Rat Six was completed in Palm Beach, Florida around midnight on September 23, 1975. I had been working on it for over five years. I was working as a stockbroker there and the book had become a labor of love as well as a catharsis to get the whole experience out of my system. I had written it in long hand and a friend of mine Liza Sory helped me edit it and transcribe the pages to a typewriter written manuscript. Liza was very patient and thorough as we worked through the book chapter by chapter.
I had not kept a diary while I was in Vietnam but I was the historian for the 1st Engineer Battalion and had a copy of the classified accounts of the Battalion’s activities while I was there. Since it was in chronological order and contained numerous after action reports of which many I had authored describing the missions of the Tunnel Rats since I was the commanding officer of the unit. Those reports and the vivid memory of the missions guided me in the accounting of my year in Vietnam.
The hardest part was keeping track of all the characters whose real names we had changed. Soldiers came and went but certain characters were constant and vital to the story line. I tried to write the story as if it were a movie from one scene to the next with the dialogue adding to the action. So much of combat in Vietnam centered around radio communications which I used often hoping the reader would get used to all the code names and Army jargon of the various players. Even though each mission described was based on the real thing I found myself embellishing the scenes to a certain extent.
The touch of romance was also based on true events which I embellished even more so as I found myself writing more of what I had envisioned than what actually had occurred.
Some of the most truthful parts of the story take place in the mind of Clifford Price the main character. Those thoughts were imbedded in my psyche and remain so even today.
A few years after the book was finished I tried to get it published but was rejected by the publishers to whom the book was submitted. Books about Vietnam were not in vogue and my writing skills did not pass muster.
Everything changed several years later in 1984 when I received a phone call from John Pennycate while I was working as a stockbroker in Philadelphia. He was In Washington DC at the time and had been working on a book about tunnel warfare in Vietnam. He said he had been trying to find me for quite some time and we agreed to have dinner that night. He caught a train and took me to a very nice restaurant in my building. We talked for hours and I found that I had instant recall of my experiences, red wine and brandy notwithstanding.
In 1985 The Tunnels of Cu Chi was published and the chapter 'Rat Six and Batman' which was based on my sergeant and myself generated a great deal of national interest highlighted by a feature article in Life magazine entitled 'Down Dirty and Deadly 'published in April of that same year. Even more notoriety came my way with an appearance on '60 Minutes' with five other tunnel rats in an episode narrated by Morley Safer.
I had an agent Thereon Raines by this time and he told me my story was becoming noteworthy. He was right and I found myself being sought after by journalists and Hollywood producers. I soon learned however that fame was fleeting. Other than a short lived play produced in San Francisco and a development deal with MGM which fell through, my story lost interest.
Over the years, however, from time to time I was sought out and friends and associates encouraged me to keep the story alive. In particular, Albert Stone a lifelong friend since the seventh grade and himself a successful author and documentarian always supported me. Al has been kind enough to write an endorsement of Rat Six which follows.
In 2002 I was approached by Frederick Forsyth the bestselling author of such works as The Day of the Jackal and The Dogs of War. He was working on a new book titled 'Avenger' and wanted the main character to be somewhat based on my experiences in Vietnam. He interviewed me while I was living in New Jersey one Sunday afternoon and a year later he sent me the book and to my great surprise he had dedicated Avenger to the Tunnel Rats. Frederick has also written some kind words about Rats Six which follow.
Although the Vietnam War has remained a scar on our Nation’s history, over the years the Vietnam Veteran has become much more appreciated. The excellent documentary The Vietnam War produced by Ken Burns last year has brought a new awareness and understanding of the conflict.
Of late my story also came to the attention of Matthew Read, a well-known producer, director and writer from the British Broadcasting Company. Matthew contacted me in 2016 and helped me secure a limited deal with an affiliate of Warner Brothers. Matthew too has written some kind words to follow.
With all this new activity and interest I decided to dust off Rat Six. With the help of my children we converted the old type written manuscript to a word document and I submitted it to Page Publishing and the book was accepted. Over the past several months Page has guided the editing and to the whole staff there I am sincerely grateful.
As we neared the release date I realized that Rat Six had not been reviewed by any military author or cohort. When I explained my dilemma to a friend Terry Hueser, who served with me in Vietnam, he said he knew just the right person. Enter Dale Dye. Dale was a retired Vietnam Veteran Marine Captain who had written the novel Platoon based on the movie. He was also an accomplished actor and military advisor to the movie industry including Platoon and Saving Private Ryan. Terry got me in contact with Dale and I sent him an edited copy of the book. Dale reviewed the latest edited version of Rat Six and sent me most appreciated comments which are also enclosed.
This 'Little History' would not be complete without the mention of Robert Batten, who was my sergeant and the unofficial leader of the Tunnel Rats. Bob passed away several years ago and we had had an opportunity to meet up again when The Tunnels of Cu Chi came out. Batman as he was nicknamed in Vietnam was one of the bravest men I have ever known and he saved my life on several occasions. He was also a hard charging soldier and we had many confrontations even though I was the commanding officer. In Rat Six his character is the antagonist and the story would have never been the same without him.
Other men with whom I served I have composited into many of the characters. Of special note are: Earl 'Hap' Culp, Job Gonzales, Randal Ellis, Phillip Hogue and Robert Thorn, Diehard Engineers to the core.
Last but certainly most least I would like to thank all my friends and family who have been supportive over all these years. My world view in the 1960s was greatky affected by the time I spent in Denmark and the people I met there. The Families Henriksen, Andresen and Sondergaard took me in as a son and taught me so much. There has always been and always will be a special place in my heart for Lone.
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