On the seventeenth of July, 1979, the dictator Anastasio Somoza left Nicaragua after forty-five years. Finally, the family that had ruled and owned the country was gone. It took its money, which was much of the money the country had. The dictator left. The generals left. The colonels. They fled by helicopter and airplane, by car and on foot. By the nineteenth they were, almost all of them, gone. But the soldiers remained. And in San Juan del Sur, on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, the rebel Commander Zero, Eden Pastora, was facing the best of the dictator's remaining soldiers: Bravo, Montenegro, "the Rattlesnakes," "the Wild Geese," "the Black and White." Eventually the guardias fled too - some of them, including a tough, murderous sergeant from "the Rattlesnakes" (called Suicida by his men), making their way to El Salvador, from where, as the Contras, they waged sporadic war against the Nicaraguan leftist forces.
Christopher Dickey was the first American newspaperman to go into the mountains of Nicaragua with the Contras and come out alive, and his account of the "secret" war that is being waged against the Sandinista government reads like the best fiction. Yet it is as factual as tomorrow's headlines.