Legend: A Harrowing Story from the Vietnam War of One Green Beret’s Heroic Mission to Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Behind Enemy Lines
By Eric Blehm
Audio CD Read by Fred Sanders
Published by Random House Audio April 2015
Eight compact disks, approximately nine hours
In 1968, during the height of the Vietnam War, Cambodia was officially neutral and neither side in the neighboring struggle was to operate within its’ borders. Unofficially, Cambodia was a major base and supply route for the NVA and Viet Cong and a safe haven from which to strike the South. U.S. operations into Cambodia were officially forbidden and publicly denied by U.S. politicians. They were also a daily occurrence for the Studies and Observations Group (SOG) and the Army Aviation units which supported them.
In May of 1968, one of these operations went bad. A twelve-man SOG team had been inserted near a busy section of the Ho Chi Min Trail with the mission to capture a Russian truck and return it to South Vietnam, thus conclusively proving the NVA presence. Unknown to them, their insertion point was right on top of the lager area of a large NVA unit with overwhelming numbers and numerous defensive positions. The SOG team was surrounded by a superior enemy force, cut off from extraction and had soon taken casualties.
As the title implies, Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez is a legend. While not assigned to the mission, he monitored the engagement by radio and boarded a helicopter which was departing in one of the many attempts to rescue the survivors. Benavidez jumped into the landing zone the team was trying to get out of, armed only with a knife and a medical bag. For the next six hours he organized and fought with the team, providing medical aid and calling in airstrikes until the men could be rescued. He was shot seven times, bayoneted, clubbed, and had numerous fragmentation wounds, but was credited with saving the lives of eight men.
The first two disks detail Benavidez’ hard childhood and early Army service life, including his 1965 deployment to Vietnam which almost left him paralyzed. Disk three provides the political background to the situation in Cambodia. Disk four begins with the insertion of the SOG team. Author Blehm has obviously done a vast amount of research and interviews with the surviving team members and aviation personnel involved, the descriptions of the actions are detailed and from several perspectives. The book concludes with the efforts of journalists and supporters who campaigned to have Benavidez’ Distinguished Service Cross upgraded to the Congressional Medal of Honor, which was eventually awarded by President Ronald Regan in 1981.
This book is a great tale of bravery and personal determination in overcoming incredible obstacles, recommended without reservation.