PLEIKU: The Dawn of Helicopter Warfare in Vietnam by J.D. Coleman

PLEIKU: The Dawn of Helicopter Warfare in Vietnam

Email this review


Every major conflict seems to produce at least one enduring contribution to military science. The Vietnam War's offering was airmobility. Here, Coleman provides a vivid account of how the once revolutionary concept, which has freed ground troops from ""the tyranny of terrain,"" was first developed and field-tested. A decorated combat veteran of the campaign he chronicles, the author traces the idea for helicopter-borne forces back to JFK's Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, who was at least as interested in mediating an Army/Air Force turf dispute as in advancing the state of the infantry art. In economical fashion, Coleman recounts how the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was formed and posted by LBJ to Vietnam during the summer of 1965. Within months of its arrival, the well-trained division engaged in a 38-day series of firefights, skirmishes, and set-piece battles with North Vietnamese regulars (as opposed to Viet Cong) in the trackless wastes of the divided country's western highlands around Pleiku city. Coleman's evenhanded history of these constant-contact clashes (which were a considerable triumph for American arms) effectively combines tributes to the valor of the soldiers and air crews who participated with more formal briefings on how operational doctrine and weapons were developed for the chopper flotillas. He also touches--without dwelling on--the Army's signal failure to convince a skeptical press that airmobility was a means to the end of destroying enemy forces, and not to winning and holding territory, in an unconventional war without rules. But that, of course, is another sociopolitical story altogether. An authoritative and accessible, if narrowly focused, addition to the ever-growing record of America's Vietnam involvement. The frequently gripping text includes 16 pages of photographs and seven maps (not seen).

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's