MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #10, the Vietnam War issue – Preview Part 1

Issue #10 of the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY, the magazine I co-edit with book designer Bill Cunningham (who is also my co-editor on THE ART OF RON LESSER series), was released in late March 2024. The theme of MAQ #10 is the Vietnam War.

It reprints some of the best fiction and non-fiction stories about that war published in men’s adventure magazines in the 1960s and 1970s, along with the cover and interior artwork.

Some of the stories involve famous people. For example, one of the notable fiction stories was written by Mario Puzo, author of THE GODFATHER. It was originally published under the pseudonym he used for the many MAM stories he wrote early in his career, Mario Cleri.

One of the non-fiction stories is about Barry Sadler and his songBallad of the Green Berets,” written not long after it became it huge hit. And, the “Gal-Lery” section of MAQ #10 is a special photo feature about Raquel Welch, her 1967 USO Tour to Vietnam with Bob Hope, and the photos spreads featuring her that appeared in vintage MAMs.

Another was written by Robert F. Dorr, who later became one of America’s top military aviation historians. The story is preceded by a special introduction about Bob Dorr, written by his friend and fellow historian Rob Morris.

In addition to story reprints, MAQ #10 features a special Art Gallery section showcasing other Vietnam War cover paintings by Mel Crair that feature the famed male artist’s model Steve Holland, articles about Vietnam War novel series by vintage paperback expert and writer Paul Bishop, author Nicholas Cain’s account of the making of the movie based on his novel SAIGON COMMANDOS, and a unique article by Bill Cunningham about the now nearly forgotten PS MAGAZINE comics designed to educate GI’s about preventive maintenance on their guns, featuring artwork by Will Eisner, creator of THE SPIRIT.

Print and Digital Replica ebook editions of MAQ #10 (and all previous issues) are now available on Amazon in the US, Amazon UK, Amazon Australia, Amazon Canada, Amazon Germany, and other Amazons worldwide. You can also get full color print copies with free shipping via my own bookstore.

I’m proud that there are already glowing reviews the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #10. For example, Bud’s Art Books gave it a coveted “Recommended” designation from Bud Plant himself.

Best-selling author James Reasoner, the noted author of scores of popular Westerns and action/adventure and historical novels, said in a review on his blog that the MAQ is “one of the best publications out there, and this new issue more than maintains that very high standard.”

The legendary vintage paperback maven, author and publisher Gary Lovisi said in a video review on his YouTube Channel: “A terrific issue. It’s just amazing!”

MAQ #10 has also received early glowing reviews from novelist Dan Leo on Goodreads and Amazon and from blogger Nick Anderson on his Youtube Channel.

In my introduction to the issue, I discuss the fact that the U.S. got involved in Vietnam because of the so-called “Domino Theory” that President Dwight D. Eisenhower elucidated in a famous speech on April 7, 1954, near the end of the Korean War. That theory is often mocked. But it wasn’t totally wrong.

Communists backed by Red China had tried to take over South Korea and were only stopped by American military might in the Korean War. They had also taken over or were trying to take over other countries in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had been imposing its brand of communism in countries in Eastern Europe and supporting Communist revolutions in Cuba, South America and elsewhere.

When I started collecting and reading men’s adventure magazines, I noticed that there were many stories about the Vietnam War in issues published between 1963 and 1968. During those years, the majority of Americans supported the war and the goal of stopping the expansion of Communism in Southeast Asia.

Most of those MAM stories are not blindly gung ho and pro war; they are pro American fighting men. They showed those men the kind of respect stories about World War II and Korea gave to the men who fought in those wars.

Like all MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY issues, MAQ #10 is a small, curated collection of stories. But I hope those stories give you an idea of how MAMs honored the bravery and sacrifices of Americans who served in Vietnam and illuminated the hell they went through.

My primary goals with MAQ #10 are to make another small contribution to the history of MAMs and, through the stories we’ve reprinted, show why Americans who fought and died in Vietnam—and those who fought and came back—deserve respect.

