Three million men served in Vietnam and each has a story to tell. Shore Duty is the unique account from author Stewart M. Harris who served as senior advisor to Coastal Group 16 in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. It is the tale of a small outpost in eastern Quang Ngai Province. From a fort built of coconut logs and mud, four Americans and eighty to ninety Vietnamese operated eight wooden junks in an area surrounded by a local population numbering in the tens of thousands. There were no schools, no doctors, no police, and no customs or civic officials. There was no one except these few Americans and Vietnamese trying to accomplish all of the duties a government should. What makes this story different is that these men were sailors. During the course of the Vietnam War, the sailors who rotated through the four-man team at Coastal Group 16 were awarded many commendations, including the Navy Cross, at least one Silver Star, a half dozen Bronze Stars, and ten Purple Hearts, four of them posthumous. This was not a typical Navy tour.
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Upon my first being made aware about a book written by a fellow Naval Advisor concerning an ill-fated, God–forsaken piece of real estate known as Coastal Group 16 in the Northeast portion of South Vietnam, I rushed to get it. During my first two years in Vietnam as an advisor, I had been given a collateral assignment while on the staff of the Senior Naval Advisor, (sandwiched between two combat tours), to accompany the Vietnamese CNO to view that base after it had been overrun by the Viet Cong. I was to return with an "Eyes-On" report to get a US version of what actually took place that caused its fall and the subsequent deaths of the Vietnamese Base Commander and his Senior Naval Advisor. I describe that visit in my book "Pass Me The Rice," and therefore was eager to read Stew Harris’ book. What really amazed me was the fortitude and devotion to duty exhibited by the author in even accepting those orders to a base whose previous three advisors had been killed in action. To this day I question what my decision might have been had it been me in that position. The accomplishments of the Vietnamese officers and men along with their four brand new advisors in successfully staving off attack after attack during the ensuing year is exemplary against a persistent foe who thought they had wiped the base off the map once already. I commend LT Harris, not only in surviving that tour of duty but of putting it in writing so that the rest of us will have an insight into just how they managed to survive. It is definitely a must-read for those who didn't know we had US Navy personnel on the ground fighting like the Marines in Vietnam. By Robert G. Kay, LT/USN-Ret