14-hour battle that won medals and cost lives
The 1975 American operation to recapture the US container ship SS Mayaquez and her crew is unfamiliar to most Americans. A force comprised of approximately 200 Marines, most of whom were fresh out of boot camp, was tasked with the rescue. They were briefed to expect minimal resistance from some 20 to 30 lightly armed fishermen militia but what they found was between 400 and 600 Khmer Rouge combat veterans with heavy weapons in entrenched and fortified positions. Plagued by incomplete and inaccurate intelligence and hindered by a micro-managed command and control structure that extended all the way to the Oval Office, the Marines held out for 14 hours against a vastly superior and more experienced enemy in a fight they dare not lose.
Getting on the island was remarkable, getting off the island was a miracle and as a result of that 14-hour battle, four Air Crosses and a Navy Cross were awarded, 41 US servicemen lost their lives, three Marines were left behind and America regained a small bit of luster to a reputation tarnished by its withdrawal from Cambodia and Vietnam.
In addition to a comprehensive narrative of the planning and the battle itself, the book contains over 30 first-person accounts by Koh Tang veterans and unpublished photographs taken by veterans while engaged with the enemy. The appendices include verbatim minutes of NSC discussions and decisions regarding the strategy and tactics to be carried out by local commanders, U.S. Marine Corps Post Action and Investigative reports and the latest information on what happened to those three Marines left behind.
James E. Wise Jr., a former naval aviator, intelligence officer, and Vietnam veteran, retired from the U.S. Navy as a captain. His books include Stars in Blue and U-505, among many others. Scott Baron, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War and former law enforcement officer in California, is the author of They Also Served: Military Biographies of Uncommon Americans and coauthor, with Wise, of The Navy Cross and Women at War: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Conflicts.