Abandoned In Hell: The Fight for Vietnam's Firebase Kate

Marvin J Wolf

Book Cover



    Core Theme



    1960s & '70s











    Led by a green 21-year-old captain in his first firefight, two dozen American artillerymen and some lightly armed mountain tribesmen on a forlorn hilltop firebase are suddenly surrounded by 6,000 North Vietnamese troops. Their three big guns are knocked out. After five days they exfiltrate to safety

    Target Audiences

    Age: 13-17,18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Male Leaning,Universal,Other


    South Vietnam 1969

    Based on a True Story


    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: Penguin Group (hardcover. paperback, ebook)

    Year Published: 2015 a hard copy IS available

    Starting Description

    A green Special Forces CPT takes command of a sleepy firebase within sight of the Cambodian Border. By the next morning they are under attack and surrounded by 6,000 North Vietnamese regulars with artillery and anti-aircraft guns.

    Ending Description

    With many wounded and dead, out of water, and very low on ammo, they are ordered to hold. Albracht decides not to die on that hill and leads his men on a hazardous night march through enemy lines to safety.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available




    Mature Audience Themes

    Extreme Violence

    Plot - Other Elements

    Coming of Age,Happy Ending

    Plot - Premise

    Overcoming Monster/Villain

    Main Character Details

    Name: Cpt. Bil Albracht

    Age: 21

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Aspiring,Badass,Masculine,Modest,Confident,Patriotic,Religious,Decisive,Heroic,Leader,Strong Moral Code,Selfless,Faithful,Flexible,Aggressive,Complex,Honorable,Outspoken,Skillful

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Mike Smith (really)

    Age: 22

    Gender: Male

    Role: Sidekick

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Underdog,Modest,Aggressive,Badass,Charming,Complex,Decisive,Empathetic,Faithful,Skillful,Heroic,Honorable,Leader,Masculine,Obedient,Patriotic,Selfless

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Dan Pierelli

    Age: 23

    Gender: Male

    Role: sidekick

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Masculine,Obedient,Badass,Confident,Faithful,Honorable,Outspoken,Uneducated

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Al Dykes

    Age: 35

    Gender: Male

    Role: logical

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Badass,Aggressive,Confident,Decisive,Empathetic,Patriotic,Blunt,Skillful,Funny,Heroic,Educated,Honorable,Charming,Flexible,Sarcastic

    Development Pitch

    Surrounded by 6.000 enemy, a tiny US garrison must fight for its life. They don't know they are bait to draw the North Vietnamese into South Vietnam. The high command wants the South Vietnamese to engage and defeat the enemy, thereby proving the wisdom of Nixon's VIetnamization policy. The South Vietnamese won't budge. Fighting for their lives, the GIs hold their own until too many aircraft are shot down and air support is withdrawn. With several wounded, out of water and almost out of ammo, CPT "Hawk" Albracht decides not to die on this hill. He leads his men in an incredible night march through enemy lines to safety.




    A chronicling of a fateful standoff between United States and North Vietnamese troops. Captain Bill Albrecht iterates his experience as a young captain in charge of a vulnerable firebase under attack, including many testimonies from his brothers in arms. We follow as the firebase is besieged and later ravaged by enemy fire and as Captain Albrecht leads his men into the jungle under the cover of night on a daring effort to escape.

    Overall Rating


    Point of View


    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: GOOD

    Characterization: GOOD

    Commerciality: GOOD

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: FAIR

    Premise: GOOD

    Structure: FAIR

    Theme: FAIR

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    It is a fair reflection. However, it feels like the book is quite heavy on exposition and background information, while the main slew of adaptable, cinematic events are confined to give-or-take 150 pages in the second half of the text. Perhaps the profile could better reflect this fact. Also, the log line would be just fine as the standalone single sentence. The subsequent sentences feel wordy and don't seem to clarify the concept beyond what has already been teased.

    Draw of Story

    What drew me into the story immediately was the author's pairing of word choice and personal voice. While military and war books can been dense with background and expository information that can belittle the story and character propulsions, this work compensated for that to a certain extent by how human, accessible, and sometimes likable the main point of view in Albrecht is. He is a surprisingly informal storyteller when we spend time with him or hear his direct perspective. He is also funny, at times, too, with his commentary which helps break up the understandable seriousness of the situation at large. These stretches struck as most fresh, engaging, and inviting compared to the drier historical musings and clarifications.

