Larry Fry’s Delta Sierra is a riveting tale that perfectly captures the experience of the Vietnam attack pilots during one of America’s most controversial conflicts.
Gary Deale is a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate who wants to fly fighters. Realizing his dream, he is assigned to fly the F-105 Thunderchief, more commonly known as the “Thud,” and sent to Vietnam. Though designed and designated as a fighter, Thuds were used in Vietnam as attack aircraft, and soon Gary is going deep into North Vietnam to deliver bombs on target. Thud pilots paid a terrible price, with almost half of all Thuds produced being shot down in combat. Will he be able to complete a 100-mission tour?
Back home, Gary’s new bride Allison waits in anxious anticipation for his return. Every waking moment she wonders if she will see him again, or if at that moment, he is even still alive.
The author does a wonderful job of telling two stories, those of Gary and Allison. Gary’s story is told in third person, and Allison’s in first. It’s a bit unusual to switch back and forth between the two, but Fry makes it work. He masterfully weaves the two stories together, leaving the reader as much in the dark as Allison about her husband.
This is a very well done story, with gripping action, tender moments, and real human motion. Though fiction, it feels very real to the reader, and toward the end was very difficult to put down. Those looking to read about the true combat experience both in theater and on the home front will appreciate this book.
Review by Rob Ballister (May 2019)
While flying his seventy-sixth combat mission over North Vietnam on 14 July 1967, Air Force pilot Gary Bishop Deale is shot down by an enemy missile. There is no confirmation from the North Vietnamese as to whether Gary has been captured or killed. His official status is listed as missing in action. Prior to this, Gary’s training at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, before departing for Southeast Asia, prepares him for flying combat missions over a heavily defended area. Upon arriving in Thailand, Gary meets Major Matt Foxe, who becomes his leader. A strong friendship develops between the two men as they execute missions over Laos and North Vietnam. Devoting all of his adult life to becoming an Air Force officer and pilot, Gary wants to fly in combat. But he wonders why many missions are flown against insignificant targets such as suspect truck parks. Allison Faith Deale, his wife and a graduate student at the Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina, receives confirmation of her pregnancy just before being informed that her husband has been shot down by an enemy missile. Married for only seven months, Allison is truly shocked by Gary’s disappearance. The love of her life is missing in action. Allison continues writing her thesis through the turbulence of the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam in February 1968. The birth of their son, Gary Bishop Deale, Junior, provides reassurance and hope, but there is also a dark side to her life. As the years slowly pass by, there is no confirmation that Gary has been captured or killed. Even after the Paris Peace Accord goes into effect and the Prisoners of War return from North Vietnam in 1973, Gary remains missing. After waiting four years, Allison decides to have Gary declared dead in 1977. The Air Force issues a Presumptive Finding of Death—Body Not Recovered at her request. A memorial service is conducted at Allison’s family’s farm in Maryland. She moves on with her life, finding happiness and fulfilment. It is only in 2006, twenty-nine years after Gary went missing that Allison finally discovers his fate.
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 397