Author Archives: Don Kesterson

Pawns: Stalemate, my new Vietnam novel

My third installment of my Vietnam Conflict series, Pawns: Stalemate, was released in paperback this week on Amazon. It is a behind the scenes story from one of the most volatile times in US history, the Vietnam Conflict. The Pawns series was started from seeing the bumper sticker: When I Left Vietnam, We Were Winning”. Growing up in the Vietnam era, I do not remember anyone ever discussing with me that the United States was ever winning in Vietnam. Therefore, I was seeking the truth, was the bumper sticker correct? This novel represents the final answer to my own personal question of the bumper sticker. It took two years of deep research and writing, seeking out only the facts regarding the Vietnam Conflict. I interviewed and discussed strategy and application with several of my friends and contacts who had honorably served in the United States military. Likewise, since growing up in that era, I knew and went to college with numerous anti-war protestors.

The novel picks up several months after the final scene of Pawns: Kings in Check, it begins in the middle of 1965, just as President Johnson orders a substantial increase of ground troops into Vietnam and ends after the TET Offensive at the beginning of 1968. It features the same fictional characters from previous novels in this series, Marine Major Steven Hebert and newspaper reporter Rita Sullivan inserted into the historically accurate timeline. The intent is to give the reader a feel for actually experiencing the events, while shining a light on the true history. Hebert and Sullivan serve their fictional roles juxtaposed in historical events in Vietnam and in the United States.

The Vietnam side of my research didn’t focus on specific battles, rather, the military strategy of the Conflict and the very difficult situation the US military was placed in while serving in that theater. The US side of my research dealt with the Johnson administration and the American public, mostly the growing anti-war position, first with the students then expanding into the general public.

Lastly, one of the equally delicate subjects of Vietnam, I wove the role of illegal drugs coming out of the Golden Triangle, focusing exclusively on Laos,  due to the close proximity of the Ho Chi Minh trail and its very critical role in the Conflict itself.

In 1965, as a rule, the American public was behind and supported the US effort in Vietnam. However, by the TET Offensive, a vast majority of the public was questioning why we were there. They had become tired of watching the six o’clock news showing battles and death on ABC, CBS and NBC. The role of the embedded reporter and cameraman in this conflict cannot be understated. Why was the televised conflict different than Korea or World War II? It was the actual role of the reporters. During both World War II and Korea, “short clips” were presented before movies at theaters showing only the good being accomplished by the US military, and more importantly produced and approved by the military and the administration. With Vietnam, the news programs could put out a story every night focused on the negative side of the conflict. And, of course, there was the unpopular draft, which had become a story unto itself. Standing back and looking at it, it was a chicken or the egg situation, did the public turn against the conflict before the news presented a more negative view?

Another anomaly of this conflict, it is often stated that the winner gets to write the history books. Vietnam was different. The North Vietnamese had no interest in writing history books while the American population wanted to know why they supposedly lost? Their first loss in any conflict.

While almost every war in history has the conflicting country’s leaders serving a role in fighting strategy, Vietnam seemed to have more interference than previous conflicts. While many country’s fight wars with rules, that is certainly not always the case. After completing my research and writing, it is my opinion, the United States strategy had many more rules of engagement while the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong had none. The United States viewed this as a conflict between a democratic government versus a communist take over, while the North viewed it as a civil war and a fight for reunification. It was that philosophical difference that played a dynamic role in those engaged in the fight.

I will say that one of my goals of this series was to honor those who served in this Conflict honorably, or the “Pawns” of war, since they were never given their just congratulations for their service. Finally, the goal of my novel and the series as a whole was to present the historical facts, without presenting only one side of the growing differing philosophy of the Conflict itself. I attempted to stay true to the theme of my website, with this novel, Pawns: Stalemate, “We are about to embark on a course in education. We will be opening those eyes of any reader who dares to read some of the real truths in history, The real history of the world.”  Or the real history of the Vietnam Conflict.