    Possible Drawbacks

    There were some unique structural decisions that seems to work against this work's flow and most valuable storytelling. In essence, it feels like the first half of this text is dedicated to the set-up. The authors seem to take an inordinate amount of time to characterize the vast history and politics of Vietnam and to dole out life stories of diverse service members, at least leading up until the fateful stand on firebase Kate. Perhaps it would be most effective to more succinctly introduce said characters and then to allow us to get to know them better as we live and experience Kate with them. Perhaps, also, it would be most effective to keep the background information on a need-to-know basis. All in all, the crown jewel of this text is the action and experience of Kate being overwhelmed, climaxing with the fateful escape into the darkness and jungle. The more time we invest in these sequences--and the more we invest in the characters specifically within these sequences--the better.

    Use of Special Effects


    Primary Hook of Story

    This story presents vast opportunities for meaningful visual spectacle and inspired sound design. The back-and-forths on Kate followed by the dark, dank escape into the jungle provide countless opportunities for vivid and unforgettable suspense and spectacle. Probably not since PLATOON have we seen camaraderie and firefighting with this degree of harrowing realism, suspense, and impact. It would be a welcome throwback to the kind of gritty, unclean, chaotic, and somehow still beautiful carnage of the cinema of the 1970s.

    Fanbase Potential

    No, this does not bode well for corralling a large fanbase. This pertains to more of a niche, older, educated audience. It is certainly a far cry for the superhero or CGI-fest flavor of the week that earn or pander to what constitutes as a 'large fanbase' in this day and age.

    Awards Potential

    It is both possible and it has precedent. Works like DUNKIRK being acknowledged in awards season bode well for stories like this. In some ways, this feels like the American version of DUNKIRK, albeit without the compositional and pacing innovations. If executed to its full potential, this work has a shot.

    Envisioned Budget


    Similar Films/TV Series


    What’s New About the Story

    What's original about this story is the unique, first-hand perspective it affords its audience. Albrecht lends to the text a credibility that is often lacking in the kind of speculative combat fiction you more often see today. His personality and tone of voice, paired with the grisly carnage and overwhelming stakes and odds, endow this work with a rather unique flavor.

    Lead Characters

    As noted, Albrecht stands out for his personality and detailed perspective. He offers himself to the audience as not just an expert but also as a surrogate. The unimaginable stakes and responsibilities of this character, paired with his demonstrable courage and strength of conviction make him a highly viable leading man.

    Uniqueness of Story

    This has much potential for adaptation to screen. However, one can't help but to feel that the story's current packaging might not be the most audience friendly. In a sense, what is holding this work back from being a rare gem is its at times seemingly endless exposition. We seem to be given a wealth of background information, and not all of it is entirely applicable to the main legs of the narrative in the form of the battle and later escape from firebase Kate. Similarly, we are introduced to countless characters, given a brief biography for each, and it feels that many of these characters don't factor in quite heavily enough to warrant their initial, considerable investments. This chips away, in some ways, at this work's value per page or value per minute of the audience's time. All in all, there is a sense that, at least in literary form, this work can be retooled to prioritize its strengths and to lay its foundation more deftly and efficiently.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Studio, Streaming

    Analyst Recommendation



    This work is a consider in that it simply has so much to offer a screenwriter for adaptation to screen. It checks so many boxes that bode well for this kind of appropriation, namely its steadfast, human protagonist and its ample share of action, impact, consequence, and suspense. It feels like a potential throwback to a cherished and foregone time in filmmaking-- the 1970s/early 1980s.


    Led by a 21-year-old captain in his first firefight, two dozen American artillerymen and some lightly armed mountain tribesmen on a forlorn hilltop firebase find themselves surrounded by 6,000 North Vietnamese troops.

