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Winner, 2021 Gold Medal in history, Military Writers Society of America -- In fall 1965, North Vietnam's high command smelled blood in the water. The South Vietnamese republic was on the verge of collapse, and Hanoi resolved to crush it once and for all. The communists set their sights on South Vietnam's strategically vital West-Central Highlands. Annihilate ARVN's defenses in Kontum and Pleiku provinces, the communists surmised, and the region's remaining provinces would topple like dominoes. Their first target was the American Special Forces camp at Plei Me, remote and isolated along the Cambodian border.


As darkness fell on 19 October, 1965, two North Vietnamese Army regiments--some 4,000 troops-- crept into their final strike positions. The plan was as simple as it was audacious: one regiment would bring the frontier fortress under murderous siege while the other would lie in wait to destroy the inevitable rescue force. Initially, all that stood athwart Hanoi's grand scheme was a handful of American Green Berets, a few hundred Montagnard allies--and burgeoning U.S. airpower. Cut off and beleaguered, Plei Me's defenders fought for their lives, while a daring band of helicopter, close air support, and resupply pilots braved a withering storm of antiaircraft fire to help save their brothers on the ground.


But as the overland relief force bogged down, 5th Group ordered in the legendary "Chargin" Charlie Beckwith and his elite Project Delta to help hold the line. Soon, the newly formed 1st Cavalry Division, under its aggressive commander Maj. Gen. Harry Kinnard, would join the fray, setting the stage for its bloody Ia Drang Valley fights a few weeks later. Before it was over, the siege of Plei Me would push its defenders to the brink and usher in the first major clashes between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies.

Drawing on archival research and interviews with combat veterans, J. Keith Saliba reconstructs this pivotal battle in vivid, gut-wrenching detail and illustrates where the siege fit in the war's strategic picture. (Stackpole Books, 2020)


Image of author's first book, Death in the Highlands: the siege of special forces camp plei me
Gold medal award in history

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Finally, here it is: a detailed, carefully researched book about the siege at Plei Me Camp in October of 1965--the real beginning of America's war in Vietnam. A full regiment of North Vietnamese Army regulars had the 12 American Green Berets and their Montagnard allies in a death grip. This story has it all: the bravery and suffering of men in extreme peril and how they lived and died. Plei Me was the prelude to the bloody battles of the 1st Cavalry Division troopers in the nearby Ia Drang Valley just weeks later. Keith Saliba has done them all proud.

Joseph L. Galloway, co-author of the New York Times bestseller We Were Soldiers Once...and Young

Praise for Death in the Highlands

Death in the Highlands, meticulously documented, is based on deep archival research and extensive interviews with combat veterans of the battle from both sides. Saliba is adept at weaving a tight story told from the perspectives of those who fought the battle on the ground and in the air; the result is a vivid and readable account that puts the reader on the battlefield with the Green Berets and the Montagnard defenders.

Lt. Col. James Willbanks, U.S. Army retired, is professor emeritus of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 

Saliba's writing eloquently captures the harrowing experiences of the soldiers and airmen who fought, bled, and sometimes died to defend and sustain the tiny CIDG camp... [and] paints an intense and emotional picture of the Plei Me campaign, as seen through the eyes of the men who lived through it. Death in the Highlands is a highly recommended combat narrative that is appropriate for generalists and experts alike. 

Martin G. Clemis, The Journal of Military History

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