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First Force Recon Company: Sunrise at Midnight History World 20th Century Bill Peters Ballantine Books


23rd October 2012 History Books 24 Comments

In 1st Force Recon you performed at a very high level of proficiency. Or you died. . . .

In 1969, First Lieutenant Bill Peters and the Force Recon Marines had one of the most difficult, dangerous assignments in Vietnam. From the DMZ to the Central Highlands, their job was to provide strategic and operational intelligence to insure the security of American units as the withdrawal of the troops progressed.

Making perilous helicopter inserts deep in the Que Son Mountains, where the constant chatter of AK-47 rifle fire left no doubt who was in charge, Peters and the other men of 1st Force Recon Company risked their lives every day in six-man teams, never knowing whether they would live to see the sunset. Peters’s accounts of silently watching huge movements of heavily armed NVA regulars, prisoner snatches, sudden-death ambushes, and extracts from fiercely fought firefights vividly capture the realities of Recon Marine warfare, and offer a gritty tribute to the courage, heroism, and sacrifice of the U. S. Marines. . . .

Dr. Bill Peters was born and raised forty miles east of San Francisco in the Livermore Valley. He attended San Francisco State University in the late sixties, where he was a star linebacker for their Far Western Conference championship football team. In 1967, Peters joined the San Francisco State football coaching staff and helped the nationally ranked team capture a postseason bowl game victory.

Bill Peters was commissioned in the Marines via Officer Candidate School. After completing the Basic School at Quantico, Virginia, in 1969, he was assigned to Vietnam as a Force Recon platoon commander, where he conducted twenty-three long-range patrols in enemy-controlled territory. His personal awards include a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, one with V (for valor), and a Purple Heart.

In addition to a B.A. degree from San Francisco State University, Dr. Peters has a California Life-Time Credential in Education, a Masters of Divinity, and a Ph.D. in psychology. He is currently producing a weekly television program devoted to stories of our national war heroes. Bill lives in Southern California with his wife, Barbara, and their two sons, Tony and Paul.

In 1st Force Recon you performed at a very high level of proficiency. Or you died. . . .

In 1969, First Lieutenant Bill Peters and the Force Recon Marines had one of the most difficult, dangerous assignments in Vietnam. From the DMZ to the Central Highlands, their job was to provide strategic and operational intelligence to insure the security of American units as the withdrawal of the troops progressed.

Making perilous helicopter inserts deep in the Que Son Mountains, where the constant chatter of AK-47 rifle fire left no doubt who was in charge, Peters and the other men of 1st Force Recon Company risked their lives every day in six-man teams, never knowing whether they would live to see the sunset. Peters’s accounts of silently watching huge movements of heavily armed NVA regulars, prisoner snatches, sudden-death ambushes, and extracts from fiercely fought firefights vividly capture the realities of Recon Marine warfare, and offer a gritty tribute to the courage, heroism, and sacrifice of the U. S. Marines. . . .

First Force Recon Company: Sunrise at Midnight

Force Recon Command

THE A SHAU VALLEYWHERE THE NVA WAS KING . . .
In order to prevent surprise attacks on U.S. forces as they were pulling out of Vietnam, someone had to be able to pinpoint the NVA’s movements. That dangerous job was the assignment of then-major Alex Lee and the Marines of the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company when he assumed command in late 1969. They became the tip of the spear for Lt. Gen. Herman Nickerson’s III MAF. And each time one of Lee’s small, well-motivated, well-led, and wildly outnumbered teams was airlifted into the field, the men never knew if the day would end violently.
But whether tracking NVA movements, recovering downed air crews, or making bomb-damage assessments after B-52 strikes, Major Lee’s Few Good Men never forgot who they were: Each of them was in Vietnam to live like a Marine, win like a Marine, and, if need be, die like a Marine.
Forthright and unabashed, Lieutenant Colonel Lee leaves no controversy untouched and no awe-inspiring tale untold in this gripping account of 3rd Force Recon’s self-sacrifice and heroic achievement in the face of overwhelming odds.

