Rick Fontain was drafted into the U.S. Army at the height of the Vietnam War. As a draftee, he could expect a rapid trip to Southeast Asia. Except, his test answers and attitude, in the first week of Basic Training seem to have placed him on an entirely different career path.
Bill Fortin has documented the improbable path that draftee Fontain would follow during his military service in his novel Red Eye: Fulda Cold. Fontain would become an expert in the use of the Red Eye manpad, an antiaircraft shoulder-fired missile.
The book tacks Fontain through Basic and Red Eye training to his assignment in Europe. His unit, Third Army’s 1/48, was tasked with plugging the hole that the Russians were expected to blast in NATO lines as they poured through the Fulda Gap.
Red Eye was new to the fight, and Fontain faced organizational and tactical challenges as he put together an effective force. Some of the challenges included manpower shortages, ancient equipment and the mysterious interest that the CIA seemed to have in him.
While a novel, the author has introduced a number of real people from the era and the various operations described. The book is heavily footnoted, to explain abbreviations, jargon and who some of the people referenced are.
A quick read, cold warriors, military enthusiasts and Americans who served or grew up in Germany in the late 1960s will enjoy the detailed references. The very real spy vs. spy of the time, with border crossings from both sides, is a story that is little known but plays an integral part in this work of fiction.
Fortin has more of Rick Fontain coming, with the next novel titled “Stinger”. Fontain seems to have a future with a certain intelligence agency as a civilian. I received a review copy of this novel.