Sometimes I read a good book that interests me, then on a very rare occasion, I pick up a great book that captures my fullest attention; such was the candid memoir from Huey helicopter pilot Chuck Gross. He has authored an historic book for the ages. One that takes us through the firestorms of some very "hot LZs" and pulls us directly into the action, as if we were getting a pilot's eye-view of the Vietnam War. The writing is vivid and painfully accurate at times. "Rattler One-Seven" is truly the best helicopter story by a pilot coming out of the Vietnam War.
Chuck allows us to fly along with him and his unit, the Rattlers, where we get to meet their gunners, crew-chiefs and other pilots. Take it from someone who has been there and done that -- this is very close to having the real experience yourself from the safety of your sofa. The book is a good insider look at the world of Assault Helicopter units in Nam.
Book Cover is an award winning art piece by Vietnam Veteran artist Joe Kline
The book also was a 2004 Distinguished Medal winner from the The Military Writer's Society of America
I give this book my personal recomemendation! It is a FIVE STAR BOOK but if I were able to give it more stars I would do so!!!!!
NOTE: In 2004, a Bronze Medal was called a Distinguished Medal.
Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2004)
Rattler One-Seven puts you in the helicopter seat, to see the war in Vietnam through the eyes of an inexperienced pilot as he transforms himself into a seasoned combat veteran.
When Chuck Gross left for Vietnam in 1970, he was a nineteen-year-old army helicopter pilot fresh out of flight school. He spent his entire Vietnam tour with the 71st Assault Helicopter Company flying UH-1 Huey helicopters. Soon after the war he wrote down his adventures, while his memory was still fresh with the events. Rattler One-Seven (his call sign) is written as Gross experienced it, using these notes along with letters written home to accurately preserve the mindset he had while in Vietnam.
During his tour Gross flew Special Operations for the MACV-SOG, inserting secret teams into Laos. He notes that Americans were left behind alive in Laos, when official policy at home stated that U.S. forces were never there. He also participated in Lam Son 719, a misbegotten attempt by the ARVN to assault and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail with U.S. Army helicopter support. It was the largest airmobile campaign of the war and marked the first time that the helicopter was used in mid-intensity combat, with disastrous results.
Pilots in their early twenties, with young gunners and a Huey full of ARVN soldiers, took on experienced North Vietnamese antiaircraft artillery gunners, with no meaningful intelligence briefings or a rational plan on how to cut the Trail. More than one hundred helicopters were lost and more than four hundred aircraft sustained combat damage. Gross himself was shot down and left in the field during one assault.
Rattler One-Seven will appeal to those interested in the Vietnam War and to all armed forces, especially aviators, who have served for their country.