Da Nang Diary
Author: Tom Yarborough
Publisher: Casemate (2013)
Binding: Hardcover, 376 pages
"Good work Covey - You've got them all shooting at you!" … These words were typical life and death radio communications from the covert SOG operators on secret missions inside Laos who required danger close air support from the Forward Air Controller (FAC) above. USAF FAC pilot Tom Yarborough shares the surrounding view through the Plexiglas canopy - if it isn't blown away - of his low flying OV-10 Broncho. He does this while orchestrating the entrance of all critical assets into theatre - fast movers, Cobras, Hueys, and additional Special Forces. The FAC flies, fights, and coordinates the ever changing situations - whether it be to insert, defend, or save and rescue SOG warfighters or to attack enemy guns and positions down the fortified Ho Chi Minh Trail. Yarborough draws from over six hundred combat missions in which he and his aircraft are shot up over a dozen times to provide this first hand report of top secret - and recently declassified - "Prairie Fire" missions into Laos and Cambodia. The author's detail is breathtaking: ammo dumps burn for ten days with hundreds of secondary explosions, the FAC "trolls" for targets hidden under dense jungle canopy, emergency landings are pulse bangers, and rescues under heavy fire are all vividly described. Fellow FAC's and brave SOG recon men are killed; regardless, the rest heroically fly and fight the next day in the face of unthinkable hardships. The camaraderie and life’s lighter side back at Da Nang Airbase in the Covey FAC "Muff Divers Club" add a humor balance to these remarkable missions that few knew about. Highly decorated Author Tom Yarborough deflects all credit to others while assuring accuracy through extensive research of this incredible military history. There are many current day BIO's of the characters in the book that I found extremely interesting. Da Nang Diary has my highest recommendation.
Reviewed by:Hodge Wood (2014)
Originally published in 1990, this classic work has now been revised and updated with 50,000 words of additional narrative and previously unpublished photos. It is the story of how, in Vietnam, an elite group of Air Force pilots fought a secret air war in Cessna 0-2 and OV-10 Bronco prop planes—flying as low as they could get. The eyes and ears of the fast-moving jets who rained death and destruction down on enemy positions, the Forward Air Controller made an art form out of an air strike—knowing the targets, knowing where friendly troops were, and reacting with split-second, life and death decisions as a battle unfolded.
The expertise of the low, slow FACs, as well as the hazard attendant to their role, made for a unique birds-eye perspective on how the entire war in Vietnam unfolded. For Tom Yarborough, who logged 1,500 hours of combat flying time, the risk was constant, intense and electrifying. A member of the super-secret “Prairie Fire” unit, Yarborough became one of the most frequently shot-up pilots flying out of Da Nang—engaging in a series of dangerous secret missions in Laos. In this work, the reader flies in the cockpit alongside Yarborough in his adrenaline-pumping chronicle of heroism, danger and wartime brotherhood. From the rescuing of downed pilots to taking out enemy positions, to the most harrowing extended missions directly overhead of the NVA, here is the dedication, courage and skill of the fliers who took the war into the enemy's backyard.
Colonel Tom Yarborough, USAF (ret.) served in the Air Force for thirty years in a variety of flying and staff assignments. A command pilot, during his two Vietnam tours as a forward air controller, he earned thirty combat decorations, including the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He currently lives in Springfield, Virginia, where he maintains ties to the academic community as an adjunct history professor at Northern Virginia Community College.