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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story of Special Forces
In Blackjack 33 James Donahue details his experiences of the Blackjack 33 mission.
Donahue was part of Special Forces, an elite unit in the US Army who worked with native Cambodians against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. Donahue, a medic, informs us of the entire mission, including the parts where he himself was not involved. But it is in writing about the...
Published on 17 Jan. 2001 by J. Bennett

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars but gives you an idea of just how horrible it must have been to be there on the ...
gritty, no story as such, much detail in heads being blown apart and limbs flying around the place, but gives you an idea of just how horrible it must have been to be there on the ground.
Published 7 months ago by brightontrader


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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story of Special Forces, 17 Jan. 2001
By 
J. Bennett (Sweden) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In Blackjack 33 James Donahue details his experiences of the Blackjack 33 mission.
Donahue was part of Special Forces, an elite unit in the US Army who worked with native Cambodians against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. Donahue, a medic, informs us of the entire mission, including the parts where he himself was not involved. But it is in writing about the parts he was involved in where he kindles the most interest.
Donahue writes well, and after the initial slowish start the book races on. He skillfully builds up his relationships with his team (both US and Cambodian) until the reader has a good idea of the people involved. Donahue leaves no stone unturned - he details his actions as a medic just as well as his actions of a soldier. He tells tales of mines, firefights in the jungle and the Cambodian way of life.
This is a great book - one possibly more for the Vietnam book veteran than the novice, but good all the same. It has a great epilogue that tells you what happened to some of the people in the book afterwards, adding a good final touch to a good story.
Four, well-earned stars. JB
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 19 Oct. 2004
By A Customer
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This, and its companion Blackjack 34, are certainly among the best war books ever written from the soldier's point of view. He writes with humour, compassion, and intelligence, really getting to the core of that bond which forms between men at war.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Among the best in its class, 17 July 2007
By 
Nigel Collier (Hull) - See all my reviews
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This is the first of Donahue's books that I've read, but not the first he's written, and that shows. The book reminded me a little of 'SOG' by John Plaster in its subject matter and quality: very evocative and highly impressive accounts of US special forces leading indigenous patrols in enemy territory within Vietnam and beyond its borders. The book 'SOG' outlined MACV-SOG's potted history and then described a number of specific accounts of recon and larger hatchet force operations throughout the entire Vietnam war. Blackjack 33 concentrates on a single 14-day long operation with the Mobile Guerilla Force into the Viet Cong 'Forbidden Zone' - an area just east of Highway 1A between Phuoc-Vinh and Dong-Xoai. Because of this difference in scope, and Donahue's very accomplished writing style, Blackjack 33 is in some ways even better than 'SOG', which itself is a book that stands way out in front of the plethora of similar accounts I've read (and I've read a few!).

Similar to SOG's hatchet forces, the Mobile Guerilla Force was, I think, a company sized operation designed to take the fight into the enemy's 'secret zones' and to locate base camps and concentrations of units or materiel and to wreak havoc and sew doubt among them. They basically inserted into the enemy's back yard and patrolled for a fortnight, fighting dozens of engagements, raiding enemy strongholds, bringing to bear the 'great equaliser' of US air power and then making themselves scarce before they could be fixed and overrun by the numerically superior main force NVA or local VC. The 'mobile' in their name was very much the key to their survival.

So far so typical of many other similar books on the market you might be thinking. And you'd be right: there's certainly no shortage of LRRP, SEAL, Recondo and other US special forces titles from the Vietnam period available (not to mention other countries and other wars...'The Jungle is Neutral', 'Devil's Guard', 'SAS: The Jungle Frontier'). Of those accounts, SOG and its precursors such as the Mobile Guerilla Force are as fascinating, hair raising and visceral as any. But what makes Blackjack 33 stand out for me, and means I'll be purchasing all of Donahue's other books as soon as I've submitted this review, is his level of detail, his insights and his engaging style.

