Bill Collier’s book The Adventures of a Helicopter Pilot, Flying the H-34 in Vietnam for the United States Marine Corps is a rough-and-tumble journey through initial training to combat flying in the jungles of Vietnam. It is at times gritty, at times funny, and always very, very real. I found myself almost reflecting constantly on the way he described the losses of some of his friends in combat in such a down-to-earth "here one minute, gone the next," sort of fashion.
Through it all, the author cheats death in the air and on the ground, and yet always manages to keep his wits and sense of humor about him. I particularly enjoyed the way he was able to switch quickly between a humorous anecdote and a terrifying flying event, giving the reader some understanding of what it must be like to be scared to death in one moment and then relatively safe thirty minutes later, beer in hand and skin fully intact.
I also enjoyed the way he spoke of the times he was afraid, or of how he dealt (or for a while ignored) his PTSD upon his return. This made the author and the book seem much more real, and he does his fellow vets a service by describing how he eventually discovered that he needed some help.
Vietnam vets, helicopter pilots, and anyone with an interest in military aviation will enjoy this book.
MWSA Review by Rob Ballister (June 2018)
This is a spell-binding, first-hand account of what it was like to pilot a Marine Corps H-34 helicopter in combat during "The Helicopter War" in Vietnam. As a brand-new United States Naval Aviator, Second Lieutenant Bill Collier had many exciting adventures - some exciting, some horrific and some terrifying. This is the true story of his experiences during his 13 months in the war. Bill watched friends die violently and stood many times eye-to-eye and toe-to-toe with Death itself. Each time, Death flinched first.
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 351