Following a short assignment at Ft. Irwin, CA, I boarded a plane to Honolulu, and reported to Schofield Barracks. Schofield was the home of USARHAW–U.S. Army, Hawaii–and the Hawaii Army Weekly. Assigned to the Public Information Office, my first job was writer-reporter for the Weekly.
Along with headquarters operations, Schofield was the home of the 11th Infantry Brigade, then training for deployment to Vietnam. The brigade would later play a major role in the war, in a story that might have brought the war to a premature end.
During my first year writing for the Army’s newspaper I covered the brigade during training, and spoke to hundreds of its soldiers. Most of them were exceptional and later served bravely in Vietnam combat. Nevertheless I met a few draftees that seemed unfit for battle, and might have had a negative effect on the brigade’s overall fitness.
After the brigade deployed to Vietnam, the media referred to it as the Americal Division, to which it was attached. Soldiers in one of its many infantry companies became famous as perpetrators of the infamous My Lai Massacre.
Over the following years I thought about several things that happened during the brigade’s troubled days in Hawaii. Though no one could have predicted the future, these events–known only to a few people–may have foreshadowed the My Lai tragedy. And since My Lai had such a negative impact on the American people, it apparently spurred the country’s leaders to negotiate an end to American involvement.
Thinking about the overall impact of the war on America, I have long wondered how history might have been different, if some events during the Brigade’s formation in Hawaii had been different. That became the basis for the alternate history of my novel, “The Victory That Wasn’t.”