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The Last Boarding Party The USMC and the SS Mayaguez 1975 (Raid) [Paperback]

Clayton Chun
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

20 Sep 2011 Raid (Book 24)
Just two weeks after the close of the Vietnam War, communist Cambodian Khmer Rouge elements seized the S.S. Mayaguez in international waters. Believing they had to act quickly, United States Marines boarded the ship, only to find the crew had been removed. They then launched an assault on a nearby island where they believed the crew had been taken. Instead of a quick strike against a limited foe, the Marines encountered major opposition and were quickly pinned down. With large numbers of Cambodians closing in all around, the a desperate firefight developed as US forces tried to extract the Marines. This book recounts the bloody struggle on Koh Tang island, as a badly botched hostage rescue turned into a desperate evacuation.

Product details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey (20 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849084254
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849084253
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 18.3 x 0.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 856,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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."..a concise account of a military engagement that includes many photographs, maps, charts, and illustrations. Chun provides a clearly written narrative..." -Marc Leepson, "Books In Brief"

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4.0 out of 5 stars Filling a gap. 13 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Interesting story that fills a gap in my knowledge about this period in American history. It gives an insight to the difficulties that commanders have when there is poor or out dated intelligence, added to the more modern phenomenon of better communications leading to micromanagement of the situation leading to a costly operation.
I enjoyed reading the story, but again find that the kindle format does not lean itself very well to maps . This aside I liked the book and have enjoyed this osprey series.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment 13 Dec 2011
By Koh Tang Dan - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Last Boarding Party by Clayton K.S.Chun

I was recently surprised when a pop-up from Amazon appeared on my computer suggesting I might be iterested in this book. As the President of The Koh Tang/MAYAGUEZ Veterans Organization I was unaware of the book being published and surprised as no one from our national organization of veterans from that battle was interviewed or referenced for Mr. Chun's book. Therefore I was disappointed but not surprised when I received the copy I ordered. I expected to read about the boarding party that went aboard the MAYAGUEZ. Less than three pages of this only 80 page book are dedicated to the boarding party and thier actions. Typical of the many errors in Mr. Chun's presentation, he has the boarding party being led by his one and only acknowledged source when in fact; it was actually led by major Raymond Porter who the author barely mentions. The author is fast and loose with his information which is not supported by facts or footnotes. Glaring discrepancies such as the wrong ships or helecopters in the wrong place or wrong time, and errors such as incorrect or misidentified weapons supposedly being utlized when they were not, are all throughout the book. An example being the USS HOLT which has a single 5 inch gun mount. The author repeatedly refers to it as a "twin 5 inch" mount and at one time it is identified as "0.5 inch guns". Mr. Chun describes how it was utlized throughout the battle, when in fact the HOLT never fired her gun that day. One could overlook a few errors but there are so many, I wonder about the editors of this series. Maps and charts are also presented in a haphazard manner that is out of chronological order and defies logic. An example being the unnecessary and confusing presentation of the original proposed plans that could not be executed due to the complexities of the operation, and presenting them in the middle of the book as if they actually happened. 41 American Servicemen lost their lives as a result of the MAYAGUEZ Operation. I was appalled that they were not even listed in this obviously, hastily thrown together little book. The legacy of those last 41 names on the Viet Nam Memorial Wall and of the veterans who fought on Koh Tang Island deserves better. A much better book on the subject is the 14 Hour War, Valor on Koh Tang and the Recapture of the SS MAYAGUEZ by James E. WISE, Jr. and Scott Barron.The 14-hour War: Valor on Koh Tang and the Recapture of the SS Mayaguez
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Virtually Ignores the Raiding Force 25 Oct 2011
By R. A Forczyk - Published on
By this point, over three decades after the fact, relatively few readers are familiar with the Vietnam War. So it goes without saying that the Mayaguez Incident in May 1975 is even more obscure, unless you're part of the over fifty crowd that remembers that time period. The Last Boarding Party, written by Clayton K. S. Chun, is one of the latest entries in Osprey's Raid series and it covers the U.S. military operations to recover the SS Mayaguez and its crew from the Khmer Rouge. This is an action which should be remembered, since it helped to spur the United States toward initiating serious military reforms which led to joint doctrine in the 1980s. I'ld like to say this is a great book and that readers will learn a lot about the raid but unfortunately, this book is plagued by serious weaknesses. Foremost, The Last Boarding Party title makes this sound like a tactical account, but there are no first-person accounts incorporated into the narrative and in fact, much of the focus is on senior decision-makers in Washington. If you want a tactical perspective on this operation, read Ralph Wetterhahn's The Last Battle: The Mayaguez Incident and the End of the Vietnam War (2001). Although Chun mentions the names of most of the officers in the raiding force, he provides virtually no information (or photos) of them and the troops remain mostly nameless, faceless non-entities. Nor does the author even bother to list the names of the 18 American fatalities in this operation (but spends time telling us what Bush, Cheney and Kissinger were doing later) - how insulting! Amazingly, the author never bothered to consult with the very active Koh Tang vets groups, which has plenty of information - including better pictures - none of which was incorporated in the volume. As for the Khmer Rouge on Koh Tang, there is more information about their weaponry in the Wikipedia article on the Mayaguez than there is in this book. Finally, the author never even bothers to mention the on-going efforts to retrieve U.S. military remains from Koh-Tang. These return missions have added some detail about the raid, none of which is incorporated in this book. If the author had bothered to use the resources of the Internet and reach out to former members of the raiding force, he could have written a much better book, instead of relying on just high-level accounts. This book falls considerably short of the mark.

