrated a small clearing in the jungles of neutral Cambodia—where U.S. forces were forbidden to operate. Their objective, just miles over the Vietnam border, was to collect evidence that proved the North Vietnamese Army was using the Cambodian sanctuary as a major conduit for supplying troops and materiel to the south via the Ho Chi Minh Trail. What the team didn’t know was that they had infiltrated a section of jungle that concealed a major enemy base. Soon they found themselves surrounded by hundreds of NVA, under attack, low on ammunition, stacking the bodies of the dead as cover in a desperate attempt to survive the onslaught.
When Special Forces Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez heard their distress call, he jumped aboard the next helicopter bound for the combat zone. What followed would become legend in the Special Operations community. Flown into the foray of battle by the 240th Assault Helicopter Company, Benavidez jumped from the hovering aircraft, ran nearly 100 yards through withering enemy fire, and--despite being immediately and severely wounded--organized an extraordinary defense and rescue of the Special Forces team.
Written with extensive access to family members, surviving members of the 240th Assault Helicopter Company, on-the-ground eye-witness accounts never before published, as well as recently discovered archival, and declassified military records, Blehm has created a riveting narrative both of Roy Benavidez’s life and career, and of the inspiring, almost unbelievable events that defined the brotherhood of the air and ground warriors in an unpopular war halfway around the world. Legend recounts the courage and commitment of those who fought in Vietnam in service of their country, and the story of one of the many unsung heroes of the war.
“Roy Benavidez is a real badass, a modern day Spartan, the heart of what every warrior prays for when everything goes wrong.”
——MARCUS LUTTRELL, retired Navy SEAL and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Lone Survivor
“I fought beside and led U.S. Special Operations soldiers, sailors, and airmen during three wars— World War II, Korea, and Vietnam—including the men [of SOG] depicted in Legend. Never have I read a more powerfully honest, realistic, or moving account of the war in Southeast Asia. Eric Blehm masterfully encapsulates the hearts of the men, their impossible mission, and the quagmire of politics of the era and wraps it up in a single bloody battle that portrays the American fighting man at his best.”
——MAJOR GENERAL JOHN K. (JACK) SINGLAUB, U.S. Army (Ret.)
“Legend may be the most important book ever written about the men of Special Operations. It brings to life in touching and brutal detail one of Special Operations Force’s first true heroes as well as the other heroic men who fought and died with him in the jungles of Cambodia. Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez represented the best of the quiet professionals whose incredible actions were long overlooked and lost to history only to be rediscovered through Blehm’s painstaking research and magnificent writing.”
——LIEUTENANT COLONEL JASON AMERINE, U.S. Army Special Forces
"[Legend] is one of the most honest and engrossing narratives of the war I have ever read…. Blehm faithfully describes the complicated choreography of war, and shows us why the Congressional Medal of Honor was bestowed on Sergeant Benavidez for his actions. A magnificent narrative, painstakingly told by a master storyteller."
——MAJ. GEN. PAUL VALLELY
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
This story begins in a U.S. government–issued body bag.
The date was May 2, 1968; the location, Loc Ninh Special Forces camp near the Cambodian border in South Vietnam. Inside the zippered tomb lay a stocky, five-foot-six-inch U.S. Army Green Beret staff sergeant named Roy Benavidez. Earlier that day he had jumped from a hovering helicopter, then ran through withering enemy gunfire to reach what remained of an American-led twelve-man Special Forces team surrounded by hundreds of North Vietnamese Army soldiers.
A few strides into his heroic dash, a bullet passed through his leg and knocked him off his feet. Determined to reach his comrades, he rose and continued his sprint, zigzagging through enemy fire for almost seventy-five yards before he went down again, this time from the explosion of a near-miss rocket-propelled grenade. Ignoring both the bullet and shrapnel wounds, he crawled the remaining few yards into the beleaguered team’s perimeter, took control, provided medical aid, and positioned the remaining men to fight back the endless waves of attacking NVA while he called in dangerously close air support.