THE A SHAU VALLEYWHERE THE NVA WAS KING . . .
In order to prevent surprise attacks on U.S. forces as they were pulling out of Vietnam, someone had to be able to pinpoint the NVA’s movements. That dangerous job was the assignment of then-major Alex Lee and the Marines of the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company when he assumed command in late 1969. They became the tip of the spear for Lt. Gen. Herman Nickerson’s III MAF. And each time one of Lee’s small, well-motivated, well-led, and wildly outnumbered teams was airlifted into the field, the men never knew if the day would end violently.
But whether tracking NVA movements, recovering downed air crews, or making bomb-damage assessments after B-52 strikes, Major Lee’s Few Good Men never forgot who they were: Each of them was in Vietnam to live like a Marine, win like a Marine, and, if need be, die like a Marine.
Forthright and unabashed, Lieutenant Colonel Lee leaves no controversy untouched and no awe-inspiring tale untold in this gripping account of 3rd Force Recon’s self-sacrifice and heroic achievement in the face of overwhelming odds.

Force Recon Command










  • 24 responses to "First Force Recon Company: Sunrise at Midnight History World 20th Century Bill Peters Ballantine Books"

  • Ritchie Smythe
    4:09 on October 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    As a fellow patrol leader in First Force, I am well aware of the topics and personnel Bill is profiling in this long-overdue work. First Force was an exceptional group of Marines, enlisted and officer alike. Bill has written an accurate and compelling history about this exceptional group of men who routinely accomplished what most units in Vietnam could never conceive of, must less execute. I am proud to have served alongside such outstanding Marines as Bill and those he discusses in this meaningful and insightful book.

  • stan s
    5:43 on October 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Combines ruthlessly honest history with can’t-put-it-down writing. An education and an emotional “E-ticket”.

  • Lancelot
    6:47 on October 23rd, 2012
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    Seldom does a book hold my interest in such a way that I am able and willing to read it at one sitting. Although I served in the Army, with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, I found a genuine interest in this book. It was sent to me by my lifelong friend and fraternity brother (TKE), Lynn Lowder, who is mentioned and pictured generously throughout the book.

  • Espitz
    7:58 on October 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book starts off on a college campus with a group of SDS students trying to drive the Marine recruiters away. It was so realistic and it brought back feelings I had long since forgotten. Lt. Peters goes to Nam and joins Force Recon. Contains many insertions deep inside NVA held territory and many close calls in the jungle. Some good firefights. Very difficult to put down in the middle of a mission because you just have to get the team safely back to An Hoa before you can put the book down. A good read. Made me proud I enlisted during the war.

  • Jeramey Jannene
    8:58 on October 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    As a former Force Recon Marine, I am proud that somebody has finally told the story the way it was. I served with many of the people in this book and I have to say that it has certainly been a long time since I had the honor to have worked with such fine people. There hasn’t been a day since I left the Company that I have not thought about many of our missions, both good and bad. We were young and all charged up, but it cannot be denied that we were working at our highest potential and we fought to win, when our politicians really didn’t know anything about the missions we were undertaking and still don’t. RECON is another way to spell TEAM, something many people should learn more about. RECON ALL THE WAY!!!!!!!! Nice job Lt. PETERS. Give me a shout when you have the time. Formerly Sgt. Jim McKee, 1st Force Recon Company, 68-69. MUSK OX 6, OUT!

  • Lavera Fass
    13:30 on October 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I had a hard time putting this book down. Originally recommended to me by another Marine veteren, I found this book to be powerfully written and full of the kinds of things that make books great: The ability to generate different emotions, humor and educational. As a Marine Officer myself, I found that I was being taught about true leadership, loyalty and selflessness. It was a honor to have read this book and it occupies a special place on mine, and several other’s, bookshelves.

