Book Reviews

Reviews of books by MWSA members. Reviews appear in reverse chronological order, with the most recent review posted appearing first.
Note: Some older reviews are being reposted to this site and those will appear out of order.

Red Bird Down!

Title: Red Bird Down!
Author: Bruce E. Carlson
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): ISBN / EAN

Almost ten years in the writing, "RED BIRD DOWN" is a deeply moving Psychological/Emotional study of a young man's coming of age in Vietnam as an Aero-Scout helicopter pilot. These young pilots took the highest casualities of all the the helicopter pilots in Vietnam. Further, Army Warrant Officer Pilots took the highest casuality rates of all ranks in Vietnam. Yet, to the bitter end, even in LS 719 in support of Vietnames only, they lived by their credo -- "Leave no one behind."

The "hero" of "Red Bird Down" is typical of so many of these teenages and men in the early twenties. He struggles with the tumult of an unpopular war, his mission, the deaths of friends, and his growing love and respect for the young men with whom he serves. Eventually, he discovers a bond, formed in the fire and cold steel of combat. It ia a bond which cannot be broken.

This is not simply an action adventure book! The world has enough "Rambo" type works. While Kev, the hero, has plenty of action, adventure and misadventures, the reader will also laugh, cry, and learn to love the kids of Vietnam for who they were and all they accomplished.

Using incidents from my own time in Vietnam, I have woven them into a Novelized form. Through a running dialogue with a "fictional" home-town minister and a fictional relationship to my own alter-ego, I have looked at many of the political, theological, and emotional issues of Vietnam and the tumult of the late 60's.

My "hero" is a very human boy/man who occasionally soars to great heights and then quickly balances this soaring with "bone-head" mistakes. Through it all he "grows up," takes responsibility for himself, and learns to deal with life and death well beyond his years.

For those who want a serious read about the young men of the "Great Helicopter War," this is the book. In 490 pages, the reader will feel the emotional depth of one young man, who was so typical of so many. Be prepared to occasionally put the book down to ponder the depth of these young men and the heights to which they soared. In the end, you will understand their dedication, commitment to each other, and why they said, "Leave no one behind."

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Carlson, Bruce E.

Last Hookers, The

The Last Hookers
Author: Carle E. Dunn
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0759655936

The Vietnam War catalyzed an entire generation of Americans, dividing them along pro-war and anti-war lines. Aviator turned author Lieutenant Colonel Carle E. Dunn spent three years researching recently declassified documents to provide details of how the United States became embroiled in Southeast Asia. He presents a candid look at United State’s leadership in his new book The Last Hookers (now available from 1stBooks Library)

Using fictional characters, Dunn, now retired, traces the roles of France, Great Britain, North Vietnam, and the United States in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, North and South Vietnam from 1938 to 1972. He details actual events such as Operation Vulture, President Truman’s plan to use atomic weapons against the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) at Dien Bien Phu. This plan called for the subsequent use of atomic weapons against Communist China and the USSR. President Eisenhower gave the plan serious consideration.

Colonel Dunn weaves a story of lies, deceit, espionage and romance based on historical events. Exciting, entertaining, and emotionally wrought, The Last Hookers is the most profound look into U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia since the war’s end.

From humble beginnings to honored war veteran, Colonel Dunn has spent most of his life in the military. Enlisting in the South Carolina National Guard, while working his way through college, he later served in the Army Reserve. Commissioned a second lieutenant, Dunn attended Field Artillery Officers Basic Course at Fort Still, Oklahoma. Upon graduation, the Army canceled Dunn’s orders to Korea. He stayed at Fort Still to teach gunnery, and was the first Second Lieutenant ever to teach that course. Next, he completed helicopter flight school and went on to serve during the Vietnam conflict. Highly decorated and widely published, Dunn now resides in South Carolina. The Last Hookers is his first full-length novel.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Dunn, Carle E.

G-DAY, Rendezvous with Eagles

Title: G-DAY, Rendezvous with Eagles
Author: Stephen D. Wiehe
Genre: Non-Fiction Sub-Category: Memoir
Reviewed by: Gail Chatfield

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): B005FHX1DG

When I started my research, the twenty plus years that had passed began to shrink. By the end of the project, the events that changed my life two decades ago seemed like yesterday. The reconnection with old friends was well worth the time it took to put the book together.