The volume begins with a high level section discussing the chaos in Indochina after the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh and the US withdrawal. He then moves promptly into the seizure of the American cargo ship SS Mayaguez by Khmer Rouge forces in the Gulf of Thailand (suggesting that it was a local initiative without national-level authorization, but this theory is a weak one), followed by the Ford Administration's scramble to develop a military-diplomatic response, which led to the raid. About half the volume is spent leading up to the raid, discussing the planning and political discussions in the White House/NSC. However, the author failed to provide a breakdown of the raiding force as in other Raid-series volumes or provide much specific information on how these forces were pulled together at a moment's notice - this is where some first-person accounts would have helped. It also would have helped to have a map showing the airbases in Thailand where the helicopters were coming from and the approaching USS Coral Sea task force; readers will be find the force deployments difficult to understand without them. The recovery of the Mayaguez itself is covered in straight-forward fashion, because there was no resistance.

The author spends just under 30 pages on the fighting on Koh Tang island, which was the main event as far as this operation went. Up front, the BEV maps are close to useless and show less detail than the simple 2-D maps in Wetterhahn's book. Although the author puts a commendable level of detail into the opening moments of the assault, when three US helicopters were shot down in a matter of minutes, the level of detail abruptly evaporates once the US Marines are on the island and then shifts back to the strategic level. The author gives the impression that all of the Marines were pinned down for their 14 hours on the island, but photographs at the Koh Tang vets website indicate that the Marines captured a number of huts used by the garrison and some were lounging around with their helmets off and weapons by their side. Although one US platoon was isolated, no detail is provided about their ordeal. In fact, only a single US Marine was KIA on the island itself - Lcpl Ashton Loney - which is not even mentioned in this volume. Instead, the author was too focused on what Cheney and Kissinger were doing in Washington. There is also a lack of real analysis in this volume, although the author concludes with a section about how the raid contributed to the development of joint doctrine a decade later. Maybe. However, an equally valid claim can be made that we repeated many of the joint errors five years later at Desert One and then in 1983 on Grenada and only then, made an effort to reform. Overall, this volume provides only a very superficial overview of the raid itself and is too focused on high-level decision-making, but it would be a useful discussion piece for a seminar on the development of joint doctrine in a military seminar - apparently the intended audience.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Short but confusing 20 Dec 2011
By Nick Dowling - Published on
I was really disappointed by this book. Everything I'd read about the Mayaguez incident previously was over-long and confusing and I was hoping that Osprey's format would provide a clear summary of this interesting operation. Instead, this is another confusing and badly organised account. One of the book's major problems, and something which is unusual for Osprey, is that the maps are poor. Despite it being about an obscure battle in a region which few readers will be familiar with, the book does not include general map of the area, and readers are left in the dark about the relative locations of the island where this operation took place and the whereabouts of the US bases in Thailand and aircraft carriers from which it was conducted. There's an OK map of the general area in which the battle was fought, but as it's located on page 68 of this 80 page book readers will be confused by the time they finally reach it. I also found The Last Boarding Party's narrative to be unclear as it abruptly jumps between locations and doesn't clearly explain the organisation of the American forces or what their goals were. To make matters worse, the book is very US-centric and there are few details on the Cambodian units involved. The book would have also benefited from tighter editing as its prose is at times repetitive and contains excessive military jargon and, inexcusably, some obvious typos.

The Last Boarding Party does have some positive features. Chun's account of the decision making at the highest levels of the US Government and military in relation to this operation is good and contains some interesting analysis. His summary of the confused diplomatic maneuverings which led to the crew of the Mayaguez being released is also useful, though it remained unclear to me why the military operation went ahead given that the sailors had been freed by the Cambodians shortly before the mission to rescue them began. The book's photographs and colour illustrations are also generally good and the page and half bibliography will be useful to people interested in this topic.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent detailed summary of this little remembered event 6 Jan 2014
By Maggot - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While the outcome was sad with so much loss of life, the writing was excellent. The details were well researched. While some more "interviews" would have added to it, it is a superb summary with enough details to make it a good read. I learned a lot.
0 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Show the bleeding flag! 28 Oct 2011
By wpapac - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I just finished this Osprey tretise and found, like all of the Osprey titles, good clear facts without unneeded rhetoric or wasted words backed by good research and great pics. Few remember this episode and the book does it justice. I am still amazed tghat Pres Ford still gave the go ahead to invade when we had the boat and crew under our control. Must have been that great advice form Dick Cheny and Don Rumsfled who were there, left overs from Nixon and learned nothing since they got us into the latest Iraq fiasco. In a bad tactical gambit a bunch of marines, sailors and air men wer sacrificed to show CAMBODIA that they couldn't push us around. And both Cheny and Rumsfled got promoted for their advice!! SCARY!! Can't wait to see the Mogadisue issue!!
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