Critically acclaimed by the war’s participants and by distinguished historians and journalists, WOLF by the EARSis a novel about America’s abandonment of Cambodia’s Khmer Republic and its fall to Pol Pot’s murderous Khmer Rouge.
WOLF’’s title is taken from a letter by Thomas Jefferson over the matter of slavery. In 1974-1975, Cambodian republicans had their own wolf by the ears. They were losing the war. All indications were that the United States was going to abandon them.
William Shawcross, the celebrated author of Sideshow – Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia; The Quality of Mercy - Cambodia, Holocaust and Modern Memory; and Cambodia's New Deal, writes:
Alan Armstrong has written a superb novel about the war in Cambodia. Indeed, WOLF BY THE EARSis the best description of the agonies, complexities and moral dilemmas of that unregarded little war that I have ever read.
An undeclared CIA agent who was in country with the author until the end, writes:
Believe you nailed it. The "it" being the who and why Americans and our so-called leaders essentially were complicit in the murder of c2 million Cambodians.
[You speak]to the truth of what it was like for an American combat infantryman seconded to the military attaché corps to be with FANK troops at ground level - particularly during a nasty and frustrating war. The language is rough and some scenes unnerving - but real.
In early 1974, Major David DeRussy is ordered back to Cambodia for a second tour as an assistant army attaché. His orders: Observe the military situation, get inside the heads of senior Cambodian commanders, gauge fighting effectiveness, and send assessments back to Washington.
Three dilemmas face him:
· How is he to answer Cambodians who ask him whether America is going to run away?
· The Khmer Rouge are out to kill him. Every Cambodian soldier can see that, dead or alive, he would make excellent trading material with the enemy. Who can he trust on the battlefield?
· Last, but most important: How can he keep faith with his comrades in arms when it’s clear that Washington isn’t not going to do the same?
These questions are not hypotheticals. Under the Trump Administration, we have American service members abroad who are living with these conundrums every day.
WOLFis a war story and a love story that foreshadows a tragedy of hideous magnitude. It is also a morality play. No matter the pressure, we are the only ones who can sacrifice our personal honor.
While you wait for your copy of WOLF BY THE EARSto arrive from Amazon, learn what war in Cambodia was like from the mouth of the author at ThinkTech Hawai’I ~ Cambodia.
Here’s what people ‘in the know’ think of WOLF:
WOLFis remarkable because Armstrong was a serving US officer serving as a military attaché in the US Embassy during the 1970-75 war which ended in America's defeat and the victory of the odiously brutal Khmer Rouge communists in 1975.
It is a beautifully observed and vividly written book. His characters - in the US military, within Phnom Penh’s diplomatic corps, and amongst the Cambodian politicians and soldiers - spring from his own experiences and friendships nurtured under fire between Washington’s intrigues and the dangerous paddy fields, rivers and roads of Cambodia's struggles.
Over all the myriad characters and stories in WOLFhangs the looming horror of the inevitable communist genocide which engulfed the people of Cambodia when the US fled in April 1975.
This is a stunning book which deserves the widest possible readership.
Timothy M. Carneywas Second Secretary at the U.S. Mission in Phnom Penh from 1972 to 1975. Ambassador to Sudanand later to Haiti, Carney has served with a number of U.N. Peacekeeping Missions.
Was in Cambodia with the author. He captures the mood and the contradictory realities of Cambodia at the end wonderfully. His focus is on the Cambodian military whom he knew so well, and presents their strengths and weaknesses unvarnished in prose I found hard to put down. The novel follows the history that we know ended in one of the great evils of the 20thCentury. Alan Armstrong takes few prisoners in this tale and the heroes have real-life flaws.
Andrew Antippaswas the US Embassy political officer, Phnom Penh in the early days of the Khmer Republic. He served as the State Department’s Cambodia Desk Officer from 1972 to 1975.
