5 Stars for “The Third Tour!”

Reviewed By:

Jack Magnus

Review Rating:

5 Stars

Reviewed By Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

The Third Tour is a military fiction collection written by Bob Stockton. Stockton was in the Navy for twenty years and served on “destroyers, submarines, gunboats and aviation reconnaissance squadrons.” He retired after twenty years of service with the rank of Chief Petty Officer. The Third Tour is the third book in his series of novels featuring Zack Martin, a young enlisted man, but it can be enjoyed on its own. Zack, and the other Navy personnel the reader gets to know in this story, are all fictional characters; however, they are representative of the many soldiers, sailors and marines who served their country during the Vietnam War. After being injured aboard the USS Stroud, Martin was home with his girlfriend, Camille Moore, but he repeatedly relived the horrors of that attack in his dreams. Campbell, who had been on duty with him, had been mortally injured and he kept seeing the man as he begged for Martin’s help; that scene had become the focus of horrific nightmares. Camille wanted Martin to go back to the doctor at the Balboa Naval hospital, but Martin felt that any sign of distress would result in his being discharged. Martin had already put in nine years in the Navy and wasn’t about to jeopardize his Naval career over a few bad dreams. He began to feel as though Camille was trying to mold him into someone he was not, someone who would go off to college with her and then settle down to raise a family. Martin returned to the USS Ralph James and waited to hear what his next tour of duty would entail.

Bob Stockton’s military fiction series of interconnected short stories, The Third Tour, is a gripping and suspenseful look at the efforts made by Navy personnel during the Vietnam War. As I began reading, I became increasingly involved in Martin’s life and that of the other servicemen in the story. Stockton makes each aspect of this tale vividly come to life. You can hear the sounds of helicopters as they arrive with reinforcing fire and sense the tension and hidden dangers they were exposed to in the country parts of the story. There are some unforgettable moments in this story, especially when Martin and Gunny acknowledge the fear they all feel and how to cope with it. Stockton weaves a psychological element throughout these tales as Martin and other servicemen seem to increasingly feel that there is no life for them outside of the military and grow increasingly alienated from American culture as well as their families and friends. Stockton’s writing style is perfectly suited for military fiction, and his characters are authentic and memorable. As I read The Third Tour, I was reminded yet again of the tremendous acts of duty, service and self-sacrifice performed by our veterans; reading of their acts of heroism is an enriching, if humbling, experience. The Third Tour is most highly recommended.

The Stud Muffin Ensign

cropped-shang38.jpg© 2014, Bob Stockton

Ensign Gold was a real piece of work. Barely twenty-three with a bachelor’s degree and a few years of NROTC courses at some liberal northeastern college, Ensign Scott Gold, USNR, came aboard knowing everything that needed to be known about the United States Navy in general and aircraft carrier operations in particular—at least that’s what he thought. Gold was a legend in his own mind who had lost the loyalty of the men assigned to the surface module early on when he chewed out the division chief, Chief Radarman Roscoe Quarterman in front of the entire OI Division during an in-port training meeting. Chief Quarterman, to his credit, said nothing at the time. After the training meeting was finished Martin observed the chief going up one side of the young ensign and down the other.

It was a classic old school ass chewing!

“Ensign Gold, lets you and me get somethin’ straight right here and now. Number one, you don’t ever speak to me like that in front of my men. Number two, you don’t know shit about extended forward carrier operations. What you got out of a book in some pissant college don’t cut it out here, and you’ll be well advised to keep your mouth shut and learn from me and my petty officers just what the hell goes on in this division. You got that?”

“See here, Chief, I….”

“See here my ass, Mister Gold. I been riding carriers for seventeen years, and seven of those years I been an OI division chief. I’ve washed more salt water out of my goddam socks than you’ve ever sailed over. I would advise you to watch and learn, and if you’ve got any criticism, do it privately with me one-on-one.”

“We’ll see about this insubordinate talk, Chief. I’ll be taking this up with Commander Klinger.”

“Take it up with the chief of naval operations for all I care, but in the meantime here’s another lesson for you to absorb: if you have any complaint about me, you follow chain of command. If you don’t you’ll get your ass handed to you. If you have a complaint about any of my men that chain starts with me. Don’t you ever go over my head.”

Chief Quarterman didn’t wait for a reply. He just turned and walked away and left the shiny new ensign stuttering and sputtering to himself.

Excerpted From “Stories from the U.S. Navy: I. A Suicide in the Mediterranean.”