I am curious what the readers of this novel will think. My approach to writing about this volatile time is different and I hope in the end I have left the conclusions up to the readers, who have the facts.

Pawns: Stalemate

Anniversary of the Surrender of the Philippines – May 6, 1942

Last night, the History Channel showed the second episode of “Lost Gold of World War II” and today is the anniversary of the fall of the Philippine Island, the United States territory, to the Japanese. It set up the brutal Bataan Death March but more importantly it set in motion the Japanese plan to bury gold and other treasures in that territory.

General Douglas MacArthur had been recalled to active duty earlier in the year to command the United States Armed Forces in the Asia-Pacific region. He believed he was under explicit orders not to initiate hostilities against the Japanese. Thus, giving the Japanese the upper hand in taking the territory. On February 22, 1942, President Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to move his headquarters to Australia.

As the first troops defending the Philippines began to surrender on the Bataan Peninsula in April, others resisted until May 6. The Japanese army decided to teach the U. S. soldiers and the loyal Filipinos a lesson for their resistance. This decision was made because of the influence of Colonel Tsuji. Most of the 80,000 prisoners of war, including 15,000 Americans, captured by the Japanese at Bataan were forced to undertake the infamous “Death March” to a prison camp 105 kilometers (65 miles) to the north. The Japanese had only made provisions for capturing 25,000 soldiers, they were unprepared for the significantly larger numbers.

The Bataan Death March evolved into a conflict between the Japanese soldiers and officers. Those officers who had served under General Honma were civil to the prisoners of war. Not so for the soldiers who served with Tsuji’s men. They were ruthless, from stealing wedding bands and watches to bayoneting or shooting prisoners. Tsuji even went so far as to threaten his own officers, warning them that he had orders from Tôkyô to treat these prisoners of war this way, and if they did not comply, their careers may be at risk. American and Filipino prisoners of war were bound, beaten, or killed by their Japanese captors. When they fell from exhaustion, some were bayoneted on the spot. Some were forced to dig their own graves and were buried alive. It is estimated as many as 10,000 men, weakened by disease and malnutrition and treated harshly by their captors, died before reaching their destination. Only 54,000 prisoners reached camp alive. Thousands later died from malnutrition and disease.

During the early phases of the Pacific War, most of the Gold, currency and treasures extracted from Southeast Asia by the imperial Golden Lily Group was sent to Japan to the Nagona Bullion bunker to finance the war effort. By mid-1942, when U. S. Navy ships and submarines made the shipping lanes too risky to move Gold and treasures to Japan, another shipping point had to be determined. Chichibu met with Hirohito, and they decided it would be best to ship the Gold to the Philippines. On July 7, 1942, Tojo met with camp commandants from the Philippines and Southeast Asia. He told them short of becoming inhuman; they were not to permit idleness among the prison work detail in the Philippines. This specifically included those digging caves that were ultimately used by the Golden Lily Group to bury Gold. To circumvent Allied air and naval attacks, Prince Chichibu had a fleet of four ships painted as Red Cross ships, which could move without incident throughout the Japanese territories with Gold and treasures.

Hirohito believed even in defeat, he could negotiate a reasonable peace with Roosevelt. His worse case scenario was the United States would let them remove their captured Gold and treasures. The resulting peace would allow Japan to keep Manchuria, Foremosa and the Philippines.

In March 1944, MacArthur’s forces landed in the Philippines to begin their liberation, the Japanese still had a tremendous amount of Gold and treasures to be buried or moved. On March 7, Manila was liberated. Therefore, the Golden Lily team had to take the Gold and treasures with them into the mountains of northern Philippines and other areas during their retreat, where it was buried at many different locations. This required a huge labor operation.

"The President's Gold" and "Gold of the Spirits"

The President’s Gold and Gold of the Spirits, books by Don Kesterson

Prince Chichibu realized they were going to lose.  Unlike Hirohito, he did not believe they could defend the Philippines. Moreover, he did not share the opinion that they could negotiate to keep the Philippines in defeat. Thus, keep the stored Gold. Chichibu ordered the construction of deep underground storage areas, so deep the Gold, currency and other treasures could not be accidentally detected.

