VIETNAM ABOVE THE TREETOPS: A Forward Air Controller Reports by John F. Flanagan

VIETNAM ABOVE THE TREETOPS: A Forward Air Controller Reports

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An Air Force officer's vigorous account of the Vietnam War. Flanagan always dreamed of being a flier, and attending the Air Force Academy in Colorado was everything he had hoped. It was strict, the training was superb, and particularly appealing was the honor code, whereby candidates were obliged always to tell the truth. The honor code served Flanagan well in Vietnam, which he volunteered for in 1966. Flanagan's memoir is not like Robert Mason's in Chickenhawk (1983), where the naive young officer is transformed into an embittered veteran questioning all wars. Flanagan is a straight arrow to the end; he stayed in the Air Guard after the war and eventually became a general. His job in Vietnam was to fly close in with small aircraft, to report and coordinate what he saw; sometimes, too, he had to don infantry gear and head into the jungle. Many of his blow-by-blow accounts of battles are drawn from notes, such as ""Team 10 located a VC work party...the Phantom 31 flight of three F-4s dropped 11 cans of 750-pound napalm right on them."" His tale of a combat helicopter assault into a hot landing zone is harrowing indeed: scared pilots lifting up too quickly, grunts dropping from several feet in the air, a helicopter breaking apart. His descriptions of South Korean troops--essentially mercenaries hired by the US, but fierce soldiers--are unique among American firsthand accounts. Flanagan's reportage is marred only by the sanitized speech of the soldiers: see James Jones, or Larry Heinemann. Much later, Flanagan became involved in the MIA cause, and yet he is never angry, only sorrowful. This is the perspective of a veteran who feels we failed because of a lack of resolve, that the news media distorted events or couldn't understand them, that the antiwar movement meant well but was wrong. Splendid tales of combat, but don't look here for what it all meant.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1992
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Praeger/Greenwood