Red Bird Down by Bruce E. Carlson

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Author Bruce Carlson has written a real action packed novel about the air cavalry and aero-scouts in Vietnam. It will take you across the skies and the mountains and the rivers of Nam as you are transported back to the Vietnam helicopter wars of late 60's. It brings you all those colorful aviation characters that feel and sound like real people. In fact, the entire book's story line is based loosely on Bruce's old outfit and his own tour of duty. So it has that realistic sense of place and time that only a pilot could have written. 

In the story, you see this idealistic young officer who has visions of changing the world and helping the South Vietnamese people get a democratic government arrive in-country. In short order, his real education begins to reshape his outlook on the war and the country he is sent to help. In time, he becomes a hardened veteran whose goal is get everyone back safely and alive if possible. 

The reader will find that this story is well told and full of action. Bruce who is now an ordained minister has crafted a masterpiece of literature for military genre books. Well worth picking up and reading. 

Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2004)

Author's Synopsis
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."