PACIFIC STARS AND STRIPES
SUNDAY, JUNE 15, 1986
“F.N.G.” by Donald Bodey.
Viking Penguin. $15.95.
Reviewed by Mike Mooney, Stripes Korea Bureau Chief
Everyone was one when he first got to Vietnam. An “effengee” is what the grunts called you. And your remained that until you picked up your own handle or at least got bloodied.In his new novel “F.N.G.”, Vietnam veteran Donald Bodey captures the fears and apprehensions of every infantryman, either Army or Marine,who boarded a troop transport in the United States, stopped in the heat of Okinawa and then continued on an all-expense paid, one-year vacation to exotic Southeast Asia — compliments of Uncle Sam. There are no great messages in Bodey’s book F.N.G. — the meaning of which you’ll have to figure out for yourself.But if you like adventure, a true picture of combat and the chance to look into the combat veteran’s mind,“F.N.G.” is your kind of book.
THE STORY CENTERS around Gabriel Sauers, a housepainter turned into a soldier who finds himself leaving the “World” for the Pearl of the Orient.Like thousands of others, he’s confused and apprehensive. Bodey talks with stark frankness about the life of the infantryman.Through Sauers’ eyes, you feel the chill of the monsoon rains, the frustrations of being a small part of a gigantic puzzle and the sickness at the pit of your stomach when a buddy gets greased. The characters in “F.N.G.” are real, and have real bush names: Pops,the 24-year-old squad leader;Peacock, who got drunk on R&R to Hong Kong and awoke with a big bird tatoo on his chest; Callmeblack, a fellow effengee who becomes a trusted friend and comrade; Prophet,who can smell and feel when some-thing isn’t right; and A.S.S., Albert Steven Saxon, another effengee who buys the farm the first night in the boonies.
THE ACTION in “F.N.G.” is never exaggerated. Nor is the boredom faced by the infantryman — constantly wet, constantly dirty and constantly wondering whether the monsoon rains are ever going to stop.You sit in a mud bunker with Gabe and feel the cold water dripping down the back of your neck. You dig yourself deeper in the bunker as the rain pours harder and you experience the feeling of helplessness when the cry “incoming” echoes throughout the LZ. “F.N.G.” doesn’t get into the political aspects of the war. The concerns are more real . . . more true to life. Like the young, gung-ho second John who orders the squad to carryt he pieces of four dead Viet Cong to a hot LZ. Or the decision of “Higher, high-er” to move the tired and dirty See “F.N.G.,” Page C7