Richard McBain of Marietta has authored two books, including his autobiography, and he thought his writing career was over.
But his friends convinced him that he had a third book in him.
That third book hit the market Memorial Day, and it could be his most important work to date.
“Reluctant Warrior” is about the year he spent in Vietnam as a 20-year-old college student who was drafted into the war in 1969.
After eight weeks of basic training and eight weeks of advanced infantry training, McBain entered the jungles of Vietnam as part of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Screaming Eagles).
“People were after me to write this book and finally it’s out,” said McBain, 64. “It’s the story of a young man who didn’t believe in the war, but went out of a sense of duty to his country.”
He describes his many close encounters with death and the relationships built with fellow soldiers. He still keeps in touch with some of his old war buddies, such as Bill Nelson, the former CEO of the HBO cable TV network in New York City, who served as a machine gunner with McBain in Vietnam.
Others didn’t make it home. Men like Lt. Roy Richardson, who was killed while at McBain’s side, surrounded by the enemy, come to life on the pages of McBain’s book. Richardson was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
McBain also writes about the protests back home and the tragic events on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio, and how that news affected the soldiers on the ground in Vietnam.
“It’s a story for people who have an interest in that era,” said McBain. “I was from Ohio at the time. We were just appalled that the National Guard would open fire on college students.”
The book also includes a section on a secret CIA mission that McBain was involved with in testing an Early Beacon Air Strike.
The Early Beacon Airstrike was, at the time, a top-secret test of new technology in which a computerized beacon transmitter on the ground sends an electronic signal to a plane, in this case it was a B-52 bomber that “paints a target” and the bomber dropped his load by the beacon’s direction.
“It was, in my opinion, a precursor to the laser bombs we now have that can be directed down a chimney,” McBain said. “On this particular test that I was involved with, there were several CIA guys and my battalion commander and me in on the Laotian border, in the jungle at night. I was speaking to the pilots during the strike on an encrypted radio.”
He said the group purposely picked a spot in the jungle that was a great distance from anything, so the bombs fell 22 miles off target in the middle of nowhere.
“I was one of so many ‘reluctant warriors’ in Vietnam,” McBain concludes. But he believes the U.S. could have won the war “if the government had let us win it.”
McBain is scheduled for a book signing at the Acworth Bookstore on Main Street in downtown Acworth on June 29, from noon to 6 p.m.