The opening story is “The First Gl’s to Die in Vietnam” by Jack Ryan, from MAN’S MAGAZINE, January 1963. It’s on real events that took place in South Vietnam in 1962. What happened to the four American soldiers involved was widely covered by US newspapers at the time. It also played a role in Americans’ awareness of the Army Special Forces troops known as “The Green Berets.”

Most Americans were only minimally aware the conflict going on in Vietnam in 1962. Then in April of that year, four American Green Berets—Sgt. Wayne E. Marchand, Army Specialist 5 James Gabriel, Jr., Sgt. Francis Quinn, and Sgt. George E. Groom—were taken prisoner by the Viet Cong. Their fate was widely reported in U.S. news media at the time.

All four men in the MAN’S MAGAZINE story are featured in pages on “The Virtual Wall” associated with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Virtual Wall page for James Gabriel, Jr., whose nickname was “Kimo,” is particularly moving. Gabriel was a native Hawaiian and is still widely remembered there as “a true Hawaiian hero.” He was only 24 when he was executed by the Viet Cong.

The second story in MAQ #10 is from MALE, August 1966, a fiction yarn written by Mario Puzo as “Mario Cleri,” is titled “The Saigon Nymph Who Led The Green Berets To The Cong’s Terror Headquarters.” It’s a bloody revenge story featuring a character that reminds me of Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan, “The Executioner.”

Puzo gained worldwide fame in 1969 as the author of THE GODFATHER. Before that. He made a living primarily as a writer and Associate Editor for the men’s adventure magazines published by Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management company, such as ACTION FOR MEN, FOR MEN ONLY, MALE, MEN, and STAG.

One of the few MAM stories credited to his real name was the “Book Bonus” version of THE GODFATHER, published in MALE, August 1969, That issue has magnificent cover painting by Mort Künstler (one of many showcased in the book MORT KÜNSTLER: THE GODFATHER OF PULP FICTION ILLUSTRATORS, which I co-edited with Mort and Wyatt Doyle) and interior illustrations by Earl Norem, a top illustrator for MAMs, paperbacks and comics.

Puzo’s story in MALE, August 1966 is illuminated with another great cover painting by Mort Künstler and interior artwork by Charles Copeland, another top MAM and paperback cover artist.

That’s followed by a special, fascinating article by Bill Cunningham titled “When Comics Waged War in Vietnam: How Will Eisner, creator of THE SPIRIT, saved lives of frontline soldiers for over three wars with educational comic books.”

In that article, Bill discusses and showcases examples of the comic book style articles Eisner created for the military publications PS MAGAZINE, THE PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE MONTHLY (PMM), and specialty publications like the Army Pamphlet THE M16A1 RIFLE, which was designed to help troops in Vietnam minimize the M16 rifle’s notorious early reliability problems with proper maintenance.

Next up is the fiction story “Ambush by the Bridge at Nang Nam” by Jackson Bowling, from MAN’S LIFE, October 1966.

This one is unusual for a men’s adventure magazine story. The main characters are not Americans. They’re Vietnamese. The focus is on an old Vietnamese farmer and his wife who are caught up in one of the many tragic aspects of that war—the fact that members of some families in South Vietnam opposed the Viet Cong, while other members of the same families were VC guerrillas.

The artwork used to illustrate Bowling’s Vietnam War story in MAN’S LIFE reflect the fact that MAM editors tended to care more about having eye-catching artwork than about whether the illustrations were a perfect fit for a story.

The colorful cover painting, by artist Vic Prezio, has absolutely nothing to do with what happens in the story. But like almost all of his artwork, it’s very good. Although Prezio not as well-known as many of the top illustration artists who did cover art for MAMs, paperbacks, and comic books in the 1950s and 1960s, in my opinion he was one of the best.

As I note in my introduction to the story, Prezio served as a member of the legendary “Ghost Army” during World War II. That unit used fake tanks, sound effects, deceptive radio transmissions and other trickery to fool the Germans on the battlefields of Europe. They saved thousands of lives and helped win the war, but their efforts were kept secret for decades. In March 2024, their efforts were finally officially recognized with the award of a Congressional Gold Medal at an event attended by the few surviving members.

