A sharply focused and richly detailed reconstruction of a single day's aerial combat over North Vietnam, which complements...


ONE DAY IN A LONG WAR: May 10, 1972: Air War North Vietnam

A sharply focused and richly detailed reconstruction of a single day's aerial combat over North Vietnam, which complements wider-angle studies like Philip D. Chinnery's Life on the Line (p. 25). Aviation writers Ethell and Price tracked down scores of US airmen who participated in the 1972 resumption of air assaults on Hanoi and neighboring strongholds; they also interviewed the British consul and two French journalists, who witnessed the raids from ground level. Pres. Nixon renewed attacks on northern targets shortly after Communist forces launched spring offensives in South Vietnam, which encountered scant opposition, owing mainly to US troop withdrawals. While the authors make clear that the May 10 engagements were fast and furious, they stress that the dawn-to-dusk action was in no way decisive. Their realistic appraisal of the day's importance in a drawn-out conflict does not, however, devalue the exploits of the Air Force and Navy pilots who conducted the raids. All told, American planes flew over 400 sorties to attack or support attacks on transportation centers in North Vietnam on May 10, 1972. In addition to bombing runs, there were escort, reconnaissance, electronic-countermeasures, refueling, rescue, and allied missions. The North Vietnamese resisted incursions into their air space with missiles, more than 40 MIG fighters, and conventional ground fire. Four US craft were shot down (with four of eight crew members surviving), and the North Vietnamese lost 11 MIGs, including several to carrier-based graduates of the Navy's Top Gun training program. While extensive, the damage inflicted on bridges and other primary targets was not crippling, in large measure because high-tech ordnance performed poorly. Drawing on personal recollections, official documents (e.g., transcripts of cockpit voice recordings), and other primary sources, Ethell and Price vividly convey the excitement as well as terror of what it was like to wage air war in the unfriendly skies of North Vietnam. The riveting text includes 65 photographs, plus helpful maps, drawings, and a wealth of tabular material, including postbattle casualty reports.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 1989


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1989