For the next several hours, Benavidez saved the lives of eight men during fierce, at times hand-to-hand combat before allowing himself to be the last man pulled into a helicopter that had finally made it to the ground amidst the relentless onslaught. There he collapsed motionless, atop a pile of wounded and dying men. His body—a torn-up canvas of bullet holes, shrapnel wounds, bayonet lacerations, punctures, burns, and bruises—pasinted a bloody portrait of his valor that day.
For nearly a decade his story, and the story of the May 2 battle, remained untold. That was until Fred Barbee, a newspaper publisher from Benavidez’s hometown of El Campo, Texas, got wind of it and ran a cover story in the El Campo Leader-News on February 22, 1978. The intent of his article was twofold: to honor Benavidez by recounting his heroics and to berate the Senior Army Decorations Board for its staunch refusal to bestow upon Benavidez what Barbee believed was a long-overdue and unfairly denied Congressional Medal of Honor.
Barbee wanted to know what the holdup was. His tireless research elicited few answers from the Decorations Board, whose anonymous members, he quickly learned, answered to no one—not congressional representatives, not colonels (two of whom had lobbied for Sergeant Benavidez), and certainly not a small-town newspaper publisher.
But Barbee wouldn’t let it go. He was perplexed when the board cited “no new evidence” as its most recent reason for denying the medal, when in fact there was plenty of new evidence. Topping the list was an updated statement written by Benavidez’s commanding officer, citing previously unknown facts that corroborated the sergeant’s legendary actions. There was also testimony from the helicopter pilots and aircrews who witnessed the battle from the air or listened in on the radio as events transpired. According to the board, although these accounts were compelling, there was no eyewitness testimony from anybody on the ground. This criterion seemed impossible to meet; almost nobody on the ground May 2 had survived either that day or the war. The few who had were off the grid, having either become expatriates or burned their uniforms and melted into an American populace that more often than not had shamed them for their service in Vietnam.
“What, then, happened on that awful day…in the Republic of Vietnam?” Barbee questioned in his article. “Or, perhaps this particular action on May 2, 1968, actually took place outside the boundaries of Vietnam, perhaps in an area where U.S. forces were not supposed to be, perhaps that is the reason for the continuing runaroundnn….”
The Associated Press picked up Barbee’s article, and it circulated into some of the American news sections of international papers. By July of 1980, it had traveled halfway around the world to the South Pacific, finding its way into the hands of a retired Green Beret and Vietnam veteran who was living in Fiji with his wife and two young children.
Brian O’Connor immediately recognized the date in the article, May 2, 1968; the hours-long battle was his worst, most horrific memory from what was known as “the secret war.” He remembered being under a pile of bodies on a helicopter, slippery with blood and suffocating. Now, as he read the story, O’Connor was appalled to learn that Benavidez had never received the Medal of Honor. He knew he would have to revisit and recount his memory of the battle—in detail. He owed it to the man who had, against all odds, saved his life.
Determined to set the record straight, O’Connor dated a sheet of paper July 24, 1980, and addressed it to the Army Decorations Board:
“This statement,” O’Connor wrote, “on the events that happened on 2 May 1968 is given as evidence to assist the decision made on awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez. Because of the classified nature of the mission, some important details will be left out which should not in any way affect the outcome of the award.”
Page after page, the darkness flowed from his pen as O’Connor relived the nightmarish day. From the insertion of his twelve-man team deep behind enemy lines to the desperate hours when they were surrounded and vastly outnumbered by what many estimated was a battalion or more of well-armed North Vietnamese Army soldiers. He pieced together the torn and sometimes blurry snapshots from his memory, recounting the deaths of his teammates one by one, as well as the several helicopter rescue attempts beaten back by a determined enemy that was on the verge of overrunning their position:
The interpreter, who now had his arm hanging on to the shoulder by a hunk of muscle and skin, tugged at me to say the ATL [assistant team leader] wanted me. Firing and rolling on my side, I saw the ATL on his emergency radio and I nodded my head and the ATL hollered to me “ammo—ammo—grenades.” Stripping the two dead CIDG [Civilian Irregular Defense Group, the South Vietnamese Special Forces] of their ammo and grenades, I moved a meter or two, where I threw the clips and grenades to a CIDG, who in turn threw them to the ATL. During the minute or two of calm, the interpreter and I patched our wounds, injected morphine syrettes, tied off his arm with a tourniquet, and ran an IV of serum of albumin in my arm for blood loss…while the one remaining CIDG observed for enemy movement. I looked over to the ATL, and they were doing about the same thing…. We had another few seconds of silence and the ATL shouted, “they’re coming in.” I figured a final assault to overrun us and we prepared for the worst…. I caught a burst of auto fire in the abdomen and the radio was shot out. I was put out of commission and just laid behind [a] body firing at the NVA in the open field until the ammo ran out….