Magnificent job of capturing the essence of what you and I saw and did in Cambodia. Your book awakened a lot of memories and emotions. Your writing, in my view, is like an artist's palette. Very descriptive. You paint a great word picture. The description of DeRussy running down the 3 Khmer Rouge on the road was gripping!
David Elliottis Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Pomona College. He is the author of The Vietnamese War, Revolution and Social Change in the Mekong Delta, 1930-1975, which was cited in the New York Review of Books as probably the best book on the Vietnam War.
I read your book with great interest and enjoyment. I rarely read works of fiction or literature, so cannot pose as a critic of its literary merits. I do think that it really captures the atmospherics of those dramatic events. For people like me with an interest in the times and the events, it is a gripping account.
Congratulations for having pulled it off. This is an invaluable historical testimony, even if it is fictionalized.
Arnold R. Isaacsis a writer, educator, and the author of two books relating to the Vietnam war, Without Honor: Defeat in VietnamandCambodia and Vietnam Shadows: The War, Its Ghosts, and Its Legacy. Areporter, foreign and national correspondent, and editor for the Baltimore Sun, he spent six years as the Sun's correspondent in Asia, covering the closing years of the Vietnam war.
The 1970-75 war in Cambodia coincided with the larger war in Vietnam. But they were different wars, in character and circumstances and in the scale of human suffering.
The Cambodia disaster was a catastrophic compound of incompetent and corrupt leadership on one side, unspeakably brutal fanaticism on the other, and cynical, morally callous policies from outside powers, including Communist North Vietnam and the United States.
Alan Armstrong was a close-up witness to Cambodia's tragedy during two tours as an army attachéworking out of the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh. His second tour spanned the last months of the war, ending when he was one of the last Americans to leave in the U.S. evacuation a few days before the final defeat of the Khmer Republic. After carrying those memories for more than 40 years, he turned them into this autobiographical novel.
WOLF BY THE EARSis fiction, but full of authentic details and true-life events. It is an important book, reminding us of a history that is painful to remember, but that we have no right to forget.
Barry Bromanserved more than 25 years in the US Department of State, mostly in Southeast Asia. He retired in 1996 after serving as the US Counselor of Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar.
This is a thinly-disguised novel that recounts how a misguided U.S. foreign policy of cynical and myopic politicians cut off assistance to the Khmer Republic whose small, poorly-equipped army fought literally to the last round and whose destruction directly let to the genocide of the Khmer Rouge victors.
It is a story about warriors, for warriors, and by a warrior.
I served in the American embassy in Phnom Penh during this period and can attest to the veracity of Armstrong’s first-hand account of the death of the Republic whose main mistake was in trusting America.
Many of the author’s Cambodian friends and colleagues were killed in action or immediately after the Khmer Rouge communists took power. He names many of the Khmer heroes and also the American villains who let this happen. It is a cautionary tale and also a sad tale. But it is a tale that must be told.
Hank Keese, Colonel, USAF, Ret, was then a major who shared a villa with the author in 1974-1975. Many of his heroic exploits and those of one of his Air Force colleagues are recounted in the novel, rolled up into a single character, “Hero” Tomahiro, Captain, USAF.
If one has a bit of inside knowledge about US involvement in SEA during that time your book takes place, it could almost be a reference book. Because I was there with you and saw first-hand many of the episodes you wrote about, the book held my interest cover to cover. Well done!
The book you wrote has a lot of memories hidden in a story that was hard to believe then and is even harder to believe now as I look back and see how we lived through it and seemed to take so much in stride. You have done a great job with your book. I hope the public will appreciate your work and your story.
David Willson, writing in the 4 April issue of The VVA Veteran:
Armstrong tells a strong and interesting story. The language is strong and very much in the vernacular. I highly recommend ‘Wolf by the Ears’ to anyone who is curious about what life was like in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. The Khmer Republic of the 1970’s comes alive on the pages of this novel. Armstrong has a rare gift for making alien cultures interesting and vibrant.