Hirohito decided to recall Yamashita Tomoyuki from Manchuria, where he had been sidelined since conquering Singapore. After a week of briefings, he was promoted to full general and sent to the Philippines to oversee the 250,000 men defending that territory. When Yamashita left, he told his chief of staff that it was his turn to die. On October 6, 1944 Yamashita arrived in the Philippines and established his headquarters in Manila. His original army, so successful just thirty months earlier in Malaysia and Singapore, no longer existed as a cohesive unit. Yamashita knew the “beginning of the end” would occur in the Philippines, and it was up to him and his commanders to stop or at least slow down the U.S. troops.

United States Marines continued to advance in the south on Luzon. There were small pockets of resistance, while the Japanese under Yamashita continued to elude the U.S. forces. In April, he moved 50 miles farther inland to the area of Bangbang. As Yamashita continued to retreat over the balance of the Luzon Campaign, he continued to use Guerrilla tactics such as “hit and run” into the Cordillera Mountains. In a rather ironic twist of fate, Gold had been moving to the Philippines for some time before Yamashita’s arrival, yet the Gold found there would ultimately be called Yamashita’s Gold. Yamashita had nothing to do with the Golden Lily Group, although he was aware of their presence. At the last burial site before surrendering his army, he gathered enough gold and silver to pay his own men.

When Hitler surrendered Germany, Hirohito finally realized for the first time his surrender would be unconditional. His only real remaining hope lay it drawing out the war long enough to have the fragile alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union crumble, which might cause either to ask for Japanese help. With the dropping of the two atomic bombs that request never came.

Lost Gold of World War II- Season Two Premier

Tonight at ten o’clock Eastern Daylight Time, the new season of Lost Gold of World War II begins. Those of you, who followed the show know that at the end of last season, they appeared to find an old tunnel system. Likewise, in several previous episodes to the season finale, they brought out some of the involvement of the United States government and the deviousness of Ferdinand Marcos.

"The President's Gold" and "Gold of the Spirits"

The President’s Gold and Gold of the Spirits, books by Don Kesterson

One of the biggest issues I have with the buried treasure starts with the reference name, Yamashita’s gold. When I was interviewed to be a part of this documentary series, I attempted to correct the producers, telling them that I was able to document that Yamashita was present only at the last burial site. Why, because he had no more money and he went into the burial site to take enough gold and silver to pay his men. Then he sat down with the engineers and drank saké with workers. When they were sufficiently drunk, Yamashita and a couple of the engineers from the Golden Lily team escaped. The bunker was blown up such that those individuals remaining behind were buried alive. I told this story to the producers saying the buried treasure should be properly named either the Golden Lily’s Treasure or Chichibu’s Treasure. Chichibu was Emperor Hirohito’s brother, who was put in charge of the Golden Lily team.

So where did the name Yamashita’s Gold come from? After his surrender in September 1945, he was interrogated by members of General MacArthur’s staff. Then later Ferdinand Marcos used the term to explain his personal wealth. The documented facts are the Japanese were systemically burying gold in the Philippines for several years before Yamashita was stationed there. He was transferred from Manchukuo, the Japanese captured territory or Manchuria in late 1944, therefore, he was there for less than a year. Most of Yamashita’s time, particularly after MacArthur’s arrival to liberate the Philippines, was dedicated to guerilla warfare tactics in the jungle away from the gold and treasure.

I will attempt again this season to critic each series episode again focusing on the involvement with the government and Marcos side. I have spent years researching these two related elements of the buried gold. My assumptions are the season will start out focusing on the newly discovered cave, which as it should be. This site appears to have the potential of being an actual burial site. But remember there were mining operations and natural caves throughout this island before the Japanese arrived in 1942. So who knows, that is why they are doing this show.

