Stan Adams is a mid-Missouri author who recently came out with his debut book “Mokane to Mole City.” Adams grew up in the small town of Mokane, Missouri, and was drafted in the Summer of 1968, spending a year as a combat infantryman on the front lines of the Vietnam War. Fifty years later, through a photographic history, this book recounts his journey from rural Missouri to the jungles of Vietnam. Last year he gave a talk about the book at the Callaway County Public Library and also showcased the book at the Local Authors Open House at the Columbia Public Library. I recently emailed some interview questions to him about the book, and he wrote back some answers.
Daniel Boone Regional Library: The book is divided into five parts, with the first half of the book (part one and two) being about you and your tour of duty, while the second half (part three, four, & five) is about reconnecting with the soldiers you served alongside in Vietnam. Which part of the book was most challenging to put together?
Stan Adams: The first half of “Mokane to Mole City” was definitely the most challenging, it took a lot of research making sure the dates and facts were accurate. It was also difficult trying to remember back almost 50 years ago and recreate my month to month service in Vietnam. I started from trying to remember and then document the best I could what happened from the day I was drafted, to landing in Vietnam and serving there from November, 1968-November, 1969. Everyone who was drafted had to serve a year.
But the very hardest part of writing the book was reflecting back on the battles we were in and remembering the men who were killed during my year “in country.” The all night battle at Mole City on Dec. 22, 1968 was the most horrific thing that I and the Manchus of Bravo, Charlie & Echo Companies went through, I had only been “in country” for three weeks. We truly didn’t know if we would live through the night and many didn’t.
My Vietnam memoir basically forced me to come to terms with what I had gone through including reliving the pain and experience all over again, something I’d tried to put out of my mind for 50 years. Most combat veterans think about their war experiences every so often, but to think about it and write about it every day for three years was very stressful, even exhausting, because I started to dream about the war a lot again.
The second part of the book also took a lot of time but my wife Rita worked on it, helping tell the stories of how she searched and found many of the men from Bravo Co. I’d served with. She spent countless hours making phone calls, writing and sending post cards searching for them. Many of us were reunited in early 2003 and we attended our first Manchu reunion in September of that year. What a great feeling that was to see everyone in civilian clothes!
DBRL: Do you have any advice to soldiers who are returning to civilian life from combat situations like you did?
Adams: First of all, I waited too long to be reconnected with the men I served with. My wife Rita encouraged me for 30 years but I just didn’t understand the importance of it. I was too afraid of all the bad memories that would resurface, but there hasn’t been a better gift than for me to be connected to my Manchu comrades. In Vietnam, we didn’t arrive or leave as a group so it was harder to stay connected. Most everyone was a replacement for someone who was injured or killed so we mainly got close to the men in our squad and platoon. As we left the field one by one to fly home, many of us promised to keep in touch, but the war was so painful that most of us tried to put it all out of our mind and to get on with life. It started as soon as we landed back in the States in California, where we were told we shouldn’t wear our uniforms and it would be better to change into street clothes, but I didn’t. Even as much as we thought we didn’t suffer any repercussions from the war, we did — we just didn’t know how much.
- Please contact the families of your friends who died while serving our country. This lets the families know that someone else remembers, cares and feels the loss.
- Go to the Veterans Affairs hospital as soon as you get back home, talk to someone about your experience, they are there to help. I waited too long to go to the VA hospital for help. Seeing a counselor there, just talking to someone about what you went through, good or bad, has helped me with my post-traumatic stress disorder nightmares.
- Combat veterans especially need to stay in touch with those you served — no one understands more than your comrades! Vietnam veterans weren’t encouraged to register with the VA back in the 1960’s so it wasn’t until after I attended my first Manchu reunion in 2003 that I finally registered for any services, even though I only lived 15 minutes away from the VA Hospital in Columbia, MO. We central Missouri veterans are very lucky to live so close and our local VA is an excellent facility with dedicated and caring staff.
- Write down your own experiences in a journal. It doesn’t have to be a book, but it is your history, and later in life you and your family will appreciate knowing what you experienced. And if it does become a book, you might be surprised when it becomes the #1 new best seller on Amazon for Vietnam History, 30 days after it went live on Amazon, like my book did!
DBRL: Your book is filled with lots of photos that both you and others took while in Vietnam. How did you go about gathering and organizing photos for the book? Did the photos help you remember details as you were writing?
Adams: I had taken numerous photos while I was there and sent them and the rolls of film home to be developed. And in Vietnam, maybe someone had taken a picture, but when we got the picture developed, we’d have several copies made to give to each other. The pictures were very important in helping me remember an incident. In Vietnam, I tried writing the names on the back of my pictures so that helped identify them for my book. But sometimes I’d only have the first or last name of the person. When we were awarded medals, we received a list of who else was awarded the medal so these were helpful in getting the guy’s name correct.
