The history book Fighting Cavaliers shines a light on the story of the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron, assigned to fly the F-105 Thunderchief in the 1960s. Written by W. Howard Plunkett and Jeff Kolln, two Air Force veterans who have clearly done extensive research on the topic, Fighting Cavaliers details the stories of the pilots who had been training to help bring peace in the Cold War, but instead found themselves playing a significant role in the Vietnam War. The book offers plenty of additional information (in the form of appendix and supporting documents) that give readers a detailed account of the squadron's mission in Vietnam. Moreover, the addition of photographs of military members who participated in the mission helps readers visualize the events that are described in the main text.
Although the story is certainly worth learning about, the book presents editing mechanical errors, design, and accuracy issues that, had they been avoided, would have allowed the already interesting story to truly shine through. Although Fighting Cavaliers does not present conventional footnotes that a history book would be expected to offer its readers, it does offer a detailed section titled "Notes on Sources," which the authors included at the end of the book. To conclude, the passion and commitment the authors felt toward the topic certainly came through, and they should be proud of their effort in bringing this important story to light.
Review by Brunella Costagliola (February 2019)
This history of the 421 Tactical Fighter Squadron, the Fighting Cavaliers, tells much more than the story of a single F-105 squadron in the early to mid-1960s. The 421st was only one Thunderchief squadron during this period to become combat ready in the Air Force’s newest fighter-bomber. Its history is intertwined with the histories of sister squadrons in the 355 TFW at George AFB in California and McConnell AFB, Kansas, as well as in the 388 TFW at Korat Air Base, Thailand. You can read about Cold War alerts with nuclear weapons in Turkey, Korea, and Okinawa and understand how pilots in a new unit developed their combat skills in a new aircraft to prepare them for flying their planes in the hot war over North Vietnam. Read also about destroying SAM sites with the Wild Weasels, as well as successes and failures of squadron pilots during Rolling Thunder bombing missions. There are airborne battles with MiG-17s and MiG-21s as well as stories of pilots flying high-risk missions and earning high awards - Air Force Crosses and Medals of Honor. During the four years they flew the Thunderchief, the Fighting Cavaliers lost 32 of their supersonic jets to accidents and combat. This book details each loss in context with the mission and how the pilots were rescued, became POWs or died. This book covers all these topics and many more based on solid historical research together with combat stories from the F-105 pilots themselves.
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 414