I was ready to die.
- ASIN : B00N6PETF8
- Publisher : Crown (April 28, 2015)
- Publication date : April 28, 2015
- Language : English
- File size : 39595 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 277 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #83,047 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Choppers are crashing and crews dying in the many attempt to reach the beleaguered troops. The action Roy takes is beyond belief and readers will be awed by his calmness and determination to get everybody back to safety. The story continues to describe the rest of the battle and their eventual evacuation from the LZ. Only a few survived. Benavidez was tagged in triage and left with the other dead bodies stacked outside of the hospital because of so much damage to his body. Miraculously, he garnered enough strength and fortitude to spit at the orderly who almost finished zippering him up in a black body bag. When discovering that Roy was alive, they rushed to save his life. He spent over a year convalescing from his injuries, and remained in San Antonio to be close to his family. Afterward, he continued in active service in the Army until his eventual retirement.
Roy deserved the Medal of Honor for his actions that day, however, his involvement in Cambodia was top secret, and instead, the Dept. of the Army awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross - a step below the MOH. SF soldiers were sworn to secrecy and agreed not to expose anything about their missions or locations for thirty years. The penalty for doing so is a dishonorable discharge, large fine and imprisonment.
Ten years later, those who survived the battle wrote reports that detailed Roy's actions during that fateful day in hopes of reversing the decision regarding Roy's MOH, yet the Army refused to upgrade it. Others continued the effort and when an eye witness came forward - one who Roy thought perished and vice-versa, and his testimony tipped the scales. The MOH was awarded for his actions in a battle west of a town in South Vietnam and Cambodia was not inferred.
This is a great read with a lot of detail of the actual events. Roy was quoted in the book, "that day was filled with heroes, all trying very hard to save this team, unfortunately, many of them did not survive the battle." The last third of the book will keep you reading until the end! RIP Roy Benavidez! Thank you Eric Blehm for a great story!
John Podlaski, author
'Cherries - A Vietnam War Novel' and 'When Can I Stop Running?'
He had a rough start in life after his father died of TB, then his mother died of TB and his stepfather wanted nothing to do with him and his brother. Thanks to his mother who contacted his uncle before she died, his uncle took him in, adding to the eight children already in the family.
I can't believe I may have been undergoing training during the same time he was at Ft Bragg, N.C., and was in VN when he was, but I only recently learned about him.
The fact that he did what he did, saving the lives of eight men, USSF, chopper pilots, door gunners, and VN, without getting killed is a miracle in itself. When they unloaded the choppers, they found three dead NVA he accidentally saved. (The USSF and CIDG were wearing NVA uniforms.)
The sad part is how long it took to give him the Medal of Honor because the Army didn't want to admit the action took place in Cambodia when the president and politicians kept claiming no US personnel were there.
A well-written book that is hard to put down when the action gets hot!
However, the author of this book really did a lot of heavy research and it seems like he had the freedom to publish information that was previously considered classified. It really takes you deep into the technical aspects of how extremely dangerous and complex missions are run in the special operations communities.
The book does get a bit heavy at times with the timelines of the missions. I had to write names down on a separate piece of paper, so that I could keep up with the many players and aspects of the missions; who was who, who did what, etc. The provided maps are really needed for the reader to understand the information the author presents, which can be overwhelming and dense from a technical standpoint.
It is really an excellent book. Quite frankly I am surprised this story has not being picked up for a movie. It is extremely moving from a personal point of view and it provides an incredible amount of light about many aspects of the Vietnam war that many people are probably still unaware of after so many decades.
Top reviews from other countries
A true hero, one who took his oath to heart and put others safety before his own.
He truly deserved his medal.