“Soldiers of a Foreign War”
Booktalk by Charles McNair
Thursday, December 19 6:30 PM
Mansfield Public Library
Library Program Room
“I started the novel in December, 1971, finishing June, 2015. The title, “Soldiers of a Foreign War” alludes the fact that the American and Vietnamese boys who were called upon, often unwillingly, to fight by their respective governments, were fighting on alien soil.”
The book follows two American infantry platoons, a three-man North Vietnamese Army (NVA) combat cell, the staff of the 83rd Surgical Hospital and the villagers of An-Lat 5.
“I wanted to humanize the NVA soldier who had far more in common with his American counterpart in terms of age, enlistment/drafting, loneliness and missing home and dangers faced than has been addressed in other works on Vietnam to my knowledge. Chi, Thuy and Duan represent a fair depiction of the average NVA soldier. Their dedication to each other, their sacrifices and courage matched the best traditions of the American fighting man.”
Soldiers of a Foreign War tells the story of the combatants, civilians and mindless policies which drove them all through a futile war.
Charles was born in San Diego and attended public schools through his first year at UC San Diego. He enlisted at age nineteen in September, 1968, trained as a combat field medic and operating technician over the next nine months, directly assisting in operations. By June, 1969, he was assigned to the 45th Surgical Hospital, in Tay Ninh province, Republic of Vietnam. The base sat astride the termini of the Ho Chi Minh and Sihanouk Trails, near Nui Ba Den, the Black Virgin Mountain, an area that saw nearly continuous combat, up to and including the Cambodian invasion of May-June, 1970. The hospital received the wounded directly from the battlefield and performed lifesaving surgeries. The hospital was also subjected to frequent ground, mortar and rocket attacks.
Charles returned home in June, 1970, and served out the remainder of his enlistment at the Ft. Ord military hospital in Monterey, California. Ten days after his discharge, he returned to school, eventually graduating from medical school from UC San Francisco. Charles moved to Connecticut for his residency and remained here to practice medicine for thirty-five years until his retirement in December, 2016.
This program is free and open to the public.