    Semper Fidelis

    Captain M. P. Ferguson, USMC

  • Dusty Baldi
    17:40 on October 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This is a great book by Alex Lee that describes his experiences commanding a Marine recon company near the DMZ in 1969-70.
    He does and excellent job describing the perils of even getting to his assigned position at the time, as different personnel shops wanted to Shanghi him for other duties. Only appeals to the commanding general in his area got him to his post.
    His group was an outcast outfit that had to scrounge for equipment. He had fights with rear echelon people to get adequate gear and air support. He had one Lt. that turned out to be a coward and almost caused many other casualties. He was gotten rid of, and later, back in the states found that the Lt was about to be made Cpt. He described what had happened, and the person resigned from the Marines.
    He had 6 person teams inserted to do recon work. Some headquarters people thought that 8 person teams were better, ignoring the fact that only 6 can be put on one chopper.
    He was given direct orders to put in 8 man teams, and just ignored them.
    A Col Patton even said his men were liars when they reported trucks at Ashau. Later, truck parts were taken from Ashau and presented to the Col’s assistant, as Col Patton was not there.

    Maj Lee had to scrounge supplies from the Army, Air Force, Navy, the CIA, and even rations from the Australians.
    The bravery of the helicopter pilots is described in some detail. He rode with one pilot on a mission that got the pilot the Navy Cross. Maj Lee got no award, even though he was right behind the pilot the whole time.
    Maj Lee went on several missions himself, so has detail memory of those events. A tiger was around on one of their patrols, keeping everyone awake.
    The lack of security of B-52 missions was discussed. Many were wasted as the North Vietnamese were told days in advance that a target was to be bombed, so they got out of the way.
    Effects of B-52 raids is described, as his unit went to see the after affects of the bombings in his sector. When they did hit something, the carnage was great.
    The book describes a group of very brave men, doing a very difficult mission. They knew that the U.S. was pulling out of Vietnam, and could have coasted, but did not.

  • rototo
    19:19 on October 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    We enlisted guys always wondered what the Lieutenants were doing on their time off. That and the overall strategy behind our missions was always a mystery to me.

    This is the most accurate book I have read about Force Recon. It’s something I would be proud recommending to my friends, family, and survivors of our fallen team mates.

  • Skateman
    19:33 on October 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Dr. Peters has correctly portrayed; the time, the situation, and the action, but most important he has done this without “Rambo” izing. The real heroes were all the enlisted men who, for reasons of space could not be personalized. However, the story is truly for all of them. Ric Miller

  • Daniel Babb
    22:14 on October 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Usually, there is one feature that really makes a book valuable to the reader. So valuable, in fact, that they will re-read the book several times and, so-to-speak, turn it into a reference volume for themselves. Such a book is Force Recon Command. The uniqueness of this book is the immense amount of material devoted to leadership styles and development. This book should be required reading for every Marine Corps junior officer. It is a gold mine of inside information about what makes one the kind of leader who is respected, loved, and followed by the men he leads. Such a leader was Alex Lee. Further, most of the leadership principles laid out in this book can have a direct application and effect upon business leaders of today.

  • Neal Lulofs
    1:39 on October 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I bought this book from Amazon, my favorite cyberspace mall! Alex Lee gives a good accounting on what it takes to accomplish objectives despite obstacles that are inherent in the command and control structure of the military organization. It’s been that way since Caesar took on the Senate and lost. As Lee describes it, he and the 3rd Force Recon prevailed through the hardship and agony of a jungle war by carrying on the tradition of “The Old Breed.” This should be one of the books for junior officers to read to inspire them on what it takes to adapt and overcome. Solid historical record of one period of time in I Corps with the 3rd Force Recon, United States Marine Corps. Semper Fi.