Anyway, I suspect my interview for this series ended up on the cutting room floor, as they decided to go in a different direction when it came to the background and intrigue side of the buried gold. I am okay with that. Oh well. Ironically, in January 2020, I was flown to Los Angeles to appear in a new documentary about Yamashita’s gold and the Golden Buddha but due to the Corona Virus outbreak that documentary got suspended or cancelled altogether.

During each of my interviews, I warn the producers about the booby traps and the dangers of these burial sites. Next, I advised they would need a lot of security should they find buried treasure. Lastly, my most important warning was about the involvement of the governments. There are secrets that they cannot allow to be documented. They will do anything to destroy the credibility of anyone who dares tell the truth. I just continue my writing on the subject unveiling the truth about the buried gold in the Philippines along with other untold truths. The real truths in history, history unlike anything you have been taught in school. The real history of the world.

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic – Spanish Flu

A little over one hundred years ago, during World War I, the world was thrust into a flu pandemic. It was named the Spanish Flu yet it didn’t originate there. Spain did have a massive outbreak including their King Alfonso XII. It got its name sake because Spain, was not blacked out for news, due to World War I, like other European countries.

Unlike what the world is experiencing today, where we know that Wuhan, China is where the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak started, in 1918, there is questions where? Some suggest it started in the United States, some in Europe, while others still say Asia. But one thing was for sure, within six months it was world-wide. It was believed to have spread from the seaports, loading docks into the inner cities.

While exact figures are still unknown, an estimated five hundred million (500,000,000)  humans contracted the flu, including six hundred-seventy-five thousand (675,000) in the United States. Over the course of the pandemic, deaths from the flu world-wide ranged from twenty million (20,000,000)  to one hundred million (100,000,000). If it was the later, then that would represent three percent (3%) of the world’s population died due to the flu and complications.  Much of the spread was attributed to the war due to the fact so many military personnel were shoulder to shoulder traveling and fighting.

In the United States, just a little more than a year after Woodrow Wilson, agreed to send troops to Europe in World War I, there was a major outbreak at Camp Funston in Fort Riley, Kansas, with one hundred coming down with the flu. Within a week that number increased four-fold. In May 1918, U.S. soldiers were crammed together on boats going to Europe to fight. In September 1918, there was another outbreak at two military installations in the Boston, Massachusetts area. The flu was so contagious that six days after the first case there were six thousand, six hundred-seventy-four (6,674) diagnosis. At one camp alone there were fourteen thousand (14,000) cases, with seven hundred-fifty-seven (757) deaths. Some historians claimed that the participation in World War I created a shortage of physicians and professional nurses back in the United States. Additionally, some historians claimed, while the flu virus was spreading on these military bases, they failed to use trained African American nurses. Why? In 1913, the progressive President Wilson re-segregated the military. More people died from the flu in 1918, than American soldiers were killed on the battlefield.

Starting in September through November 1918, the influenza outbreak became more deadly. First, beginning in large, densely packed population areas. When hospitals were overrun with flu patients, schools, and other large buildings were converted to make shift hospitals staffed with medical students. New York City required all flu patients to be isolated at home or in the city hospitals. Other hard hit cities were Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco. As the situation deteriorated in Chicago, they closed schools, movie houses and prohibited public gatherings, plus, called for volunteers to assist nurses with the growing number of ill. In Philadelphia, temporary morgues were set up to handle the corpses waiting to be buried. In some rural areas of the country, families were forced to bury their own family members. San Francisco required everyone to wear masks when going out in public. In October alone in the United States, an estimated one hundred ninety-five thousand (195,000) died.


Finally, the American Public Health requested the following: stores and factories stagger opening and closing hours; and, Walk to work rather than use public transportation. Some larger metropolitan areas asked their citizens to confine themselves. The illness was so devastating to the work force that businesses were shut down and crops weren’t harvested.

When World War I was over in November 1918, the demobilizing again increased the influenza, as military were again packed in like sardines on ships and sent home.

Unlike today, it took until December 1918 (more than nine months after the outbreak) before the Public Health started education programs speaking of coughing, sneezing and “nasal discharges”. Yuk.

