Michael Archer

                                     Author of  

                   

                    The Long Goodbye

  Winner of Foreword magazine's 2016 INDIES        Book of the Year award for War & Military   nonfiction selected by a nationwide panel of librarians and booksellers. 



 

                 A Patch of Ground


                    A Man of His Word




 








MICHAEL ARCHER grew up in northern California and served in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine in 1967-68.  His books include A Patch of Ground: Khe Sanh Remembered, which VIETNAM magazine called “the best first-hand account of the battle of Khe Sanh;” A Man of His Word: The Life and Times of Nevada’s Senator William J. Raggio; and, his most recent book, The Long Goodbye: Khe Sanh Revisited, chronicling his search for answers to a friend’s mysterious death at Khe Sanh.  The Long Goodbye was named the 2016 INDIES Book of the Year in the category of War & Military nonfiction by a panel of librarians and booksellers from among hundreds of submissions by independent publishers and university presses from across the nation.

Michael's articles and essays have appeared in The Nevada Review, Political History of Nevada 2016; Reno-Tahoe and Red Clay magazines. Michael’s research is frequently cited in works by writers of historical non-fiction. He was a technical adviser in preparing the screenplay for the 2013 short film about Khe Sanh, Guarding Charlie and was a cast member in the 2015 documentary film The Siege of Khe Sanh. Michael has spoken at numerous universities, colleges and other venues across the country. 

In addition to his writing, Michael is currently a staff member with the Senate Committee on Finance of the Nevada State Legislature and lives in Reno.   

  

 


Update: June 26, 2017

I have some fantastic news to share! 

My latest book, The Long Goodbye: Khe Sanh Revisited, won the award for best book of 2016 in the category of “War and Military (nonfiction)” at Foreword magazine’s INDIES Fab Awards event held in Chicago this past weekend. There were many hundreds of excellent submissions in that category from small and independent publishers and university presses across the country   and so I am humbled by—but also enormously proud—of this accomplishment. 

 https://awards.forewordreviews.com/winners/2016/war-and-military-2/

 This is also a great honor for my long-time publisher Harley Patrick at Hellgate Press in Ashland, Oregon without whose excellent editorial and design work this award would not have been possible. Hellgate was chosen for this top publishing honor nationally from among five finalists, three of whom were major university presses:   Kent State University, the University of Indiana and Notre Dame.  Congratulations Harley!

https://hellgatepress.com/michael-archer/long-goodbye

Our national book distributor, Midpoint, will likely be presenting The Long Goodbye this October at the Frankfurt (Germany) Book Fair, the world’s largest publishing event, to help garner some international attention for the book.  

Many thanks to those of you who have provided me with so much encouragement over the years to persevere in telling this harrowing story of war, loyalty and redemption.       



UPDATED DECEMBER 13, 2016
Coming in the Fall of 2017

  Of Another Genius    

How U.S. Marine Captain Mirza Munir Baig

Saved the Americans at Khe Sanh

Michael Archer


By late 1967, the war in Vietnam War was grinding down into a costly stalemate. Military and political leaders in both the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) looked for a decisive event that would swing the course of the war in their direction and force the other to the negotiating table. Curiously, both sides decided to bank their hopes for this pivotal victory at the same location, high in the jungle-clad mountains that separated South Vietnam from Laos, near a coffee plantation and a village called Khe Sanh. There, the American military had established its most remote combat base as a jumping off point for reconnaissance observations and attacks against North Vietnam’s supply lines along the nearby Ho Chi Minh Trail.

As January 1968 came to a close, six thousand American and South Vietnamese Army troops, occupying the combat base and surrounding outposts, and now isolated from overland reinforcement, found themselves encircled by nearly thirty thousand soldiers from the People's Army of Vietnam. Ironically, this was precisely what many U.S. military leaders had wanted---to lure the enemy out into the open en masse and use America’s enormous advantage in air and artillery power to destroy them.

The success of this gambit hinged on their hope that those beleaguered and outnumbered defenders, set out to bait this trap, could hold on long enough to accomplish that. However, when hundreds of enemy infantry quickly moved close to the Khe Sanh Combat Base, hugging the barbed wire perimeter to shield themselves from traditional high-altitude bombing, and prepared for an overpowering human wave attack on the defenders, astonished American generals quickly recognized they had underestimated the skill and determination of the North Vietnamese, and now realized the only salvation was an immediate infusion of intelligent and creative countermeasures—with little room for error.

