2. Road Gang

Road Gang coverTHE BOOK: Road Gang.

PUBLISHED IN: November, 2014.

THE AUTHOR:  H.V. “Bo” Traywick, Jr.

THE PUBLISHER: Dimenti 1 Milestone Press.

SUMMARY: Some of the Americans sent to Vietnam during the late 1960s and early 1970s were plugged into the infantry. Others flew airplanes and helicopters. H.V. Traywick Jr., better known as Bo, built roads.

And in a sense, he and his fellow engineers in camouflage were fortunate. Much of what went on during the Vietnam War was an exercise in futility, a lot of wandering through jungles and rice paddies in search of an elusive enemy who rarely showed his face, keeping a wary eye out for booby traps and the occasional poisonous snake.

The 20th Engineer Brigade, by contrast, was at least building something.

“Some of the roads we did were in use long after the war ended,” Traywick said.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The sly double meaning gives an insight into Traywick’s wry sense of humor.

Bo Traywick

THE BACK STORY:  “”My Dad always had these great stories about World War II, and one night my Mom asked me, ‘How come you never talk about your experiences?’ I told her, ‘I guess I never really had much to say.'”

“That triggered some memories about my time as a combat engineer, though, and so I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll just write about it.”

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?: There’s a little of Hawkeye Pierce in Bo Traywick, and hence some M*A*S*H in “Road Gang.” The human face that he puts on the Vietnam War is refreshing, and his mixed feelings about the conflict typical of American soldiers at the time.

Take this segment, for instance:

“My last night in Vietnam I was sitting at the bar in the club. Everyone else had turned in for the night. I was talking to the bartender and listening to the Byrds’ ‘Ballad of Easy Rider’ on the tape deck behind the bar. Just then there was a BOOM, and clods of something came raining down on the tin roof of the building.

“I was just too plain short to be worrying about it all that much anymore, so I bought the bartender and me another drink, and we went and sat under the bar. About that time our ‘Fighting Parson’ came charging into the club, in full battle array — helmet, flak jacket, M-16 — shouting ‘Incoming! Incoming!’

“I poked my head up behind the bar and said, ‘Chaplain, won’t you join us in a little libation?’ Before he could reply, Lieutenant Mike Kinh, the good old Daisy Delta construction platoon leader, came in and told us it was OK — somebody had just fragged the NCO’s latrine again. Nobody was in it at the time.”


By Kenneth Feador on January 22, 2015

Having been a two tour combat engineer from late 68 to mid 70s, I served with the 70th Engineer Battalion, Company B. We were with the 131st. Light equipment Company, National Guard from Vermont. We were at Camp Swampy, our compound and rock quarry. We kept up over 20 miles of QL 20 open with 5+ bridges and culverts. The story told by the author hit home and was so close to what we went thru for over a year. The equipment was much the same and I was proud of my D7E dozer. As in this story, our days were filled with the dust of the Central Highlands. We built bridges and rebuilt them several weeks later after having them blown up by the VC. A never ending battle. As with him, many of the Enlisted men and several Officers wrote of our own life in country. Both “Incoming” and “Incoming, Men of the 70th” tell of the same incidents. This book is a very good and fast read. Two thumbs up for telling the real story of the upper level problems faced by line companies.

By Bill K on July 7, 2015

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Having served with the 45th Engineer Group, 18th Engineer Brigade out of Qui Nhon and DaNang from March 1967 to October 1968, and working as a civil engineer in civilian life, I find the authors description of the work done by the line units to read true. Only on rare occasions did I need to get out the salt shaker to take something with a grain of salt,

By Brian H.M. Bowen, Platoon Leader, 10th Engineer Batallion, World War II.

This account by a young officer from VMI assigned to an Army Engineer unit and plunged into the Vietnam War is disarmingly simple in its straightforward, to-the-point narrative, but with rich detail is chronicles a triple pressure: the constant threat of an attack by the Viet cong, overcoming the nearly impossible physical obstracles to building the road, and fighting the tension from faulty decisions from higher up. Throughout it all you can feel the strong bonds between Bo and his men.

AUTHOR PROFILE: The first thing you need to know about H.V. Traywick Jr., better known as Bo, is this: At one point in his life, he stopped being an engineer in favor of working as a tugboat captain. The latter, to him, was a better fit.

He was then, and always has been, his own man. For example, he has strong opinions about the Civil War, including the conviction that it was actually triggered by economic issues rather than slavery. And whether you believe that or not, he has enough facts and data and historical quotes to put up a spirited argument.

A graduate (barely) of Virginia Military Institute, Traywick followed a family tradition by joining the military. He now lives in Richmond, VA, when he isn’t filling in on a tugboat somewhere along the Atlantic.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “I remember Dad telling me before I left that it was a dirty political war, but to do my duty, keep my head down, and get my men back home. So in the end, I reckon, most of us determined that we were there for our brothers in arms.

“That was reason enough.”



PRICE: $16 paperback, $5.99 on Kindle.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: botraywick@phoenixnews.net.

Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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