    What We Liked

    This work stood out for a number of reasons. It has a strong leading man in Bill Albrecht, a heroic, charismatic, and deeply human figure. This work also has a plethora of supporting players that have room for further development, which is a big plus. And quite notably, this work has endless action, excitement, and impact. It feels far more grounded and consequential than most action and war movie genre fare, and it harkens back to a forgone style of filmmaking. All things considered, this work has a number of different ingredients that bode well for adaptation-- High stakes, excitement, a fresh voice and perspective, and more.

    Film: Simply put, Abandoned in Hell would make for a fantastic movie. One of its main virtues is that it seems to offer its audience a more unique flavor than what is usually presented. The sheer grit, impact, complexity, and chaos of this story supersedes most action flicks of today. Rather, Abandoned in Hell seems to harken back to the cinema of the 1970s for how refreshingly unclean its conflicts and impacts are and for how honest and consequential its violence is. Simply put, the events in this story matter. Moreover, it has a number of interesting personalities that would seem to have the opportunity to flourish with expansion and adaptation. All in all, Abandoned in Hell would be a different kind of war movie, much less a different kind of action movie.

    TV: Abandoned in Hell seems to offer an interesting tonal space and foundation for a TV series or miniseries adaptation. While it would certainly need to be fleshed out and developed, it seems to have more than enough characters and personalities to sustain an hour long format. In fact, it would serve these characters quite well to give us more time to attach to and get to know them better. And needless to say, this story should have more than enough suspense, action, and impact to fulfill 8-or-so hours of television. All things considered, it has been a long time since we have seen a definitive Vietnam war movie or tv show, and this story seems to have countless ingredients that bode well for expansion and/or adaptation.

    Key points:
    1. Bill Albrecht -- His personality/humanity and heroism make for an excellent pairing in a leading man.
    2. The action -- It feels consequential, harrowing, and exciting all at once.
    3. The epic stakes -- The insurmountable odds couldn't be more intimidating.
    4. The location -- The beauty of the edge of the jungle in Vietnam constitutes an effective juxtaposition with the carnage of war.
    5. The supporting players-- Scattered about this text are countless figures that provide opportunities for expansion and further development.


    Tensions are simmering between the North Vietnamese and the US and allied forces in Vietnam. The US army has set up a firebase at the edge of the jungle. It's the last major stronghold before a prominent city in Vietnam, although the base is far from ideal in terms of its vulnerability to guerilla attacks. Although just 21-years-old, Captain BILL ALBRECHT is assigned command of the meager firebase, nicknamed Kate. There, he is joined by several dozen artillerymen, including the steadfast Sergeant DAN PIERELLI, 20s, and apt Lieutenant JOHN KERR, 20s.

    Albrecht's situation looks increasingly bleak as time passes. Prolonged firefights leave his base with very little ammo. Food and water resources are narrowing, too. To make matters worse, the enemy ranks seem to be growing in numbers, while their artillery seems to only be compounding. After sustained firefighting with the jungle and darkness-shroud Vietnamese, Albrecht devises a plan to escape into the jungle and to approach the sanctuary of US Special Forces, closer to the city. Albrecht and his men soon abandon their base and take off into the perilous night. They could not be more vulnerable in the jungle-- They are careful to evade the enemy fighters, who are surely skulking and watching out for them on all sides, and they hope to link up with the Special Forces unit come to assist them. At long last, after 6 sleepless days of relentless gunfighting, a shell-shocked and totally dehydrated Albrecht is inherited by Special Forces near town and finally able to rest alongside his remaining men.

    Eventually, the Vietnamese enemy is depleted and exhausted. Many around Albrecht are keen to request service stateside, but Albrecht is nothing if not eager to keep fighting. He joins up with the Special Forces unit that retrieved him and his men, and he prepares for a continued career in service. Now, he looks back with humility and respect to his fellow servicemen, particularly those that didn't make it out of Vietnam.

    About The Author

    Marvin J. Wolf is the author of more than 20 books. His non-fiction works include autobiographies of notable Americans as well as forays into True Crime and International Affairs. As for fiction, Wolf has written several novels in the mystery, thriller, and action-adventure genres. He is a member of WGA-West, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Independent Writers of Southern California, and the Military Writers Society of America. He presently lives in Asheville, NC.