A straightforward look at the grim tour of duty of a helicopter pilot during the height of the American war in Vietnam....

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"EASY TARGET: The Long, Strange Trip of a Scout Pilot in Vietnam"

A straightforward look at the grim tour of duty of a helicopter pilot during the height of the American war in Vietnam. Smith joined the Army in the spring of 1968. A little more than a year later he was a newly minted warrant officer flying helicopters with the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. He could have spent the war flying relatively safe high-altitude command-and-control missions, but he volunteered instead to fly the much closer-to-the-action scout helicopters. ""I wanted to get into the Scouts because the flying looked like so much fun,"" he says. There was fun, but there was also a good deal of danger. Many scout pilots were killed, and Smith survived countless close calls, only to be severely injured the second time his helicopter crashed. He tells his story competently, spicing up the occasionally uninspired narrative with reconstructed dialogue and evocative depictions of Vietnam combat as seen from the pilot's seat. Least absorbing are Smith's accounts of his basic training and flight school. The heart of the book, Smith's wartime experience, is gripping: He has an eventful story to tell, and he tells it bluntly and well, venting strong opinions about the war: He strongly criticizes his superior officers for their arrogance, praises the North Vietnamese soldiers for their fortitude, and condemns the South Vietnamese military and political leaders for their lack of moral fiber. Although he fought hard and well, Smith dismisses the bloody conflict as ""a cause that had little value to anyone except a few American and Vietnamese politicians and some generals."" Only ""the most fanatical military mentalities in our midst thought the war was worth dying for,"" he says. ""I knew I did not want to die a 'worthless death' in Vietnam."" A solid if unspectacular addition to the genre of Vietnam War memoirs.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Presidio

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996