In addition to being a top MAM cover and interior artist, Vic Prezio did terrific cover paintings for Dell and Gold Key comics, many paperback cover paintings for Dell, Ace, Pyramid, Popular Library, Lion Books, Signet, MacFadden Books, Belmont Tower, Leisure Books, and other publishers, and awesome cover paintings he did for the CREEPY, EERIE and FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. My introduction to the Jackson Bowling story includes one of the first in-depth bios of Vic Prezio that I know of.

Next is a story “The Million Dollar Ballad Of A Green Beret,” from MAN’S WORLD, October 1966. It’s a fascinating profile of Barry Sadler, one of the most famous soldiers and celebrities associated with the Vietnam War, Barry Sadler.

Public awareness of the U.S. Special Forces branch popularly called “The Green Berets” can be traced back to two men. One was author Robin Moore. His book THE GREEN BERETS, first published July 1965, generated major press attention and became a huge bestseller. The other man was U.S. Special Forces Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler.

Sadler was one of the Green Berets author Robin Moore met in Vietnam while doing research for THE GREEN BERETS. As discussed in the MAN’S WORLD story, Sadler had been assigned to provide military training and medical assistance to Montagnard villagers and gather intelligence about Viet Cong activities. In May 1965, he was severely injured after stepping on one of the Cong’s punji spikes.

Sadler, who had long been an amateur musician, wrote the song “Balled of the Green Berets” while recovering from his injury. He gave Moore a tape of himself singing the initial version of the song. Moore liked it and helped Sadler rewrite some of the lyrics. Then he persuaded RCA Victor to record the song in December 1965.

It was released in January 1966. That same month, Sadler performed the song on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW. It became a major hit, spending five weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Around that time, Moore’s book was topping bestseller lists. Sadler then toured the country, performing his famed song and others he’d written to go with the album, BALLAD OF THE GREEN BERETS, hundreds of times at concerts and on television. By 1969, as American public opinion took a major turn against American involvement in the Vietnam, his fame as a musician faded rapidly.

Over the next fifteen years tried several ways of making money, with little luck. Eventually, he moved with his wife Lavona to Nashville and tried, unsuccessfully, to revive his career as a musician. He began to drink heavily and had an affair with a woman who was the former girlfriend of a local country music songwriter named Lee Emerson Bellamy.

In December 1978, Bellamy confronted Sadler threateningly at the woman’s house. Sadler ended up killing Bellamy by shooting him between the eyes with a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson. He was arrested and jailed, but his status as a local and national celebrity saved him from a lifetime in prison. The judge gave him a sentence of 30 days in the county workhouse, of which he served 28.

In 1984, Sadler moved to Guatemala where he pursued a new career as a writer. That second career is another reason why at least some MAQ readers know his name. He launched a series of historical fantasy novels about a character named Casca Rufio Longinus, the Roman soldier who drove his spear into the side of Jesus Christ while he was on the cross. Casca is cursed by God with immortality and wanders the earth for centuries, fighting as a soldier in various wars.

The first book in the series was CASCA: THE ETERNAL MERCENARY. Sadler wrote 21 Casca novels between 1984 and 1989. The excellent cover paintings for the series were done by artist Darrel Millsap, who used Sadler’s face as the model for Casca.

On September 7, 1988, Barry Sadler was shot in the head while sitting in a taxi cab in Guatemala City. The police believed he killed himself. Others claimed he was shot in a robbery attempt. Sadler was brought back to the U.S. where he spent 16 months as a brain-damaged quadriplegic. He died on November 5, 1989 at age 49. The title of Sadler’s autobiography I’M A LUCKY ONE, published at the height of his fame in 1967, seems ironic in hindsight. The best book about him is BALLAD OF THE GREEN BERET: THE LIFE AND WARS OF STAFF SERGEANT BARRY SADLER by Marc Leepson, which I highly recommend

In upcoming posts, I’ll show and discuss other stories, articles and artwork featured in the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #10. Thanks to our friends who hang with us in the Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook Group and have been are among the early readers and reviewers of MAQ #10. We greatly appreciate your support!

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