Prior to the American Vietnam War, the French fought their own futile war in what was then called French Indochina. This is the story of three men from very different backgrounds—a young American who missed serving in World War II, a survivor from the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, and a German sergeant who deserted the German army shortly before the end of World War II—brought together by fate to fight as members of the French Foreign Legion during the nine years of conflict in French Indochina (1945–1954).
This novel emphasizes not only the philosophical mistakes made by the French, but the folly of maintaining a colony in the post–World War II era. It is also a tribute to the bravery of the men of the French Foreign Legion, who fought valiantly and with little support, until the catastrophic last battle in the valley of Dien Bien Phu. In Indochina, now Vietnam, history repeated itself ten years later, when 58,222 American lives were lost in the same region.