As if on cue, a helicopter landed in a steady drizzle at the Khe Sanh airfield and offloaded a thirty-five-year-old Marine captain. His name was Mirza Munir Baig, nicknamed “Harry” during Officer Candidates School eight years earlier; a Cambridge-educated, India-born Muslim and inheritor of a proud and fierce , seven-hundred-year-long Western Himalayan tribal warrior tradition. 

I would work alongside this uncommon Marine officer for the next ten weeks, throughout near-constant enemy artillery bombardment and regular bloody ground attacks against us, and would come to recognize, along with others who observed him, that, as our target intelligence officer, Harry’s ancestral panache, classical education, tactical expertise and matchless intellect were instrumental in saving us “infidels” (as he sometimes entertainingly referred to those of us around him) from defeat.

Harry Baig had been rehearsing his entire life to step on to a stage like Khe Sanh and shape the course of history. And, in the end, our fate would hinge on the seeming absurdity that he came to Khe Sanh armed with only a distinctive, inwardly curved, ancestral khukri sword on his hip, an old family score to settle, and a stack of well-thumbed volumes of antiquated British, French and Vietnamese military history.

As author and  College of Southern Maryland professor Wayne Karlin recently commented after reviewing the draft: “It is an amazingly resonant and significant story, as a piece of untold history, as a mystery, as an examination of the complex morality of war, and as a commentary on contemporary politics and attitudes.”

UPDATE (September 23, 2016)

I RECENTLY HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE of being a guest of Ellie Newman for an hour on her show That Got Me Thinking at the studios of KDPI - FM 88.5 in Ketchum (Sun Valley), Idaho to discuss my new book The Long Goodbye: Khe Sanh Revisited.

Ellie’s smooth, informed, interviewing style, coupled with an insightful recognition of the complexity of emotions engendered by the Vietnam War—and Tom Mahoney’s fatal decision— required me to dig deeply into my feelings about war, duty, loyalty and survivor’s guilt; the result being one of the most frank and thought-provoking interviews I’ve had.

Click to listen: That Got Me Thinking interview with Michael Archer


UPDATE (June 22, 2016)
IN THE CLOSING HOURS of the American occupation of Khe Sanh Combat Base in July 1968, after the longest and bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War, Tom Mahoney inexplicably walked away from his platoon, unarmed, and was shot to death by enemy soldiers hiding nearby. His body was never recovered.

After decades of exhaustive research, I have been able to describe in The Long Goodbye why Tom, my high school buddy and fellow Marine, took that mysterious walk into oblivion. However, several attempts over the years by American and Vietnamese search teams to locate his remains (and even the use of a psychic) have been disappointing. As such, I’m delighted to report that another effort by a joint U.S.-Vietnamese search team last week, this time taking with them for the first time actual eyewitnesses to the events of that tragic afternoon, returned with news that this long, painful quest may soon be coming closer to fruition. 

Frank Ahearn and Tom Northrop, two members of Tom Mahoney’s platoon the day he was killed, and involved in attempts to recover the body from under an intense enemy ambush, led the searchers to the correct area of the hill (about 500 meters from where the teams had been previously looking).

According to these men, they were able to locate a convergence of two trenchlines at the location of the gate through which Mahoney had walked to his death. The team then searched the area with metal detectors, clearing away a good deal of underbrush in a square of about 100 feet on a side, and soon located several pieces of barbed wire, a button and what appeared to be some grenade parts, including pins and unexploded detonators. Also nearby in an old bomb crater they found a decaying plastic poncho, a belt of fifty-caliber machine gun ammunition, several spent bullet casings and a metal ammo box—all issued to American forces in that period. Not far away they located a sizable fragment of the tube from a Marine light anti-tank weapon (LAW), shoulder-fired rocket launcher. 

Those familiar with the details of Tom’s death from reading The Long Goodbye will be excited by how promising these initial findings are. They show extensive American habitation at that location, and Tom was lost not far from the barbed wire defenses around that gate area. The Long Goodbye also contains a photo taken a few days before Mahoney’s death of his squad leader, Ken Fernandes, standing beside the sole fifty-caliber machine gun on that hill, not far from where Tom was last seen. The hand grenade pieces are even more encouraging because the fighting that day by six Marine volunteers to retrieve his body (three of whom were wounded) was hampered by the inability of everyone involved  (including the enemy soldiers using Tom’s body as bait) to identify targets amid the thick vegetation—forcing all into a lengthy hand grenade duel.

It is now up to the U.S. Defense POW-MIA Accountability Agency to decide when to begin excavating for Tom. I’ll keep you posted as more information arrives. 

Mike Archer


Caption: Parts of old hand grenades recently located near the surface on Hill 881 South at the site identified by Ahearn and Northrop as where Tom Mahoney was last seen.