In January 1919, there was another surge of influenza throughout the country. The case was so severe, (Please don’t laugh at what I am about to type) that the Trustees of the Boston City Hospital asked their mayor for a special funds appropriation of $3,000.00 to study the treatment of this influenza. (Honestly, this is not funny just unbelievable on so many levels.) Up until that time, no doctors or scientists had studied it or had an idea of how to treat the virus.

By late winter of 1919, the United States was starting to get this flu under control but the rest of the world was still struggling. As a matter of fact, in April 1919, President Wilson contracted the flu and collapsed, while at the Versailles Peace Conference, where the flu was still out of control in Paris.

By the summer of 1919, the Spanish flu epidemic supposedly came to a declared end. Why? Because the sick had died off, while the remaining population developed an immunity to this strand of influenza.

God Speed to the United States and the world, we are blessed that our capabilities today are so much better than one hundred years ago.

What do Michelle Obama and I have in common?

We are both releasing our books on the same day November 19. I can’t tell you a thing about her book on the other hand I can tell you a lot about mine:

Ring of Freedom is about a Vietnamese family, the Vuongs, risking everything they had to seek the freedom only offered in the United States of America.

According to a report by the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees, an estimated 250,000 died attempting to escape the communist/socialist Vietnam. My personal opinion that figure is low.

At the time, the Vuong family started their escape they were an affluent Vietnamese family, lead by the patriarch of the family Doctor Toan Tu Vuong. By their final escape attempt, they had to bury money and gold from their in-laws, turn the gold into rings to better hide and sow both the rings and money into their clothing to escape with only the clothes on their back. By this time, everything else had been stolen from them except their desire to be free. Please pick up their story on November 19.

Ring of Freedom – My latest writing project – a Memoir from a Journal

Last year, I was introduced to a story unlike anything I have ever written or contemplated. A friend of mine in Charlotte, Jack (J. C.) Lightner, told me about the family of his wife’s colleague who escaped from Communist Vietnam. Naturally, I was intrigued. As some of you know, I have been writing a series on the causes and effects of the Vietnam Conflict. This would be the best example I could’ve hoped for of the final cause and effect.

Last fall, J. C. introduced me to a family member, Dao Vuong. She gave me an overview of what her family had persevered to come to the United States. I was hooked on the story. When J.C. first discussed the project with me, the patriarch of the family, Dr. Toan Tu Vuong, had written a journal about his life, but it was in Vietnamese and he and his wife lived in New Orleans. We tabled the project until we could find someone to translate his writings. Then, by the grace of God, the family moved to Charlotte, and he translated his own writings to English. Now the project was back on, full speed. Here is the book cover:

The first of this year, the translated journal was provided to me in a MS Word document. Dr. Vuong’s journal covered his life from a young child in Vietnam until late in his professional career in the United States. After discussing with several of my trusted advisors on how to convert a journal to a memoir, I started. As I do when writing historical fiction, I used actual historical events to build the timeline of the story around. To provide different perspective and to add more detail to the story, I interviewed the five adult children as well as Toan’s wife Nha-Y, her sister, and a close family friend.

I read the first chapter at my writers group and received some tremendous input. They suggested a radical change to hook you, the reader, on the Vuong’s determination to come to the United States.

The memoir begins just before the fall of South Vietnam to the Communists and follows the family—and their personal trials and tribulations—as they arrive in the United States. It continuously shows the sacrifices Toan and Nha-Y made for the betterment of their children.

The end of the book includes biographies of each family members to show that despite the dramatic events they endured (as detailed in the memoir), all of them achieved at the highest levels.

I invite you to pick up this memoir and experience the Vuong family’s journey as they come to the United States to be free. A pre-sale will be available soon, and I will keep everyone posted for a release date.



