A Man, A Plan, Lao Bao

During the winter of 2022, when Medic first proposed to edit Gary Rafferty’s war memoir “Nothing Left to Drag Home: The Siege of Lao Bao, Written by an Artillery Who Survived It,  the work seemed simple enough. The project would take two weeks at most. Three months later the edits were completed. During that time we exchanged numerous emails; every so often Gary described an event not in the manuscript. “Gary,” I would reply, “You have got to write this up!” Among the email gems is “The Mysterious White Light.”

Preston Jones, a professor at John Brown University who hosts the website War and Life, recently interviewed Gary.  In these short clips Gary talks about The Mysterious White Light, and The Beast That Lives in Us All.




“This memoir of one man’s encounter with the Vietnam War does not have the literary pyrotechnics of a Philip Caputo or a Tim O’Brien. But Rafferty’s writing is honest, heartfelt, and heartbreakingly direct. Its unadorned simplicity is its greatest virtue and most compelling quality. Once I started reading, I could not put the book down; I finished it in one sitting. And then I read it again. One gets the impression that this book has been a lifetime in the making. I don’t know how Rafferty feels about it, but for me it was worth the wait. It’s a beautiful little gem.”
—W. D. Ehrhart, author of Vietnam-Perkasie

“On the surface, Gary Rafferty’s memoir, Nothing Left to Drag Home, is a carefully constructed and thoughtful insider’s look at one of the most important battles in the American War in Viet Nam. The siege at Lao Bao, called Operation Dewey Canyon II by the military, broke the backs of the ARVN and changed the direction of the war. Historians have made some poor attempts to report on this widely misrepresented operation, but because Rafferty tells the story of that failed battle from the most intimate perspective possible, that of a combat soldier involved in the battle, they don’t come close to the level of truth Rafferty reaches. He has a warrior’s heart and a rough-hewn poet’s ear for American English. Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Rafferty tells the raw truth about how the war changed the lives of many American soldiers, forever, and how forgetting was never an option.
Bruce Weigl, author of Among Elms, In Ambush and Song of Napalm

“You might learn everything you need to know about the Vietnam War from the fighting man’s vantage point in Gary Rafferty’s spare account of one terrifying month with a US Army artillery battery outgunned by opposing forces on Vietnam’s border with Laos in 1971.”
—Michael Uhl, author of Vietnam Awakening, My Journey from Combat to the Citizens’ Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam

…”violent and somber, genuine and redemptive. ‘The Beast is in all of us, say Rafferty.’ This is a must read memoir for all of us, but it is especially fitting for those young men and women who plan to make war part of their life. Is this what they really want?
—Preston H. Hood III, SEAL Team II ’70, author of A Chill I Understand and The Hallelujah of Listening

“Gary Rafferty’s Nothing Left to Drag Home is a gut wrenching, beautifully written, searing account of a U.S. artillery soldier continually under enemy bombardment during Operation Dewey Canyon II. A must read for historians and anyone who wonders what it’s like to endure combat and survive it.”
—Norman Hile, author of Keeping Each Other Alive: A Vietnam War Memoir

I was blown away by how this honest, straightforward memoir illuminated the Vietnam War for me again, capturing in one, small, all but insignificant battle, how useless, soul-killing, inhumane that dog and pony shitshow was for those of us who were behind or under the guns.
Dave Connolly, Rifleman, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 68/69, author of Lost in America