Laughter on the Rivers of Death: One Sailor's Humorous Experiences in Vietnam

Overview

Volunteering for anything while serving in the Navy is risky business. Many a naïve Sailor found himself suffering from "volunteers remorse" shortly after stepping forward to answer the call for a special assignment. Before he could hum the first few notes of Anchors Aweigh, he would come to believe that what he had asked for and what he had received may not be the same. He and others would doubt the wisdom of his decision.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time" is one of several responses to the question, ...

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Overview

Volunteering for anything while serving in the Navy is risky business. Many a naïve Sailor found himself suffering from "volunteers remorse" shortly after stepping forward to answer the call for a special assignment. Before he could hum the first few notes of Anchors Aweigh, he would come to believe that what he had asked for and what he had received may not be the same. He and others would doubt the wisdom of his decision.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time" is one of several responses to the question, "just what were you thinking when you volunteered?" These questions were usually followed by the phrase, "you dumb S.O.B."

"What have I got myself in to now" is a well known and often repeated question asked of self by volunteers everywhere. This question is usually followed up with a phrase such as, "you dumb S.O.B."

This book chronicles events that evoked laughter along the author's route from a cushy job on shore duty to becoming a "Brown Water Sailor" on River Patrol Boats in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. He found out that there was more to being on River Patrol Boats than the anticipated death and destruction, even on the, "Rivers of Death."

The first several chapters outline the education and training the author and his classmates went through to prepare for service on River Patrol Boats. They were transformed from inexperienced Sailors to Sailors with basic skills in boat handling, weapons, and tactics.

The remaining seven chapters are a narrative of his experiences while serving in River Division 533 where the real learning took place.

There are no "war stories" or "tales of heroism" in this book. Others have already told the stories of the selfless acts performed by ordinary Sailors in the line of duty.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A sailor recalls his river boat experiences in Vietnam. Laughter is the best medicine, as they say, and Navy-veteran Bill Ferguson applies that approach when recalling his duty to seek out enemy weapons in Vietnam's waterways. The casual onlooker probably sees very little to no humor in recollecting that relatively recent turbulence; Ferguson, however, disagrees. He had already been enlisted for 10 years when he wondered if he had what it took to be a boat captain. He daydreamed about kicking some VC ass, and then fairly quickly began to question why he'd volunteered for such an assignment. The first half of the account discusses his switching jobs as a machinist mate, to quickly learning various arms, boat maneuverability and the subtleties of detecting ambushes. The second half applies that training, but not quite in the typical way. It's made clear that the writing's purpose is not to tell war stories or tales of heroism because much of that has already been done. Rather, "This book chronicles events that evoked laughter," Ferguson says. That humor seems to operate on two levels: first, the recollections of people who share the same experiences, like fellow vets chuckling about the gun representing a phallic symbol or the hijacking of an army truck, which might only evoke a polite smile from the uninitiated reader; second, Ferguson's dry humor, an affect the reader can better appreciate. The frequently referenced military slang of "pucker factor" is expressed more comically in a drawing depicting the sphincter muscle in a stressful position. Other incongruous illustrations delve into seemingly surreal experiences but are no less comical, or at least uniquely odd. Politics of war are not discussed, nor is there much analysis or broad context. The story seems part purge, part philosophy; a reader could conceivably connect that ambivalence to the author's feeling on the war. The overall chronological and military detail is impressive, although the writing is formless at times, especially with the confusing use of italics and changes of thought within chapters. An unusual, humorous look back to a volatile time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781434316783
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Pages: 164
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.38 (d)

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