Kindle Sales for The President’s Gold – Novel

Just wanted to follow up on my last blog. For those of you who were so kind as to purchase my novel The President’s Gold, thank you, so much. For the record, due to the herculean effort of my PR firm, they drove the kindle sales to “Number 1” for the day in one category, “Number 2” in another category and TOP TEN in a third category. I couldn’t have done it without you, the readers and PR firm.

I have one more request. If you have read it, would you be so kind as to post a review on the Amazon webpage for the novel. It would be greatly appreciated. If we can get those badly needed reviews, Amazon treats novels and books with a higher regard and they will appear in searches, not previously seen. It makes sense, if readers are posting positive reviews then they assume more readers will likely enjoy reading my historical novels, which of course I agree.

Needless to say it will also help drive sales, other’s will get to experience, the “history unlike anything you have been taught in school. The real history of the world”.

Also, if you liked The President’s Gold, I suggest purchasing Gold of the Spirits, it is the prequel to The President’s Gold. I am starting a special deal new week on Gold of the Spirits for $0.99 kindle version.

And for those of you waiting to see what happened to Frank Young and Rosalita Laurel, I am making excellent progress on writing the final in that series, Tarnished Gold. Again, here is the first chapter.


History Channel Series – Lost Gold of World War II

On Tuesday, March 19, at 10 p.m. EDT, The History Channel is starting a new series on the gold the Japanese stole during World War II and buried in the Philippines. The series, Lost Gold of World War II, is about a Filipino family who believes gold is buried on their property and wants answers.

In October 2018, a Filipino here in the U.S. working with the team in the Philippines contacted me to unlock some of the unknowns or correct some of the inaccuracies of the story behind the gold. The first thing I asked was how they found me—and why me? They had seen the documentary a London production team put together for Myth Hunter’s regarding “Yamashita’s gold,”, which focused on the plight of Rogelio Roxas and the Golden Buddha. I learned several of the other experts regarding this “Lost Gold” have since passed away. Which leaves me as one of the few experts of the overall story still alive and willing to participate in their series.

On December 3 of last year, the young Filipino and the History Channel film team showed up at my residence to get to the bottom of these stories. We spent most of the day in a question and answer session regarding from what countries the gold was stolen, who was in charge of burying and documenting the gold, and why it was brought to the Philippines. The next round of questions revolved around whether any of the gold had been recovered.

When the filming was completed, the production team informed me the series would likely start in March of this year. A couple of weeks ago, a friend called and asked if I knew anything about a series called Lost Gold of World War II. Naturally, I replied yes, I’m in it. The next morning, I sent an email to the producer, who confirmed the series was starting on March 19, and I would show up in episode 7 or 8. Here is a preview of the series:

I was surprised to learn no one in the production team or the Filipino knew anything about my novels, The President’s Gold ( or Gold of the Spirits ( They said they would read them to fill in more detail than I was able to give them in their one-day visit. I cautioned them the Filipino family to be very careful, as pursuit of this buried gold was very dangerous. They left wishing they had more time for questions and answers, as some of my answers led them toward questions they had not even pondered for their Gold series.

Be sure to watch this series and let me know what you think.The President's Gold

Special Sale of The President’s Gold & Preview new novel in the Gold Series

For those of you who enjoyed reading The President’s Gold, I wish to advise you that I have started writing the sequel, Tarnished Gold. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, the first two novels of the Gold Series, as well as the final one, are all historically accurate, based on my detailed research, beginning after the Japanese buried the gold in the Philippines and covering the roles of Yamashita, the Yakuza, the CIA, Marcos, and Santa Romana’s recovery of the gold. All these novels, including Tarnished Gold, which picks up two months after the end of The President’s Gold, are historical thrillers. In the Gold Series, as well as all my other novels, I drop several characters into the historically accurate timeline to give the reader an up-close-and-personal feel for the story as it plays out. The President's Gold

My research into the buried gold in the Philippines led me to two expert appearances in television documentaries related to recovered gold. In those interviews, I relate roles of both individuals in the Philippines and leaders in the United States.

