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Code-Name Bright Light: The Untold Story of U.S. POW Rescue Efforts During the Vietnam War [Mass Market Paperback]

George J. Veith
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 1 1998
The history of the U.S. POW/MIA intelligence and wartime rescue operations has long remained concealed under the shroud of national security, unknown both to the public and to the families of the missing. George J. Veith has assembled an extensive range of previously unseen material, including recently declassified NSA intercepts, State Department cables, and wartime interrogation reports which reveal how the U.S. military conducted a centralized effort to identify, locate, and rescue its POW/MIAs.

Code-Name Bright Light also traces the development of the various national POW intelligence operations and provides an in-depth look at the activities of the Joint Personnel Recovery Center, a secretive and highly classified unit in South Vietnam responsible for rescuing captives. Further, it uncovers one of the most tightly held POW/MIA secrets, the primary reason why the government did not think any Americans were left behind: a clandestine communication program between the POWs and the U.S. military. This still-sensitive program provided the identities and locations of American prisoners, defeating North Vietnamese efforts to keep their names and locations secret.

The raids and efforts that make up the narrative of Code-Name Bright Light succeeded in freeing hundreds of South Vietnamese soldiers but resulted in the rescue of few Americans. The vast network of efforts, however, is a testament to the U.S. military's unknown commitment to freeing its captive soldiers. Veith concludes that the United States secretly went as far as any army could go in freeing captives in this type of wartime situation.

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At the end of Code-Name Bright Light, former Army captain George J. Veith reports the surprising results of a straw poll he took of former military personnel involved in the effort to liberate American POWs. More than half think that when the United States evacuated Vietnam in 1973, Yanks were left behind enemy lines. Veith is no conspiracy freak. He believes strongly that the military made a sincere effort to rescue captured troops, and argues his case well, yet he also reveals a troubled operation that did not liberate a single soldier due to a combination of its own incompetence and clever Viet Cong tactics. This important chapter of the Vietnam War has been largely ignored until the late 1990s, partly because so many relevant documents took that long to be declassified. Veith makes a genuine contribution to the historical understanding of the conflict, one that ought to engage those still wondering about men whose fates remain unknown. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Popular and academic works on U.S. prisoners of war continue to play a central role in Vietnam War literature and historiography. But even as the number of such titles proliferate, the quality of the research and the political bias of the writers have long been issues. Although a definitive scholarly volume awaits the opening of Vietnam's archives, Veith's research in the U.S. records places his study on American rescue attempts in the forefront of the discussion. The author, a specialist on POWs/MIAs, presents a tightly written, challenging essay on the ill-starred rescue efforts of the Joint Personnel Recovery Center and associated units in Vietnam and Laos. The catalog of bureaucratic inertia, interservice rivalries, and incredible bad luck combined to frustrate the numerous missions of American and Vietnamese special forces. An arresting and dramatic story supported by exceptional research, this is an essential purchase for Vietnam War collections in academic and public libraries.?John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib, Loudonville, N.Y.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Code Name Bright Light is a fascinating and highly revealing look into rescue operations in Vietnam performed under the auspices of the Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC) during the longest war ever fought by the United States.

In a six year period, more than 125 rescue operations would be launched to recover U.S. prisoners of war. Attempts to retrieve U.S. servicemen would also be tried by ransoms and prisoner exchanges. The latter methods were minimally successful at best due to the dismal cooperation from the North Vietnamese government and their unwillingness to recognize humanitarian overtures. The actual rescue attempts themselves were outstanding examples of bravery, courage, and audacity in the most harrowing of situation but were also mired in endless problems.

Rescue teams would suffer the indignity of inter-service rivalries and competition, mediocre intelligence information, numerous bureaucratic breakdowns, compromised missions, and bad luck in many cases. Much of this would lead to slow response times to initiate raids on POW compounds which in turn produced many near misses when trying to extricate POW's. On countless occasions, rescue personnel would assault POW camps only to find that prisoners and camp cadre had relocated to new areas only hours before. Although some missions conducted were successful, they would also be bittersweet at the same time. The JPRC teams, during their tenure in Vietnam, were able to rescue hundreds of South Vietnamese POW's but were unsuccessful in ever freeing any living Americans held in confinement.

