Racing Back to Vietnam, A Journey in War and Peace by John Pendergrass

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MWSA Review

In Racing Back to Vietnam, author John Pendergrass tells an interesting story about his experiences as a flight surgeon while stationed at Da Nang Air Base in VietNam from 1971 to 1972, and then goes on to relate that experience with his return to Vietnam to participate in a triathlon in 2016.  

As a flight surgeon, the author had the rare opportunity to fly as a GIB, or the guy in the back seat, of F-4 in actual combat operations. In reading the book, I could feel the author's emotions as he recounted these events. The experiences he had in the air are without a doubt memories that will never fade.  The author's work as a doctor in a wartime environment and descriptions of Da Nang and Vietnam are full of detail, but it's his flying that jump out at the reader.  

After leaving Vietnam in 1972 and returning to his medical practice and family, the author thought he had left Vietnam behind him; however, when an opportunity to participate in a triathlon in Vietnam in 1976 arose, he jumped at it. Now in his seventies, he participated as one of three in the relay portion of the half triathlon.  While he had participated in marathons and triathlons before, he knew his real reason to return to Vietnam wasn't for the race, but to revisit the country.  For the last third of the book author John Pendergrass, through his writing, let's the reader see the changes in the country and his impressions of the Vietnamese people.  Impressions that I believe surprised him.  This is a well written book and should appeal to anyone that is interested in the Vietnam war and in seeing today's Vietnam through the eyes of a returning airman.

MWSA Review by Bob Doerr (June 2018)

Author's Synopsis

In 1971,US Air Force flight surgeon John Pendergrass spent much of his time as a Weapon Systems Operator in the back seat of an F-4 Phantom,racing across the skies of Vietnam.

Forty -five years later he boards an altogether different type of aircraft and heads back to Vietnam for an altogether different kind of race-an Ironman triathlon.

A veteran of Ironman triathlons on six continents, RACING BACK TO VIETNAM follows John's year in combat and his return to Vietnam,revisiting a country that,for him, is bound up in history,memory,and emotion.A memoir of war as seen from the skies and a reflection on life's high adventure,John tries to reconcile the Vietnam he saw from the backseat of a fighter jet with today's modern nation.

ISBN/ASIN: 987-1-57826-699-9
Book Format(s): Hard cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 256