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Tiger Force


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Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss were co-authors of the Toledo Blade's remarkable series on the Tiger Force massacre. Together, they won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for their Tiger Force stories. Sallah is currently the investigations editor for the Miami Herald. Weiss is now an editor with the Charlotte Observer.


In 1967, the Tiger Force platoon of the 101st Airborne went on a seven-month-long rampage through South Vietnam's central highlands that left dead more than 325 civilians, mostly children, women, and old men. Sallah (investigations editor, the Miami Herald) and Weiss (editor, the Charlotte Observer) here expand their 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning series "Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths," written with John Mahr when they worked at the Toledo Blade. The result is a searing narrative, difficult to read yet difficult to put down, about Tiger Force's descent into a leaderless and ruthless unit, in which, as one of the ex-soldiers puts it to the authors, the objective was to "kill anything that moves." The second part of the book describes the uncompromising investigation into the atrocities, begun five years after the slaughter and led by the army's warrant officer, Gustav Apsey. His work was hampered because the facts had not begun to emerge until the events were several years old. In addition, according to law, many of the worst abusers could not be prosecuted because they had left the military. Those reluctant but willing to talk had questionable credibility, in part because it was evident that they suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder. The authors, who spoke with former soldiers from Tiger Force and with Vietnamese witnesses, seek to understand why the investigation stalled; no one was ever charged in these killings. Sallah and Weiss warn: lessons that could have been learned might have limited recent prisoner abuses, most recently at Abu Ghraib and Guant namo Bay. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/06.]-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

During the Vietnam War, Tiger Force was the code name of an elite platoon of the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry. Its pedigree was impeccable. The battalion's executive officer, Maj. David Hackworth, organized the 45-man volunteer force in 1966, and it became one of the war's most highly decorated units, paying for its reputation with heavy casualties. But for seven months beginning in May 1967, Tiger Force descended into a moral abyss. Operating in what was defined as enemy country, the platoon engaged in an orgy of atrocities that ranged from taking ears, scalps and teeth to the mass killing of unarmed civilians. Conservative estimates count victims in the hundreds. From 1971 to 1975, the army mounted an investigation that documented the crimes, but decided "nothing beneficial" could result from prosecuting the platoon members or their leader. And so the story remained the stuff of rumor until Toledo Blade reporters Michael Sallah, Mitch Weiss and John Mahr responded to a tip and started interviewing former Tiger Force members. The resulting newspaper series, "Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths," won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 and forms the basis of this outstanding book. In the best tradition of investigative journalism, the authors let the story speak for itself, and thus force readers to wonder: was Tiger Force's behavior aberrant or was it part of a half-submerged pattern spanning the entire war? (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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