  • iain_b
    3:51 on October 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Dr. Peters has captured the events and the mood of the era and puts your mind right there with the men and the teams as if you’re eavesdropping on events as they unfold. A real pulse-raiser. Your heart and mind goes out to these brave men operated in daily in the “Into the Mouth of the Lion”. A definite read for all genders who seriously want to know what those of us who served in Vietnam really experienced. Congratulations, Bill! I salute all of you. R. J. “Dick” Goda

  • Tharheeb
    7:53 on October 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This is the first book that I’ve read that was about the vietnam war, and is probably going to be one of the best viestnam books I’ll ever read. The guys in this book were like scouts or the eyes of the army. They were alone on those dangerous missions.

  • k. rule
    8:42 on October 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    A WELL WRITTEN BOOK. PROVIDES GREAT INSIGHT AS TO THE PROBLEMS OF COMMAND WITH A HIGHLY SPECIALIZED MARINE UNIT. LEE SERVED WITH MAJOR DOC NORTON, WHO HAS WRITTEN FOUR BOOKS ON SIMILAR SUBJECTS. THEY ARE BOTH FINE WRITTERS. A GOOD HISTORY FOR VIETNAM READERS.

  • VCharles
    12:19 on October 24th, 2012
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    One of the best books on Veitnam I have ever read. I wish Bill Peters would write a couple of more books.

  • Chris Blank
    13:57 on October 24th, 2012
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    I read Force Recon Command from cover to cover, and I don’t believe half the stuff that I have read. While I’ll admit that the Navy Seals can barely pour ( ) out of a wet boot, these Force Recon Marines seemed to have been the best jungle fighters we had during the Vietnam War. Why have we heard so little about them? LtCol Lee writes an articulate story about his reconnaissance company’s ability to be a “force multiplier,” and now I am left to wonder if the Marines are as good today, as he and his men where 30 years ago. I get the feeling they are not. I would encourage those of us who never served in combat to read this book and other books such as Force Recon Diary, 1969 and Force Recon Diary, 1970, and learn what the words courage committment and sacrifice really mean. I was simply stunned to learn what young men will do for their country. I’m glad they were on our side.

  • Benjamin Wayne
    18:42 on October 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I had the honor and pleasure of serving with Alex Lee when he was the Battalion Commander of 3/1 during the 1970′s. I was greatly impressed and positively influenced by him then. It was only recently that I learned of this book and had an opportunity to read it. Colonel Lee’s account of the Vietnam war as he and his Recon Marines experienced it is vivid and profound. Perhaps most enlightening were the ‘politics’ and bureaucracies he was continually faced with from above while trying to execute his unit’s mission. Alex Lee was unquestionably a Marine’s Marine, and I would highly recommend this book for anyone desiring an inside view of Marine Corps recon operations in a volatile and ever-changing combat setting.

  • Kermit Pujals
    21:13 on October 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Excellent book about the small recon teams of the marine corps. Highly skilled and trained these small groups of men served as recon elements deep inside enemy territory. They were always outnumbered and outgunned but played a vital role in intelligence gathering missions. I have read many books related to vietnam and rank this as one of the top books I have read.

  • michael bain
    21:41 on October 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Sir, Your accounting of the abilities of our teams brought back so many memories. The price we had to pay is still so unknown to so many. I carry the memory of my friend and teammate Sgt.A.Garcia with me every day. I am proud that I had the honor to serve under you and with men like him. For those who fought for it freedom has a taste the protected will never know.
    Doc Parrish 3rd. Force Recon 1969-1970

  • Patrick C Bedford
    23:22 on October 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I found Dr. Peters book to be an outstanding account of one of the most under appreciated efforts in American History. Having personally heard other accounts from trustworthy and humble individuals that served in Vietnam, I am assured that this book is factual (despite what some other reviewers may contend). The heroism described in this book is a breath of fresh air in a day when most Americans are only concerned about their own personal gain and have no sense of Country.