In the book I tried to put photos of the people I wrote about so the reader would know what that person or persons looked like. I felt the reader would get nearer & closer to the story that way. The photos helped to remind me of a lot of things. It made me remember lots of details. Some were good and some bad.
When I returned from Vietnam I put my photos in an album, along with the medals I received and kept it in a suitcase. My wife & daughters knew the importance of what was in that suitcase but I didn’t really look at it much, I just was not ready to bring them out to show to my family or friends. But my wife Rita was always interested and curious about the men, who they were or where were they from and she persisted in looking for these men. After Rita started finding the Manchus, she created a list of names, addresses, etc., along with a “looking for list” of names gathered from the medal award sheets. When she’d find a Manchu, she’d ask for names of their friends and any important information they knew, where were they from, etc.
At the first couple of reunions we attended, many of us would bring our photo album from Vietnam so we’d make copies of the pictures and share with each other. In my book, I tried to give credit for where I got a picture if it wasn’t originally mine and Rita contacted different Manchus to try to identify as many of the men as we could. The pictures identify some of the base camps, areas where we were doing search and destroy missions and even loading up on helicopters for eagle flights before being dropped off.
DBRL: After you got back to the United States, were there any books or films about the Vietnam War that connected with you or reflected your experience in the army?
Adams: Yes, the movie “Platoon,” directed by Oliver Stone was as close to my experience. Though there at different times, Oliver Stone and I were both attached to the 25th Infantry Division, “Tropic Lightning”, serving in War Zone C. Like the movie, we had good leaders and some not as good. Thankfully, the second company commander I had, Capt. Ron Cabral, was the very best! It was obvious how much he cared for his men and he made sure we had the basic necessities (like new socks, etc.) and he saw that recognition was given to his men when it was warranted. Capt. Cabral served as B Co. commander from May, 1969 until January, 1970. Though he was there for only 6 months, the men who served under him have the highest regard for him. He was truly a Soldier’s Officer. I was reunited with Ron at our first reunion and we stay in touch on a regular basis. Rita and I have visited him in Massachusetts and he has visited our home in Millersburg. We look forward to seeing each other at the reunion each year. He considers our daughters and our grandsons to be his family and we feel the same about his sons and his grandchildren. I have a lot of respect for anyone that went through a year of combat in Vietnam, or any war.
DBRL: Anything else you’d like to add about the book?
Adams: Two interesting things have occurred since my book was published.
First, a few months ago I was contacted by an American Vietnam veteran who is working with families from Vietnam who are trying to locate the remains of their loved ones who were killed during the war. These would have been enemy soldiers. I gave what information I knew to the American veteran who is trying to help locate these mass graves. The Vietnamese people believe that their spirits can’t go to heaven unless they find the remains of their loved one. This is a noble cause to take on and I hope this helps bring some closure to these people as it does to our American families when US remains are found and brought back home.
Second, in late June, we were contacted by Matt Wilcox from Springhill, Florida. Matt decided he wanted to make a documentary about the Manchus who served in Vietnam. During Matt’s research, he found my book and was very interested in hearing my story as well. Matt came the last weekend of June, spending four nights with us. We drove to Mokane because Matt wanted to record some footage of where I grew up. In addition to interviewing me about the battle of Mole City, he also interviewed Fulton resident and fellow Manchu David Hosenfelt, who served with Alpha Company. Matt is trying to interview and record a few more Manchus for the documentary he’s making so we are working to connect him to some of the other men I served with.
The fact that these men I served with have been reunited and continue being together to this day, even being there as we’re now burying each other, we feel makes “Mokane to Mole City” even more than a war story — it’s the unique full circle story that God is blessing along the way.
DBRL: Where can readers get a copy of your book?
Adams: Autographed copies are available exclusively on our daughter Kim Force’s website Lucky Snipe. The book is also available on Amazon. Businesses who carry it locally are, Columbia: Skylark Bookshop, Yellow Dog Bookshop, and the United States Exercise Tiger Foundation; Millersburg: JONES Farm, Home, Auto and M&L Gun Works; Fulton: The Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society; Williamsburg: Crane’s Museum & Shoppes/Marlene’s Restaurant. For in person deliveries to Columbia or Fulton, please contact us by e-mail: email@example.com. For local deliveries, the books are $30/cash/carry.
In addition to receiving an autographed copy on Lucky Snipe, we encourage people to order from there because without Kim’s intellect, skill, talent and patience, the book wouldn’t be a reality. She did the editing and formatting and the self-publishing. It truly was a family endeavor to get my story told and published and it’s been a good bonding experience for us.