Of all the disturbing scenes to appear in The Ugly American (1958), William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick's fictional account of U.S. foreign policy in Asia, none is more unnerving than the depiction of two French Foreign Legionnaires — one African American, one Vietnamese — returning from an ill-fated attempt to scout the Communist Vietnamese position:
Davis was leading Apache. From fifty yards they could see that there was a gout of blood on Davis's cheek. At twenty-five yards they could see the mangled remains of his left eye, hanging in a cluster of tiny glistening cords and muscles…. “They caught us, Major,” Davis said. “There has to be a first time for everything and this time they caught us.” …Davis reached over and pulled Apache's hand away from his throat. Squarely in the center of his throat there was a twisted hole. Far back in the hole the muscles and cords of his neck glistened. (130–31)
The anti-Communist bonding of the African-American Davis and the Vietnamese “Apache” — the only such interracial union depicted in The Ugly American — ends with the physical mutilation and symbolic castration of each man, one denuded of his voice, the other of his eye. In part, the horrific results of Apache and Davis's capture reveal the Communists' brutal refusal to allow locals to ally themselves with foreigners of any color. As Davis puts it, “They left my right eye so that we could find our way back and show ourselves as a lesson to others” (131).