He brings the slog, terror, sounds, smells, threats and beauty of the jungle and of combat to life as well as anyone I've read. With Blackjack 33 you really do start to see how massively skilled and disciplined the men must be and how animalistic the soldiers' instincts must become to patrol successfully. Donahue describes with great clarity and detail exactly what is happening around him, what he's seeing, hearing and smelling - medical treatment of wounds and illnesses, tracking and counter tracking techniques, booby trapping, kit maintenance, entire radio conversations rendered as if you're a bystander - you are a witness on the spot to all of his and other peoples' actions - and at the same time he is explaining the reasoning and thought process behind every procedure and every decision he must make as team leader. This level of intimacy really draws you in and involves you and helps establish a very familiar rhythm to the daily patrol. Excellent stuff.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vietnam - the other story (**CONTAINS 1 SPOILER**), 18 Nov. 2011
By 
A. R. Krantz (london) - See all my reviews
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This account is a fantastic insight into the aspect which is little known of the Vietnam War.

The incredible account of just one operation carried out by these men and their Cambodian counterparts shows the true grit that was present in the US soldier behind the lines in the war. the action is some of the best described in a book of this type I have ever read, with the reader truly feeling implanted into the battle alongside the author and his comrades.

It is also tinged with sadness at the end as many of the Cambodians were murdered by the Khmer Rouge later on, a sad ending for people who gave so much to a war that was not their own.

I think this is a very special book accounting a great and patriotic side to the US war in Vietnam which has been largely overlooked after the conflict.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, 12 Sept. 2006
By 
A. Cresswell "Bubblefish777 - Born again Diver" (london, UK) - See all my reviews
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A Good Read. For me this means a well written Vietnam Experience story. Easy to get through, nicely atmospheric and enjoyable.

The author doesn't try to get into too much fine detail nor doies he over extend the descriptions.

This isn't a book I'd rave endlessly about but it was a book I felt was value for money, and passed the time on a couple of flights in a pleasant manner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horribly real, 19 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Blackjack-33: With Special Forces in the Viet Cong Forbidden Zone (Kindle Edition)
the narrative is incredibly detailed almost step by step and minute by minute but this focus on the minutiae of what it was like to serve on what must have seemed like an endless patrol is what makes the book horribly tense and utterly beliveable. There is a degree of repetitiveness in the descriptive passages ( I guess you can only describe bamboo so many times) but this does not detract from a compelling story. The spirit and heroism of the indigenous Cambodian troops is captured especially well. Personally, I shall be reading anything else I can find by Donahue.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Respect to these warriors, 27 Feb. 2013
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Really good characters in the book and their activities activities are worth the read. Good narrative on them reading their enemies and how they fought them. A good insight to the special forces laying booby traps, hit and run battles, the use of supporting firepower and first aid on the battlefield. I did enjoy the time spent reading the respect, rapport, trust and bonds of the American special forces to their asian fellow soldiers. I did also enjoy reading about the American soldier stealing another units truck and get it re-badged , then stealing pallets of beer and supplies on forged paperwork ( on the same day also stealing a wheelchair from a military hospital )
I do not know however if it was just me but after reading other books set in the same or similiar war zones, I was not drawn into the action as previously. My recommendation to those looking is to read "SOG" by John L. Plaster.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book, 6 Mar. 2008
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Donahue has writen an excellent account of his time with a joint American/Cambodian special forces unit, engaged in seeking out and engaging Viet Cong units in an area dominated by the enemy and called 'he Forbidden Zone'.

The author's style is gripping once it gets going and his admiration, respect and affection for his Cambodian fellow soldiers is a million miles away from the stereo-typical image of American forces fighting in Viet Nam.

His description of tactics and the results of contacts with the enemy are as engrossing as they are detailed.

A very good book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheds light on a little known aspect of the Vietnam conflict, 5 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Blackjack-33: With Special Forces in the Viet Cong Forbidden Zone (Kindle Edition)
While the text describing the manner of death of certain participants is a little over the top in my view, this book is well worth the read. I had little idea that Cambodian nationals fought alongside US personnel during this war. That they did so in such a courageous manner as related in this account is remarkable, just as it was noteworthy how the strategy devised by these forces proved so effective in turning the tables on their capable opponents. Very impressive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 6 Mar. 2012
I read quite a bit over the course of a year and have never been minded to write a review, until I read this particular book.
James Donahue and soldiers like him are a special breed and the type of detailed descriptive writing in this book gets you up close and personal fighting consecutive guerrilla engagements in very dangerous enemy territory - would recommend without hesitation.
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