Rice Paddy Recon

A Marine Officer’s Second Tour in Vietnam, 1968–1970


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About the Book

A young U.S. Marine officer recounts his experiences of the Vietnam War over a nineteen month period. He graphically describes what it was like to perform three distinct combat missions: long-range ground reconnaissance in the Annamite Mountains of I Corps, infantry operations in the rice paddies and mountains of Quang Nam Province and special police operations for the CIA in Tay Ninh Province. Using Marine Corps official unit histories, CIA documents, and his weekly letters home, the author relies almost exclusively on primary sources in providing an accurate and honest account of combat at the small unit level. Of particular interest is his description of his assignment to the CIA as a Provincial Reconnaissance Unit (PRU) advisor in Tay Ninh Province, where he participated in several secret missions as part of the controversial Phoenix Program. The name and contribution of the CIA’s most valuable spy during the war, the famous “Tay Ninh Source,” is revealed.

About the Author(s)

Andrew R. Finlayson served for 25 years in the U. S. Marine Corps retiring as a colonel and went on to work in the defense industry in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Romania. He is the author of several defense and intelligence related articles and studies. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Andrew R. Finlayson

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 320
Bibliographic Info: 72 photos, 6 maps, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9623-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1818-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

List of Maps viii
Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1

1. Back to Vietnam and the War 5
2. Deja Vu 10
3. An Hoa—Patrols Redux 41
4. Base Area 112 67
5. The Idylls of March 76
6. The Arizona Territory 90
7. Liberty Bridge 105
8. The Que Son Mountains 114
9. Hill 65 and the Palace Guard 128
10. Qua’s Story: The Life of a Viet Cong Guerrilla 148
11. The House on Doan Cong Bu Street 164
12. The CIA Embassy House 172
13. First Impressions 192
14. Bad American Policy—A New Focus 205
15. London Interlude 226
16. America’s Most Valuable Spy 231
17. The Pru Winter Offensive of 1969 246
18. The Cambodian Invasion 257
19. My War Ends 267

Epilogue 281
Glossary 297
Chapter Notes 300
Bibliography 303
Index 306

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Recommend[ed]…well-written…McFarland has done the serious reader of Marine Corps Officers memoirs a service. This book ranks right up there at the top of the genre’s heap”—The VVA Veteran
  • “Fascinating…deserves our full and undivided attention”—Leatherneck Magazine
  • “Finlayson has penned a fascinating account of his 19 months in Vietnam. In this extremely well-written memoir, Finlayson takes the reader on a very personal narrative of his experiences in combat. His detailed accounts…provide a revealing glimpse into the deadly cat-and-mouse pursuit-and-escape clashes between reconnaissance Marines and North Vietnamese soldiers in the remote jungles and mountainous terrain of Base Area 112…gripping. His spellbinding description of the action is riveting. Finlayson has a unique ability to weave infantry tactics into his narrative without making the story read like a textbook. This wonderfully written book is more then a personal memoir; ‘it is firsthand account of how one young Marine officer fought in that war’”—Proceedings
  • “the author offers a well-researched and well-written account of his experiences in Vietnam, and his recollections of his service with force reconnaissance, infantry elements, and especially the PRU provides readers with a wide scope of America’s history of involvement in Vietnam. While his inclusion of so many elements of the war, ranging from his own personal experiences to sweeping discussions of the US military strategy in its entirety, offers a wide lens through which to view the war, Finlayson ultimately achieves the goal of his memoir by broadening the value of American understanding of the war in Vietnam.”—H-Net Reviews
  • “Finlayson’s formidable analysis of strategic logistics and strategic geography is very fine.”—Catholicism.org