In working on our unit history, I found very little about our important missions and objectives during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. I was amazed that the units themselves had very little information regarding our objectives and the reasons for them. In a day when the internet and cell phones are everywhere, including the front lines of combat, there is a rich and living commentary written by the troops as they live it. But, just a few decades ago during Desert Storm, there were no blogs, satellite radio or internet. When it comes to Desert Storm there is a void in the written history. Our children would be hard pressed to put all of the pieces together. My goal when I started writing G-Day was to create a factual, historical document that all of us could be proud of and that could be used as a reference for future generations.When visiting with Dr. John O'Brien, Chief Historian at the Don F. Pratt Museum at Fort Campbell, I told him I didn't want this to turn into a book of "fish stories" or a compilation of war tales that are told so many times over the years that they gradually become the truth.

There are some great books written by accomplished authors who give us a great view of the "big picture" in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In writing this book, my hope is that it will help you see, and appreciate, the day to day activities of the soldiers who were there and how they fit into the "bigger picture."

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Wiehe, Stephen D.

Rough War: The Combat Story of Lt Paul J Eastman, a "Burma Banshee" P-40 & P-47 Pilot

Title: Rough War: The Combat Story of Lt Paul J Eastman, a "Burma Banshee" P-40 & P-47 Pilot
Author: Walt Shiel
Reviewer: Jim Greenwald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1934631159

"One of the most unusual and insightful stories of a young American at war, and it has a particular significance for today." --from the Foreword by Walter J. Boyne.

Paul Eastman was one of thousands of fighter pilots who served honorably, bravely, and with little fanfare during World War II. He did not end the war as a celebrated national hero. No air base was ever named for him. He never became an ace. He never became famous. Paul spent 20 months flying daily combat sorties in one of the most difficult environments of the war -- the China-Burma-India Theater.

Paul Eastman maintained a daily diary throughout the war, covering his life in the air and on the ground. "Rough War" is based on those diaries and the many letters he wrote to his wife. His letters professed his love, expressed his post-war hopes, documented his ongoing fears, and voiced his concerns for his wife and family stateside. Would he survive the war? What would he do afterward?

Although the CBI has been labeled the "forgotten theater" of WW II, Paul Eastman's story helps ensure that the men who fought the air war over its unforgiving jungles and mountains will never be forgotten.

"Rough War" is an important story that makes an equally important connection to the effects of war on the members of the US military today.

"'Rough War' presents a history of the making of a combat fighter pilot. Interspersed with World War II events and in-theater events from the rarely mentioned CBI theater are writings from Paul's journals and letters home detailing his journey into and through combat. While aviation technology changed for America's next war in SE Asia, the threats of the jungle, monsoon, and a determined enemy created similar issues during my own fighter-pilot experiences in Vietnam." -William H. Lawson, Brig. Gen., US Air Force, Retired

"This book brings back lots of memories of my time in that part of the world. In '66-'67 our combat maps of Vietnam and Laos still had large holes of data, and we had to work our way to the war and home just like Paul did. I really enjoyed the format -- chronological, big picture, CBI, and Paul's War helped put it all in perspective. Here's to you, Paul. As we say in 2011 -- Thanks for your service and a job well done." -Ace Rawlins, Col., US Air Force, Retired

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Shiel, Walt

Project Seven Alpha: American Airlines in Burma 1942

Title: Project Seven Alpha: American Airlines in Burma 1942
Author: Leland C. Shanle Jr.
Genre: Military Sub-Category: Air Force
Reviewed by: Bob Flournoy

ISBN (for Amazon store): 1844158268

In late 1941, President Roosevelt agonized over the rapid advances of the Japanese forces in Asia, they seemed unstoppable. He foresaw their intentions of taking India and linking up with the two other Axis Powers, Germany and Italy, in an attempt to conquer the Eastern Hemisphere. US naval forces had been severely surprised and diminished in Pearl Harbor and the army was outnumbered and ill-prepared to take on the invading hoards. One of his few options was to form a defensive line on the eastern side of the Patkai and Himalayan Ranges, there he could look for support from the Chinese and Burmese. It was to be the only defence to a Japanese invasion of India.

To support and supply these troops, fighting in hostile jungle terrain where overland routes had been cut off, he desperately needed to set up an air supply from Eastern India. His problem was lack of aircraft and experienced pilots to fly the dangerous 'Hump, over the world's highest mountains. Hence came Operation Seven Alpha, a plan to enlist the aircraft, DC-3s, and pilots, veterans of World War One, of American Airlines. This newly formed Squadron would fly these medium-range aircraft in a series of long-distance hops across the Pacific and Southern Asia to the Assam Valley in India. They would then create and operate the vital supply route carrying arms, ammunition and food Eastward to the Allied bases and return with wounded personnel. This is the story of this little-known operation in the early days of the Burma Campaign.

This book is based on the true experiences of those who were involved and is a fitting tribute to the bravery and inventiveness of a band of men who answered their country's desperate call at the outset of the war against Japan in Asia.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Shanle, Jr. Leland C.

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