A thorough memoir of a flight surgeon’s adrenaline-filled experiences in the Vietnam War.
Debut author Clark describes himself as a man with a great “thirst for knowledge” and “passions for high adventure,” characteristics that led him to pursue medicine and become a flight surgeon for the United States Air Force. During the Vietnam War, he was stationed at Cam Ranh Bay in 1966 and “experienced more adventure than most men experience in ten lifetimes.” As a flight surgeon, in addition to his regular medical duties on base, he flew more than 90 missions in a Phantom F4-C, which strafed, bombed, and napalmed targets. Clark details these missions, such as destroying way stations along the Ho Chi Minh Trail over Laos: “The scenarios of anti-aircraft artillery reaching skyward to destroy us with red and white fingers of liquid-lead and explosives were typical and characteristic of every mission.” He shares his informed perspective on the political circumstances of the time, including some of the major flaws of administration as well as the destitute conditions of the Vietnamese and the spirit of both camaraderie and occasional tension among Air Force personnel. Clark eloquently recounts tending to pilots’ injuries and handling the aftereffects of disastrous crashes. He writes intelligently, illuminating events and the insights they evoked. Long stretches of dry, technical descriptions, however, may overwhelm readers (e.g., his 10-page introduction to the history and capabilities of the Phantom F4-C). This isn’t a fast-paced memoir; instead, it’s more of an excavation of the many particulars of military life and is interspersed with thrilling adventure in the skies of Vietnam.
Heavy on the technical details but rich with vividly recalled episodes of aerial warfare.