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Book Image Not Available
Book details
  • Genre:FICTION
  • SubGenre:War & Military
  • Language:English
  • Pages:338
  • Format:Paperback
  • Paperback ISBN:9781543954708

Wolf by the Ears

by Alan Armstrong

Book Image Not Available
Overview
It is 1974. Major David DeRussy is ordered back to the Khmer Republic for a second year as an assistant army attaché. Something is odd about this assignment. Why is he being pulled out of an active army division to return to Cambodia? His young son asks him the same question. Because he doesn't believe that the Khmer Republic is worth dying for, DeRussy's survival strategy is to trust no one, take no chances and stay off active battlefields. Two days after his return, his plan dissolves. He is once again under fire, walking behind attacking soldiers. Pol Pot's murderous Khmer Rouge are growing stronger and more aggressive while the Republican army shows signs of crumbling. Its defenses might pop like a soap bubble. If that happens, DeRussy's chances of perishing in country change from possible to probable. After months of sharp combat engagements, DeRussy comes upon a body in tattered black pajamas floating spread-eagled and floating face up in a pond. He finds himself taking perverse comfort from this apparition, now at absolute peace, so perfectly aligned with the nature surrounding it. It occurs to him that perhaps there is no time more liberating than the moment following the clear realization that death is imminent. He asks whether he can influence any outcome to this war. The answer is obvious. The only thing he can control is himself. Going down with his Cambodian brothers would be as good a way to die as any he could imagine. America's newspapers, magazines and television news programs all say that the United States is going to abandon the Khmer Republic. How is he to answer when Cambodians ask him whether America will run away? How does he respond without becoming a Judas goat? Indications are that his country will betray the Khmer people, so why should any Cambodian lay down his life to protect him? A Khmer soldier's smart play would be to deliver DeRussy to the enemy and save his own skin. How can DeRussy trust the men out there beside him?
Description
It is 1974. Major David DeRussy is ordered to return to Cambodia for a second year as an assistant army attaché to the Khmer Republic. Something is odd about this. Why is he being suddenly pulled out of an active army division to return to Cambodia? His young son asks him the same question. He learns the sordid truth just days before he leaves for war. Because he doesn't believe that the Khmer Republic is worth dying for, DeRussy's survival strategy is to trust no one, take no chances and stay off active battlefields. Two days after his return, his plan dissolves. He is once again under fire, walking behind attacking soldiers. Pol Pot's murderous Khmer Rouge are growing stronger and more aggressive. At the same time, the Republican army shows signs of crumbling. Its defense perimeter might pop like a soap bubble. If that happens, DeRussy's chances of perishing in country change from possible to probable. Even though battles rage around the capital, Phnom Penh's diplomatic corps continues its lively social life. Smitten by the sight of Maggie Hartwell, the CIA's on-site analyst, DeRussy wrangles an invitation for the two them at a wine tasting hosted by the West German economic attaché. It's a magical evening that sparks what the French call a "coup de foudre." Lightning strikes them. They become inseparable. In a lull in fighting after months of sharp combat engagements, DeRussy comes upon a body in tattered black pajamas floating spread-eagled and floating face up in a pond. He finds himself taking perverse comfort from this apparition, now at absolute peace, so perfectly aligned with the nature surrounding it. It occurs to him that perhaps there is no time more liberating than the moment following the clear realization that death is imminent. He asks whether he can influence any outcome to this war. The answer is obvious. The only thing he can control is himself. Only the woman who has captured his heart, his son and his parents now mean more to him than his Khmer comrades in arms. If he is to die, going down with his Cambodian brothers is as good a way to leave this life as any he can imagine. America's newspapers, magazines and television news programs all say that the United States is going to abandon the Khmer Republic. How is he to answer when Cambodians ask him whether America will run away? All indications are that his country will betray the Khmer people. So why should any Cambodian lay down his life to protect him? A Khmer soldier's smart play would be to deliver DeRussy to the enemy and save his own skin. Rolling the bones on any battlefield is every soldier's challenge. How much greater is the challenge when DeRussy cannot trust the men beside him? Sure enough, he can't. A Khmer colonel sets DeRussy up in an ambush by fire. Suffering a head wound, DeRussy is evacuated to Japan where he cajoles the medical staff into releasing him back to Cambodia. DeRussy's damaged mind is assailed by specters that hover at the end of his bed in the night. Maggie calls them bhuts, the Hindu word for poor souls trapped between transmigrations because of a violent end and the lack of a proper funeral. She suggests that he burn turmeric-scented incense to ward them away. He never tells Maggie what these dead Cambodians are like. A flicker ignites when he shifts his gaze. He can sense their downcast eyes flash open. The upturned edge of their lips is anything but tranquil. Their mouths part to show a thin line of white, transmitting hideous knowledge that makes him dread the night. He had known fright in combat but never the terror these ghosts bring to him in the dark. They had been denied renascence, and they blame him. He had been, after all, an agent of a government complicit in the violent deaths of more than two million of their compatriots, one out of every four of their countrymen. Not one of those who perished had been accorded a proper burial. Maggie's bhuts take on greater significance.
About the author
Alan Armstrong has spun a powerful, fast-paced novel, rich with cultural detail, populated by remarkable accounts of excessive personalities. Alan spent more time in the Khmer Republic than any other member of America's armed forces. When he wasn't on battlefields with doomed soldiers, or meeting with his friend, Brigadier General Lon Non, brother of Cambodia's president, Marshal Lon Nol, he was inside the Khmer high command's Centre opérationnel or at the American Embassy, watching the country disintegrate. Alan was one of the final three staff members to exit the American Embassy during Operation EAGLE PULL. He lifted off from Landing Zone HOTEL on the last evacuee helicopter shoulder to shoulder with the American Ambassador, John Gunther Dean. In his seminal work, "Nixon, Kissinger and the Destruction of Cambodia," William Shawcross wrote: "Attachés were on the whole disciplined, and some like … Major Alan Armstrong … were gifted soldiers." Ambassador John Gunther Dean wrote, "Major Armstrong is a strong-willed, thoughtful young man whose great sense of discipline made it possible for him to carry out our policy despite some of the reservations he may have had about it. … Personally, I have a lot of empathy for Major Armstrong and his views. …Major Armstrong was brave. Many times his vehicle returned pierced by shrapnel because he went to see his Khmer military colleagues in the field despite the risk this entailed, wishing to bring back the latest and most correct information on the actual state of affairs …"
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