The Gunpowder Prince

(April 7, 2019) The Gunpowder Prince has been selected to receive the MARINE CORPS HERITAGE FOUNDATION'S 2019 COLONEL JOSEPH ALEXANDER AWARD for a distinguished book of biographical literature about a Marine: "recognizing exemplary work that furthers the understanding of Marine Corps history, traditions, culture and service. Judged by Marines and civilian experts, the Annual Awards are a mark of distinction and achievement for journalists, writers, photographers, artists and scholars."

IN EARLY 1968, nearly 30,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers surrounded the isolated outpost at Khe Sanh--defended by just 6,000  Americans. Their survival ultimately hinged on a small band of officers in the Khe Sanh command bunker responsible for gauging what this juggernaut of enemy troops, tanks and artillery was going to do next; then hastily designing imaginative schemes to stop them--with no room for error.
Prominent among them was thirty-six-year-old, Marine Corps Captain Mirza Munir Baig, a scholarly, Cambridge-educated, immigrant from India. His unique combination of classical education, years of counterintelligence work in helping develop spy networks deep into North Vietnam, and an incomparable expertise in the use of field artillery, enabled the enigmatic Baig--like a chess grand master--to "get into the heads" of enemy tacticians, including the legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap, and anticipate their every move.
Author Michael Archer worked alongside this remarkable, eccentric officer throughout that bitter ten-week siege, and, with the help of later-declassified American and Vietnamese military records and memoirs, leaves little doubt that Captain Baig's presence at Khe Sanh was critical to saving thousands of his fellow defenders from death or captivity--and averting one of the gravest military defeats in American history.
This accomplishment was largely the result of Baig's early recognition that, contrary to what many still believe today, North Vietnamese forces arrayed against Khe Sanh were not an elaborate deception to divert American troops away from fighting elsewhere; rather, the result of a ruinous obsession by leaders in Hanoi, in which they would sacrifice thousands of their finest soldiers, to replicate the stunning victory they had achieved against the French combat base at Dien Bien Phu sixteen years earlier.
As he went about his deadly work, Baig also had a personal agenda, driven by his need to erase the only stain on an otherwise illustrious family military tradition dating back centuries to the Mongol conquest of the Western Himalayas. In that sense, Mirza Munir Baig had been rehearsing his entire life to step on to a stage like Khe Sanh and influence the course of history.


"The Gunpowder Prince is Archer's third book about Khe Sanh. It contains a great deal of new material. Archer has done his homework and presents scholarly arguments. At the same time, he finds interest in everyday events." --- The Vietnam Veterans of America, The Veteran Magazine 

"Captain Baig came from an ancient clan of warriors who have fought great battles and had made their name famous. He was born in India and was educated in England. To know his most famous battle is certainly something of a great experience and it should interest and excite most of the readers. You will certainly like the way the author has narrated the account of the war makes it even more exciting. You will get a real-life experience of the battlefield and also a punch of Michael Archer’s wisdom in his analysis of the situations pre and post the Khe Sanh battle.

"I started this book just to give myself a little space between the fiction books. I enjoyed it. I got a little more educated about the conditions of the Khe Sanh. I also came across the political situations in India and the USA during the second world war that I did not know; and the most important thing, I got to know about the Captain who led a lost battle into a victorious one!" --- The Ashvamegh International Journal & Literary Magazine