While I am currently deep in writing the journal of a Vietnamese family that escaped Vietnam, the main characters in the Gold Series, Frank and Rosalita, have been pestering me to finish their story. That comment will only make sense to you if you are a writer. Characters get in your head and the talk to you. (No, adult beverages and schizophrenia have nothing to do with it. Most likely?)

Tarnished Gold has been outlined and partially written for several years. Besides finishing the Frank and Rosalita story, it also finishes the story of the two rosaries. If you’ve been reading the Gold Series you know who currently possesses each rosary and what larger story they tell. The rosary portion is part of the true story of the Gold Series.

When I finished my outline and drafted the story, I realized that I needed to develop one of my characters, Tao, who had several cameos in The President’s Gold, as I was planning a bigger role for him in Tarnished Gold. Since he was Vietnamese, I decided to write a novel on Vietnam, called Pawns, which led to another series of novels. I wanted those who follow my novels to understand who he is and know about his past that drives him. Unfortunately, it took me away from a timely finish of the Gold Series, but now it’s time.

So yes, to answer the question on some of your minds, I am writing two manuscripts at the same time, while the bulk of my time is devoted to the Vietnamese family escape, which should be finished in about a month. Lately, I have been known to sneak over and do a little writing on Tarnished Gold. As a matter of fact, in the next couple of days, I will be posting a finished version of the first chapter of that book.

If the Gold Series intrigues you and you have not read it, I am going to run a special starting on July 10th on The President’s Gold for those of you looking for something to read while enjoying your Summer vacation. I promise you this novel is full of fireworks.

Below is the hyperlink to Tarnished Gold Chapter One – WHICH IS FREE

Tarnished Gold Chapter One

Good Morning, Vietnam

Sound Bite


Those of us who have seen the hilarious movie, Good Morning, Vietnam, starring Robin Williams, remember the title words. Sometimes they just make you laugh as you flashback to a scene from that 1987 movie. Robin Williams portrays Adrian Cronauer, a real-life DJ during the Vietnam Conflict. But, Robin Williams’ funny ad libs represented Williams more than Cronauer. While doing my research, I got off on this tangent and learned the movie’s producer and director would not let Williams meet Cronauer before the movie was finished, fearing that instead of bringing forth his natural humor, Williams would accurately portray Cronauer. You see, they had rewritten Cronauer’s  unsuccessful screenplay to take advantage of Williams’ talents.

I mention this because, as many of you know, I’m writing a series of novels on the Vietnam Conflict. My most recently completed manuscript is with an editor now. My newest project is about a real-life Vietnamese family and their escape from the Communist regime after the fall of South Vietnam. The patriarch of the family, a Vietnamese doctor, kept a journal about his life, including his family’s escape. I’m converting his family story from a journal to a memoir. I was researching local Vietnamese radio and TV stations in Saigon during that time period when I was reminded of this tidbit.

Then the next tangent: I stumbled onto was a story some of you may already know, but I was totally unaware.

Pat Sajak, famous for two things, Wheel of Fortune and working with North Myrtle Beach’s Vanna White, was a Disc Jockey in the 1960s in Vietnam. He opened his morning radio show with “Good Morning, Vietnam.” According to Sajak’s own story, he was an Army Spc. 5th class and went to Vietnam as a financial clerk. He repeatedly requested that the Army allow him to become a DJ, like he had been in the States. Finally, they relented and sent him to Saigon. Here is a link to his story in Vietnam:

Anyway, in the memoir I am working on, the project was presented by my friend and associate, Jack (J. C.) Lightner of Charlotte, North Carolina, who, like me grew up in Parkersburg/Vienna, West Virginia. He introduced me to the middle daughter of the Vietnamese family, and I was immediately wrapped up in their story. It has everything in it—failed escapes, hiding from Communist authorities, being separated during the escape, being crammed into a boat, encounters with pirates, and living in a refugee camp before arriving in America and making the most of their new lives.

While I am still researching local Vietnamese radio and TV stations for their memoir, I thought I would share some of the tangents that can drive a writer off the beaten path while seeking answers to humanize their writing.