Monday, January 21, 2019



Before there was Vietnam: Ground Zero there was the four book Scorpion Squad series. Written by the same authors behind the Eric Helm pseudonym, the Scorpion Squad books lead directly into the Vietnam: Ground Zero series—same characters and continuity. The Scorpion Squad was originally published by Pinnacle. After four books, there must have been some kind of upheaval as the series was rebranded Vietnam: Ground Zero, which was published by Gold Eagle.

Strangely, in the first Scorpion Squad book, Body Count, there is no mention of any unit named Scorpion Squad. None. It’s as if, after the book was written, Pinnacle’s  marketing department came up with the series title because it sounded cool. As mentioned above, when the four book Scorpion Squad series ended, the characters of Captain Mack Gerber and the Green Berets of camp A-555 carried straight on into the Vietnam: Ground Zero series. It is not essential to read the Scorpion Squad series before starting the Vietnam: Ground Zero books, but it does help to explain much of what is going on.

Eric Helm was a pseudonym for co-writers Kevin Randle and Robert Cornett. Together they wrote the four books in the Scorpion Squad series, then they continued to co-write the Vietnam: Ground Zero series, which ran for twenty-seven regular series entries and five ‘Super’ Vietnam: Ground Zero titles (special double length series books). Urban legend claims the pseudonym Eric Helm was a tribute to Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm series—Eric being Matt Helm’s code name, but there is no confirmation this is true.

There was a twenty-eighth and final installment of the Vietnam: Ground Zero series entitled Zero Cube. It was written by Nicholas Cain using the pseudonym Robert Baxter. Cain was an experience writer having written the long running Saigon Commandos series and other Vietnam related men’s adventure novels. Oddly, this final installment of Vietnam: Ground Zero was never published as a separate book. Its only appearance was in Heroes Book 1, a strange hybrid omnibus. Each of the 3 books in the Heroes omnibus series contained two or three novels from Gold Eagle’s various men’s adventure series. All of the included novels had been previously published, except for Cain/Baxter’s Vietnam Ground Zero original entry.  

Of the two authors behind the Eric Helm pseudonym, there is little information about Robert Charles Cornett other than he was a Vietnam veteran. Kevin D. Randle, however, is much more high profile. A captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and an authority on alien abduction, Randle is a familiar name on the late-night radio and ufology circles. He co-authored the best-selling books The UFO Crash at Roswell (which became a popular Showtime movie), The Abduction Enigma, and The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell.

Randle is also a prolific fiction writer. With Robert Cornett, he co-wrote two other series, Time Mercenaries and the Fifty Million Years War. Under the pseudonym Steve MacKenzie, he wrote the fifteen books in the Seals series, and the six books in the Wings over ‘Nam series. He has written numerous science fiction novels and other standalones, including one entry in Gold Eagle’s Executioner series (#118 Warrior’s Revenge).

Vietnam: Ground Zero (Scorpion Squad considered to be under the same banner for the sake of brevity) is somewhat different than most entries in the men’s adventure series genre. Much more than another Executioner, Destroyer, Penetrator clone, the Vietnam: Ground Zero entries are actually action-filled history books masquerading as a men’s adventure series.

Starting in the early days of the Vietnam War in 1964, each adventure continues forward until 1968, moving through the blood, gore, and destruction of many good men caused by political ineptitude and the counterinsurgency of a ruthless enemy. The action moves freely through Cambodia and Laos—with one adventure in Hong Kong—batting NVA, VC, Pathet Lao, renegade Cambodians, Red Chinese, and even Soviet soldiers, along with misconceived CIA programs, the drug trade, and corruption in the South Vietnamese government. 

Vietnam: Ground Zero is a solid, sometimes inspired series. As in any long-running series some books are stronger than others, but overall the storytelling is engaging—as is the quality of the writing—making it one of the best entries in the Vietnam War subgenre of the men’s adventure genre to come out of the eighties.  



A lonely hill near the Cambodian border is transformed overnight. Three hundred men are working to construct special forces camp A-555 nicknamed the Triple-nickel. Captain Mack Gerber and his A-team of green berets are advising several hundred Vietnamese popular forces, ARVN special forces and Tai mercenaries. The mission is to establish a presence in territory that has long been ruled by the Viet Cong. The Cong know that once the camp is finished it will be nearly impossible to dislodge the Americans presence in the region. So a regiment of VC are assembling across the border in Cambodian to strike while the camp is still vulnerable. Gerber has to not only fight the VC but the incompetence of the South Vietnamese allies and his own general.


Mack Gerber and the men of camp A-555 get a well-deserved leave after successfully defending the camp against a VC regiment. But no sooner then they land in Australia when they are called back. A U-2 spy plane on a mission in China was flying over North Vietnam when it goes down. The pilot is held captive at a NVA base at Nhu Ky. Now Gerber and his green berets must parachute into North Vietnam and rescue the pilot. After a successful breakout they then have to track down the U-2 to retrieve the photos it took before the NVA get it. Luckily they make friends with the ethnic Nung Tai people who help them.


