Rolling Hot

Rolling HotROLLING HOT–the title is from military aviation, meaning the aircraft is moving to the attack with ordnance ready to fire–is based very loosely on Tet of ’68. That’s an event I’m glad to have missed, but a number of the folks I served with in 1970 had stories and even photographs of what the Blackhorse had been doing then.

For those of you who weren’t around at the time, the Viet Cong made a massive win-the-war attack on US and South Vietnamese forces during the truce declared for the Lunar New Year holiday, Tet. Politically, it won them the war: Tet proved that President Johnson and the US generals had been lying when they claimed the VC was nearly finished as a fighting force. Such public support for the war as had previously existed vanished abruptly.

Militarily what happened is that the guerrillas came out in large numbers where US firepower slaughtered them. The Blackhorse was tasked to recover the huge Bien Hoa airbase, and that’s just what happened. One platoon sergeant showed me his snapshots of VC bodies in windrows on the concrete runways where cal fifties and canister rounds from tank main guns had laid them.

The thing is, tanks don’t fight wars by themselves; they’re tools, controlled by the human beings inside them. In a very real sense, human beings also become tools under the stress of war: automatons which flee or die or win through. The situation short circuits the higher regions of the brain which make reasoned decisions. All the firepower in the world won’t help if the crews are cowering in their bunkers rather than face determined enemies who outnumber them twenty to one.

Rolling Hot, like much of my fiction, is about people who don’t run away. They aren’t necessarily good people; their cause may not be any better than our attempt to save the brutally corrupt Saigon regime was; and they may lose, just as we did in Viet-Nam. But the fact that there are people who don’t quit is the reason that, for good or ill, the human race has survived. I’m proud to have served with them.

Dave Drake

Rolling Hot. 1989, Riverdale, NY: Baen. 280 p. 0671698370 (pb). $3.95.
————– 1990, Riverdale, NY: Baen. 280 p. 0671720562 (pb).
————– The Tank Lords. 1997, Riverdale, NY: Baen.
————– The Complete Hammer’s Slammers, v.2. 2006, San Francisco, CA: Night Shade Books.
————– The Complete Hammer’s Slammers, v.2. 2010, Riverdale, NY: Baen.
————– with At Any Price (audiobook),, 2011.

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