  • SFbaygal
    23:46 on October 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    AS a member of 1st Force Recon’s class of ’69, I already knew what was coming next. Having said that, however, I could hardly wait to read the next sentence, paragraph, page and etc. Bill did a masterful job of capturing who we were and what we did and, most importantly, he really captured the bonding of “brothers” that took place.

    There are some minor embelishments for better reading but the characters are real and the action is true! The book screams for a TV series. Bill has wrestled with this tiger for many years; it is great to see him finally win his battle with his mind and his memories!

  • SF SOMA Girl
    1:51 on October 25th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I believe this is a very balanced work, and sets forth a compelling remembrance of the good and great men who served under unspeakable conditions, and gained little by it for themselves but silent honor.

    I bought and read this book, after returning from the funeral of my friend’s father, Lt. Col. Buck Coffman, this past weekend (1 Sept., ’01). Col. Coffman was a fascinating, remarkable man who served his nation well. Sometimes, perhaps, better than it’s people deserved. I knew him apart from his role as warrior (though ALWAYS a Marine), and he set a standard to aspire to, as a man and as Man. He was loved truly by his family and friends.

    At his memorial service, I had the privelege of meeting the author, Col. Lee, as well as Maj. Norton, Col. Morris, Gen. Gray and several of the other courageous men who served with them in the Marines; men written of in this book. Each and every one of them impressed me with their intelligence, decency and honor, and for the love they so obviously share for one another.

    I am now starting on Doc Norton’s Force Recon Diaries. I am very grateful to the men who write these books. We should always remember that giants DO walk the earth. I’m honored to have spent a time, even but a moment, in the shadow of one.

  • nike turkiye
    9:22 on October 25th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    For students of the Vietnam War, military history, or history generally, I highly recommend “First Force Recon Company: Sunrise at Midnight”. This book transports the reader back in time, into the lives and the daring missions tasked to this elite Marine team. The author also provides insightful historical perspective by analyzing how the distant political and diplomatic actions had real, observable impact on the chances for survival of this team of Marines.

    It’s interesting that the only negative review of this book comes from the only person who failed to give their name – but claimed to be a “Force Recon Marine who was in Vietnam in 1969″. I suggest two likely possibilities: (1) this person is not what he or she claimed to be, and / or (2) they have some serious personal problems or agenda that leads them to criticize what is a first hand account of some of the most courageous and skillful Marines in the history of the Vietnam War. If this person can refute the basic accuracy of Bill Peters’ book, let’s see their book with verifiable facts.

    Was I there to verify the facts recounted in “Sunrise at Midnight”? No. But the Recon Marines covered in this book can do so. How do I know this? As a lawyer for one the nation’s leading companies, I report to General Counsel Lynn Lowder, who is highlighted in this book and is a recipient of the Purple Heart, Silver Star and Bronze Star.

    Lynn tells me that Bill Peters told it just the way it was. Given Lynn’s integrity in the legal and corporate battlefield – I have no doubt that “Sunrise at Midnight” is a credible and accurate retelling of events.

    The First Force Recon Marines described in this book have continued to achieve at high levels during the past 30 years. They don’t seek egocentric praise for their contributions; quite the opposite. This fine book is clearly written with humility, as a tribute of remembrance to the team – collectively. Hopefully, as time continues to pass, posterity will take note of their extraordinary courage in the face of terrifying adversity, faithfully responding to their nation’s call. This book helps us remember and remain grateful.

  • OK but...
    15:47 on October 25th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    It seems that all of these Force Recon books are concerned with the war after 1969, during the downsizing of Americas involvement. dont they realize that the worst of the war was prior to that ,in 67-68. Also, i dont care for the way col. Lee is critical of the unit prior to his arrival. This very company was the first into the DMZ in 1967, it patrolled Con Thien in the bad days and patrolled the Khe Sanh area with 4 man teams. the company had a Medal of Honor winner and a number of Navy Crosses prior to his arrival. Regardless it is still an excellent book and the views above are mine alone.

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