There is a VC propaganda squad operating in the area. Slipping across the border from Cambodia, the VC terrorize the local villages. Guarded by a company of NVA they are acting with impunity. Mack Gerber wants to put a stop to them. For that he will need helicopters to insert his men quickly before the Cong can slip across the border.


The VC are hoarding supplies brought down the Mekong River in sampans. Ambushes are proving ineffective in stopping the flow of weapons. Boats are needed to intercept the sampans. Captain Gerber and his green berets steal a boat and modify it for combat leading to a joint Army-Navy operation code name: River Raid.



An American Special forces squad penetrates into Cambodia to carry out Project Phoenix—pacification by assassination.


"I will ask you questions, you will give me answers." And the Vietcong commander knew just how to ask questions of the three American soldiers who had become his prisoners. When units from U.S. Army Special Forces Camp A-555, the Triple Nickel, were lured into a well-planned VC ambush south of the Parrot's Beak, the Americans had their bodies and minds broken under the sadistic torture of an embittered Vietcong general. Marked for death in reprisal for the shooting of three Vietcong in De Nang, the Americans knew that they had to escape. But escape seemed impossible Eric Helm is the pen name of two Vietnam veterans, men who were there and who now tell it like it was.


A year in the jungles of Vietnam brings its own reprieve - R and R. The men of U.S. Army Special Forces Camp A-555 are excited at the prospect of time away from that hellish conflict. But, although they don't know it, the squad is marked for death in Hong Kong. And rest and relaxation takes on a new meaning as vicious attacks against the American team bring the jungle war to the city. An implacable enemy stalks the Special Forces unit in Hong Kong and lures the men into his lair with a tantalizing bait - a beautiful American woman left under their protection.


An American General and a journalist are trapped when a Special Forces camp falls to the Viet Cong...


For the men of U.S. Army Special Forces Camp A-555, the enemy comes in many forms. But perhaps the most dangerous adversary is one that the Americans cannot see - a soldier who surrenders to combat pressure. Sergeant Sean Cavanaugh and a patrol of RF strikers are ambushed at Listening Post One. In the ensuing attack the force is wiped out. Cavanaugh is the sole survivor. Riddles with the guilt of his very survival, the sergeant's mind snaps, and he becomes a rogue soldier. Captain Mack Gerber, commander of Camp A-555, is suspicious of Cavanaugh, realizing that in a hostile situation the sergeant's mental state could endanger the lives of those with him. So when Cavanaugh organizes a hunter-killer team to seek revenge for the ambush, Gerber is left with only one choice - find and kill Cavanaugh!


A Special Forces patrol faces annihilation when it violates neutral territory under orders...


After spending one year back in the World, U.S. Special Forces Captain Mack Gerber returns to Vietnam smack in the middle of a political boondoggle. Although the Americans have firm evidence of a major enemy buildup in the Hobo Woods region, they are advised to exercise extreme restraint against the NVA. This mandate is the result of a press-whipped U.S. administration buckling under severe antiwar sentiments. The ripple effect touches officers in the field in Vietnam, and they are cautioned to keep all missions low-profile. Mack Gerber is stunned at these new events, especially since the American military has now been allowed to shed its adviser role and openly take part in combat. Gerber can't believe his orders: Go look for the enemy, but don't find him!


U.S. Army Special Forces team risks capture and death when it parachutes into North Vietnam...


A hill tribe becomes the unwilling target of Communist forces in Laos...


A fact finding mission led by US Army Special Forces Capt. Mack Gerber is dispatched to the tiny hamlet of Plei Soi to determine the future of Camp A-337. The Americans find the village completely deserted with most of the inhabitants killed. - At nightfall comes a blistering rocket and mortar attack that pins down the team. They repel the initial assault, but it quickly becomes obvious they are out gunned with no hope of air support...


South Vietnam falls under siege when Communist forces launch a major offensive...


A Company of American soldiers is overrun and slaughtered by the Vietcong. Captain Mack Gerber is assigned to CID to head the investigation into the massacre.


From dawn to dusk, nothing moves on the highways from Hanoi to the DMZ. Weeks have passed since Navy pilots spotted daytime enemy traffic. The Americans are baffled by this recent NVA tactic. But the capture and interrogation of a Vietcong student reveals that her village in North Vietnam is a staging area for NVA troops. And recon photos support this. U.S. Army Special Forces Captain Mack Gerber and a team of Green Beret commandos undertake a covert action mission to the North to plant some "tulips" along key routes. These seismic intrusion devices will pinpoint target data on nighttime enemy movement for the USAF Phantoms. Despite this U.S. counterthrust, Gerber knows that the night belongs to Charlie.


The Tet offensive has drawn U.S. troops and their ARVN strikers away from the hamlets, leaving the villagers open to attack by Communist forces. When a small settlement is overrun by the Vietcong, U.S. Army Special Forces Captain Mack Gerber and a team of Green Berets are dispatched to investigate. Gerber discovers that the residents were left to defend themselves with obsolete weapons provided by withdrawing U.S. troops. The Vietcong strategy is clear: plant some spies to sabotage the American effort and supply information to the Communist assault force concealed in the nearby jungle. With his highly trained shock squad, Gerber constructs a defense perimeter, then settles down to wait for nightfall and the second Vietcong attack, which he knows must come...


