Five Fingers

By Gayle Rivers

I, too, have read this book many times, though it has been a while since the last time. I don't know whether Gayle Rivers had the background he claimed to have, but his books were certainly exceptional in avoiding the simplistic nonsense that most fiction--especially movies--demonstrates.

As for some of the criticism that was leveled at this book in other reviews:

1) Spec-ops soldiers are known for carrying huge amounts of gear. If you don't take it with you, you don't have it. In a combat zone, ammo is much more comforting than food. Read some books by guys like J.C. Pollock. Especially back when all they had available for the M16 were 20-round magazines, people carried as many as they could. Rudy, the SEAL who first became widely known on Survivor, mentioned in an interview one time that he was happy to test a rifle for Heckler and Koch primarily because it had 40-round mags instead of 20-rounders. In an age where politicians don't want you to have more than ten rounds, it is sometimes forgotten that it is better to end a gunfight with ammo left over than to run out in the middle and have to dig out a reload when your heart is beating out of your chest.

2) The violence may be disturbing, but blowing bodies apart with bullets, shrapnel and bombs is a pretty disturbing thing in the real world, too--not to mention using a knife on them, getting arterial spray all over yourself and not being able to wash it off for days.

3) Covert movement in a place like Vietnam in the middle of a war is not the same as covert movement in a European capitol city. Just because someone hears an exchange of gunfire, that doesn't mean that there's a Western special forces unit nearby. Hearing gun battles was an unfortunate reality for decades over there.

4) In the special forces, you're expected to know what you are doing. Sometimes it is easier to see if people will get along when the bullets aren't flying. Once they do start flying, training and a desire for self-preservation take over and help you work together. It's better to be with someone you can't stand who is shooting in the same direction you are than to get shot by the people shooting at you.

5) Maybe it is fiction, marketed as reality. On the other hand, it was the Special Forces themselve who started wearing green berets to differentiate themselves from regular forces. It is an impractical head covering. But why would they be offended if someone called them a Green Beret? They're the ones who started it. As for the character being arrogant, there's a streak of that in most people who excel in special ops. It isn't that they are necessarily trying to act like they're better than everybody else, it's just that they know it down inside.

Anyway, I wasn't there. But a search of history will show you some really strange stories that take place in war--especially one that goes on as long as Vietnam. People come up with strange ideas, and the ones who come up with them are usually not the ones who are going to die if they go wrong. So, why not give it a go?

Frank L. Richmond