Complete, unedited reviews:
Jay “Rabbit” Campbell, RADM, USN (ret.), fighter pilot
Frank Partel has crafted an extraordinary, riveting saga to recap one of the most turbulent decades for the United States in the 20th Century. This epic novel captures the tension of the height of the Cold War, the rising toll of the war in Vietnam and the widening divide among our citizens at home as events conspire to increase the involvement of U.S. troops in an ever escalating, controversial war in Southeast Asia. His detail and nomenclature accurately reflect operations and conditions at sea, in the air and on the ground throughout the theater, and whether you served in the late ‘60s or demonstrated against our involvement, this tale will leave you feeling like you’ve “been there—done that.” A compassionate story of faith and determination, Down in Laos is an important read that tells it like it was.
Paul Galanti, CDR, USN (ret), attack pilot and POW
Flying off an aircraft carrier in a hot little bomber was easily the most life-shaping experience of my life as it was for many of the tactical pilots who flew in Southeast Asia during the heavy Vietnam bombing campaigns. It was a source of pride to be a member of - at that time - the most dangerous profession in the entire world!
Frank Partel captures the emotions perfectly in "Down in Laos." The prospect of being violently killed or, worse, being captured was unsettling. But these optimistic warriors rationalized that it always happened to somebody else! If one could "hack the boat" all else was a walk in the park. Usually!
I've read nearly every book about aviation in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Frank Partel's book, one of the best, is a page turner… I couldn't put it down. And I can identify with virtually every page.
Down in Laos brought back every good memory I ever had during my 7.5 year combat cruise and a few bad ones also… I highly recommend it.
Jack Shea, Reviewer, Martha’s Vineyard Times
With his third novel of historical fiction, seasonal Island resident and U.S. Navy Vietnam vet Frank Partel has stepped up his literary game to deliver a suspenseful and noteworthy book that offers an insight into the events and into the minds of U.S. servicemen in America’s most controversial war.
Down in Laos is a boots-on-the-ground look at the Vietnam War, centering on events in 1968, a pivotal year in a conflict that both sides came to know they could not win. The central protagonists are U.S. Navy Lt. JG Bob Cannon, a rising star in the deep water Navy and combat pilot Lt. Augustine (Ti) Campbell. Both men are presented within a context of their strong Judeo-Christian religious tradition that is shaken by their experiences in war.
Mr. Partel set himself a high bar for this work. Drawing on his own experiences on the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga and as a U.S. serviceman in a confusing and unpopular war, the author adds the threads of moral conflict among the men and women charged with executing a strategy about which some of them have doubts. Finally, Mr. Partel offers an acute appraisal of the realpolitik of Vietnam: that it was a proxy war involving the U.S., Russia and China that took place in a Southeast Asian country named Vietnam.
Ever-present in the book are the attempts by the protagonists to personally justify their work and their suffering with their religious and moral belief systems. To his credit, Mr. Partel has managed to marry the moral and ethical discussion with an action-suspense format.
For Bob Cannon, the tests are more textural than they are for Ti Campbell, who is shot down over Laos and imprisoned and tortured by Pathet Lao insurgents who are working with North Vietnam interests. During a long captivity, Mr. Campbell lives a modern-day version of the biblical Book of Job. (Job was beset by indignities by his God, leading him to question the justice of his Higher Power).
Mr. Campbell, lying in a filthy hut, beaten, tortured and sick from tropical disease and malnutrition, must endure the heat of Job’s crucible, make his decision about his Godhead, and decide whether to survive and to rally his five-co-prisoners for an escape attempt.
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Richard “The Beak” Stratton, CAPT, USN (ret.) attack pilot and POW
If you enjoyed “Mr. Roberts,” “The Caine Mutiny,” and those grand sea stories of yesteryear you will enjoy this yarn. The author takes an ambitious bite out of the apple of sea going life with a high degree of credibility. You do not have to have graduated from boot camp, surface warfare school, or flight school to be able to enjoy being thrown into the life and times of Tonkin Gulf carrier air operations during the Vietnam War. Military, professional or layman, you will enjoy this book.
In 1966-1967 stationed on board USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14), with Air Wing 19 (Attack Squadron 192). I flew A-4Es often under the direction of Tico’s CIC. I flew missions over Laos that never made it to my log book. I have chased bikes and water buffalo up and down the Ho Chi Minh trail. In my SERE training I was briefed by an escapee from Laos. As a POW I lived in a Hanoi prison with a CIA pilot who had also been held in Laos. Additionally I have met and broken bread with the author. He has gifted me a copy of the book to enjoy and review (positive, negative or not at all). As a result, you can take my comments with a grain of salt.
Reading the book rekindled my nighttime dreams and nightmares; dreams about Tico (CVA-14), life in the wardroom, life in the ready room, flight ops in good weather & bad, stupid & good missions, shipmates loved, respected, despised & ignored and unfortunately, the cruel, inhumane, sadistic Vietnamese-Southeast-Asian Communist devils from the deepest regions of Dante’s hell.
As the newspaper boy on the corner of Boylston and Tremont Streets in Boston used to yell in my youth: “READ ALL ABOUT IT!” (In Frank Partel’s book).
Purchase it, read it, enjoy it, pass it on to your friends & colleagues and PLEASANT DREAMS. There are many just like these characters that protect our country even today while we sleep in peace. We who have known them, served with them and protected by them, have been blessed.
The Beak Speaks