Eyes Over the Delta
Author: Hank Collins
Publisher: Outskirts Press (2014)
Binding: Hardcover, 86 pages
Eyes Over the Delta, is a haunting story of images burnt into the memory, experienced in war and lived with for the rest of one’s life. It is about belief and disbelief, about dealing with it together, for it is with others that have lived it that one seems able to deal with it all.
Hank Collins shares a little unknown portion of that time, that war, and the O-1 Aircraft - the Birddog (the Cessna L-19). Reconnaissance not by satellite but seat of pants flying, a seeming throwback to earlier times and the "Red Baron." These aircraft were well suited for the job and those that flew them had in many ways a tougher job than a fighter pilot.
Worth a read, this will expand your knowledge of that time and Collins does a great job of story sharing.
Reviewed by: jim greenwald (2015)
Major Richard Hank Collins returned home from Vietnam with an overwhelming array of haunting images and life-defining moments. He had a hard time talking about his personal experiences until the men who served with him from November 1965 to November 1966 in the 221st Reconnaissance Airplane Company got together for their first reunion in 2007. "We have found relief in sharing these memories with those who not only have similar memories but also understand ours," Hank says. "We don't have to explain why we laugh too loudly or cry too quickly. All of us know, all of us were part of it . . . part of that time and place where our country was confused and often non-supportive, where we were in a strange place that was not a common name even in history classes, where we were fighting for a cause that at times was unclear, and in the end all we could really depend on was each other; and we did." Hank has woven these still-vivid memories into compelling stories that convey what these pilots were thinking and feeling as they provided lifesaving air cover and firsthand reconnaissance. As you read the stories in this collection, you will feel yourself belted into the back seat of an 0-1 Cessna Birddog flying so low that you can see the faces of the people below. You will visit an orphanage and come face-to-face with the youngest victims of war; and you will learn about often unpublicized good things Hank and many other military personnel plus their families back home did to help relieve their suffering. You will spend a very long, very dark night huddled next to a much-too- young crew chief in the operations shack at the Bac Lieu airstrip anxiously watching for the enemy to discover your hiding place. You will deliberately dive into a barrage of bullets, pull up at the very last second, skim the treetops, and inexplicably land unscathed with no damage to the plane; leaving you in disbelief and pondering what had protected you on that death-defying mission. Perhaps most of all, you will begin to understand that "you can't get more personal than taking a life or giving your."