Someone is using the airwaves to lure U.S. soldiers into deadly traps. This mysterious radioman knows the commo system and speaks like an American. Each time he calls in air support, the chopper crews are found badly mutilated or dead. The psy-war team at Military Assistance Command in Saigon believes that the elusive enemy's grisly deeds are an attempt to undermine the U.S. war effort—when the disfigured survivors return to the World, they will serve as walking war posters. The "moon cusser's" gruesome acts are classified top-secret - especially from the media, and Special Forces Master Sergeant Anthony Fetterman is ordered to track down the perpetrator and take him alive. But Fetterman realizes he has only one option: smoke the bastard!


A key NVA supply link to the South presents a challenge to the U.S. military in Vietnam.


A propaganda ploy by Hanoi endangers the lives of civilian personnel in South Vietnam...


A Viet Cong power play brings repercussions reprisals from the U.S. Special Forces military in Vietnam....


A  leak at command headquarters in Saigon puts American lives on the line...


The U.S. airbase in Saigon becomes the command center for a daring hunt to track down NVA terrorists...


U.S. Army Special Forces Captain Mack Gerber is assigned a secret assassination mission across the border in Cambodia...


When a modern-day Billy the Kid emerges from the jungles of Vietnam to challenge American POWs to Old West-style gunfights, Special Forces Captain Mack Gerber becomes determined to force a showdown with the fastest gun in the East.

The police action in Vietnam is drawing more heavily on the pool of manpower Stateside, pulling in kids fresh from the military's crash course on how to win a war: kill or be killed. Dreams of glory held by these idealistic young warriors are quickly shattered as they witness the reality of war: misery and death. With an instinct born of years of combat experience, U.S. Army Special Forces Captain Mark Gerber organizes a recon mission into the jungles of Bang Ron. 

Though enemy activity is way down, Gerber suspects a ruse: Charlie is sending carefully orchestrated signs that he is short on manpower. But Gerber is certain that the VC is planning a full assault in the valley. With help from air artillery, the steaming jungle camouflage is cleared, and Gerber goes in on foot to smoke out the enemy. But he’s fighting a double battle with a new recruit whose blood lust could prove fatal to everyone...not just the enemy.


The U.S. plan to force peace talks with North Vietnam requires a Special Forces mission to


The U.S. continues to provide clandestine assistance to the anti-communist Hmong soldiers conducting direct operations against the Pathet Lao and Vietcong. Now, in a concentrated effort to disrupt enemy traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the U.S. launches Operation Hard Rain. For Special Forces Captain Mack Gerber, this large-scale, multi-detachment mission is a breath of fresh air from recent CIA-sanctioned snafus. It's a chance to get back into the field to do what he does best: recruit and train local Hmong to find and finish off the enemy. Code named Thunderhead, Gerber's A-team will also conduct harassment raids and ambushes in the enemy's rear to protect the Intel-gathering forces farther down the Trail. No artillery support. No air support. The soldiers of Thunderhead get to fight the old-fashioned way...alone and on foot. 


A strike to derail a rolling ammo dump near the Chinese border becomes a one-way ticket to Hell...


Alarm bells are sounding loud and clear from the Three Rivers Secret Zone in southeaster Laos. Normally an area of moderate activity, it's now one of the hottest zones in the whole Area of Operations. Six elite Special Forces reconnaissance teams have been shot to death there in the last month. Unconfirmed rumors of heightened Soviet interest in Southeast Asia and the body of a Soviet paratrooper point to the logical conclusion: Ivan is up to his old tricks again. It's going to take one tough bastard to blow the lid off Moscow's claim that there are no Soviet advisors working with the NVA. Special Forces Captain Mack Gerber's mission: infiltrate the area, find out what the Russians are up to...and break it up before it goes any further.



The powerful true-to-life novel of a massive covert operation challenging the jungle of North Vietnam... 


A stark account of one of the Vietnam Wars most controversial defensive stands...


The battle for Nui Ba Den—tunnel warfare deep inside the Black Virgin Mountain...


Mack Gerber, a U.S. Army Special Forces captain, leads a strike against NVA troops in Binh Long Province, with the purpose of driving them into Cambodia...

A well planted CIA spy has managed to come back with important information that could change the course of the war. The Chinese are ready to commit 100,000 troops to protect the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This would free up much needed NVA troops to wage the war in the south. So Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are put in charge of a mission to stop this. Senior military officers of both the NVA and Chinese PLA are going to meet in a village in Laos to sign the agreement.

Gerber is to lead a team with a Marine sniper to take out this delegation. Gerber has worries about this mission. The sniper is a nineteen year old with over twenty confirmed kills in just two months. Yet he has dreams about the first person he killed a fifteen year old girl running supplies for the VC. He also finds out their old nemesis the Chinese officer that tried to kill them in Hong Kong is still alive and leading the security. He has brought in the most decorated sniper in the NVA to guard the ceremony. Now two of the best snipers are going head to head.

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