Leaving no stone unturned, geographically speaking, George J.
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Code Name Bright Light is a fascinating and highly revealing look into rescue operations in Vietnam performed under the auspices of the Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC) during the longest war ever fought by the United States.
In a six year period, more than 125 rescue operations would be launched to recover U.S. prisoners of war. Attempts to retrieve U.S. servicemen would also be tried by ransoms and prisoner exchanges. The latter methods were minimally successful at best due to the dismal cooperation from the North Vietnamese government and their unwillingness to recognize humanitarian overtures. The actual rescue attempts themselves were outstanding examples of bravery, courage, and audacity in the most harrowing of situation but were also mired in endless problems.
Rescue teams would suffer the indignity of inter-service rivalries and competition, mediocre intelligence information, numerous bureaucratic breakdowns, compromised missions, and bad luck in many cases. Much of this would lead to slow response times to initiate raids on POW compounds which in turn produced many near misses when trying to extricate POW's. On countless occasions, rescue personnel would assault POW camps only to find that prisoners and camp cadre had relocated to new areas only hours before. Although some missions conducted were successful, they would also be bittersweet at the same time. The JPRC teams, during their tenure in Vietnam, were able to rescue hundreds of South Vietnamese POW's but were unsuccessful in ever freeing any living Americans held in confinement.
Leaving no stone unturned, geographically speaking, George J.
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Format:Hardcover
Ethicists have debated since time immemorial the question: how many lives is one life worth? Rather than a simple mathematical problem (1=1), this is the question which dogged the men tasked with rescuing U.S. prisoners of war during the Vietnam conflict.
There has been the nasty suspicion lingering for years that the U.S. government decided that the math didn't quite work out and so left our POWs in Southeast Asia to meet their fates alone. Congressional hearings have been held, various recovery missions have been launched, and a cottage industry in conspiracy theory has sprung up in the decades since Operation Homecoming in 1973.
George Veith blows the lid off much of the secrecy surrounding U.S. efforts to recover POWs in Vietnam and thus evaporates much of the conspiracy theories with "Codename: Bright Light." Despite assertions to the contrary, U.S. special forces made substantial and repeated efforts to free POWs during the war. The main obstacles to repatriation were: the constant relocation of prisoners, the intransigence of the North Vietnamese and their American supporters, the failure of intelligence on POW matters, bureaucratic snafus, and the extremely difficult terrain and climate which made escape a dicey proposition at best. As a result, the Bright Light operation failed to rescue a single American POW during its entire course.
Despite these failures, the men supporting Bright Light gave their all to bring our men home and had a substantive impact upon repatriation. Yet most of the surviving members of these teams believe to this day that men were left behind---specifically, those captured in Laos, none of whom returned at Homecoming.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must Read
This book is going t be great because my Grandpa's in it, not oonly is he mentoined in this book he's a POW saver.
Published on March 1 2004 by Tucker Fahling
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed research by an author dedicated to the issue.
Jay Veith, while working outside the bureaucratic infrastructure said to be "dedicated" to the PW-MIA issue, has made a major contribution to the families of those... Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2001 by Richard Arant
4.0 out of 5 stars Good research, dull writing
If you don't know much about how American efforts regarding POWs were handled in Vietnam, you'll sure know a lot after reading this book. Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2001 by "ricohen@cisco.com"
5.0 out of 5 stars Overdue
This book rests on bedrock research and is superb. I however think that Amb. Sullivan is treated unfairly as his mission was to keep Laos out of the conflict as best he could and... Read more
Published on Dec 8 2000 by ra doyle
5.0 out of 5 stars Was The Enemy US ?
"Code Name Bright Light" is an extremely well-researched and documented story about the efforts (failures! Read more
Published on July 28 2000 by Mcgivern Owen L
1.0 out of 5 stars Where Was the Editor?
I am not diminishing the subject nor the author's research, but this book is crying for an editor! The topics are thrown throughout the chapters. Read more
Published on April 15 2000 by F. Dowdle
5.0 out of 5 stars very well researched
Magnificant book, great reference for POW-MIA issue during the Vietnam War. Me and my friends at OPERATION JUST CAUSE, POW-MIA FORUM, NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF FAMILIES, and POWNET love... Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2000 by "hostageman"
5.0 out of 5 stars Explains the very emotional and complicated POW operations.
During my military career, the year I spent in JPRC-SOG was my proudest. This book by Jay Veith explains our memories, frustrations and efforts to assist in a small way our... Read more
Published on Dec 3 1998 by mannr@hq.hqusareur.army.mil
5.0 out of 5 stars We did not forget, we did not stop trying.
I had the good fortune to sit down to dinner with Jay and Col. Reisner, the first commander of Bright Light. Read more
Published on July 21 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellant Research Document
Having played an intelligence role in Vietnam myself, I find Veith's work extraodinarily accurate. It made me relive the frustrations of trying to find an elusive enemy and... Read more
Published on Feb. 26 1998
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