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Dragon Men is a first novel for Joe Reass.  In it he depicts real events pulled from long clouded memories of his combat experiences in Vietnam.  Pieced together and told by a fictitious protagonist, David Reno, the story brings into perspective, true events, honest, tragic and even humorous that young men of Charlie Company, 4th Brigade, 9th Regiment, faced in the unconventional combat of the Vietnam War.  


Along with graphic descriptions of combat and death, there are insights into men who served and how they coped with difficult situations of surviving not only the fighting, but the arduous life in the boonies.  Live with young soldiers who deal with extreme situations of war, weather and military life.


It is an honest story that will interest anyone who served in combat, who want an unglorified glimpse of combat life or anyone who likes personal adventures told by real characters.

The total that day was thirteen killed in action and fifteen wounded.  I do not know how many NVA were killed.  I did not care.  I hoped they all had been killed.

We placed the wounded onto Medavacs as soon as we could then we loaded the dead onto two Hueys.  I cannot explain my feelings.  I tried not to think about the dead, but some thoughts just will not leave.

I thought, what would their families feel when they learned of their son’s deaths?  These guys would never go to a movie, drive a car or drink a beer again.  They were just boys.  Zircle looked as though he should have been in the ninth grade, not in the army.  I became angry, but I did not know at whom.

C Company pulled itself together and began its trek back to Wood.  It seemed we walked for hours, but I was in a trance.

When we passed through Trang Bang, a small boy approached me wearing an ear to ear smile.

He yelled as he waved, probably trying to be friendly and happy in his unstable life.  I had my rifle slung in the ready position and for some reason I cannot explain to this day, I pointed the muzzle of my rifle directly at him and yelled.




Reaching into the insulated can the man, who was about nineteen, pulled a bottle of Vietnamese beer from the cool murky water.  With his free hand he unholstered his 45 pistol, which looked gigantic in his small hand.  His thumb instinctively pressed the magazine release, allowing the magazine to pop out of the gun about half an inch.  The deadly weapon now became a bottle opener.  As if it was part of Colt’s design the lanyard loop of the pistol and the lip of the magazine held the bottle cap perfectly.  A quick wrist movement and white foam was oozing from the open bottle.

“Have some,” he said, handing the brown bottle to Oster. 

The look on Oster’s face gave away the fact that he had never seen a pistol used in this manner and was impressed.

“That’s the only reason I carry this heavy son of a bitch,” The young soldier said, reholstering his eight shot bottle opener. 


Drafted at age 19 at the height of the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam, Joe Reass found himself suddenly transformed from a naïve teenager into a rifleman in the 25th Infantry Division, 9th Infantry Regiment.


Arriving in Vietnam as a PFC, he survived a year of combat with the famed “Manchu” Regiment and returned to the United States with the rank of Sergeant.


Back at home, he readjusted to civilian life by continuing his education.  Earning a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Capital University and a master’s degree from Ohio University in Political Science, Joe put the war behind him and reentered the world.


After a 25 year career with Columbus Ohio Police Department, including 13 years as a criminal investigator, he retired in 1997.  Returning to Ohio University as a member of the faculty, he currently teaches in the Bachelor of Criminal Justice Program and is the director of the Southern Ohio Police Training Institute.


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