Blow-by-blow tale of a nearly deadly flight into the middle of enemy territory.
Halliday was a novice flyer when he arrived in Thailand to serve with the 606 Special Operations Squadron, the Candlesticks. He begins with his bewildering first days on the base, when he saw fellow pilots entertaining themselves by stretching plastic six-pack rings until they split, or reading the labels on canned goods. He relates the down-the-rabbit-hole feeling of being taken on a training run with a pilot who broke almost every rule Halliday had painstakingly memorized in flight school, and the time that the soldiers watched a movie outdoors in a monsoon (when the wet screen fell to the ground, the men stayed put to watch the image projected onto the solid sheets of rain). All of the background, while interesting, is there to give context to one particular flight that nearly killed the author and his crew. Halliday and company were flying support for a group of sympathetic locals in northern Laos, identified only as “good guys.” When the mission was almost complete, suddenly all hell broke loose, and Halliday ended up taking the plane to an emergency landing strip that should have been impossible to find, and even harder to land on. The fact that it was maintained by a secret force that the president had denied the existence of only complicated matters. Halliday conveys it all in unvarnished and immediate language; the confusion, the determination, the horror and the general unreality of the night are brought to life by the guy who almost didn't make it.
Thrilling and sobering, if uneven.