LIFE ON THE LINE: Stories of Vietnam Air Combat by Philip D. Chinnery

LIFE ON THE LINE: Stories of Vietnam Air Combat

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British journalist chinnery tracked down three dozen US airman who flew and fought in Southeast Asia from the early 1960's on through the end of the war in Vietnam. Their recollections of bombing, ground-support, supply, reconnaissance, and related missions afford a kaleidoscopic perspective on the quotidian realities of combat in the unfriendly skies of Indochina. Touching on all branches of the armed forces and, albeit glancingly, the intelligence services, the author notes that Air Force personnel and planes were dispatched to Vietnam in 1961. To evade the restrictions of the Geneva accords, these detachments were listed as training squadrons. After 1964's Tonkin Gulf resolution allowed LBJ to send in ground troops in division strength, the air war escalated as well. For American pilots, Vietnam offered varieties of experience that ranged from the terrifying (sustaining a disabling arm wound while at the controls of an airborne helicopter) through the sublime (evading SAM missiles) and ridiculous (swigging contraband martinis en route home from a successful assault). Laconically recalled as well are the exploits of Navy jet jockeys who streaked north at supersonic speeds to attack targets in Hanoi or Haiphong. In the meantime, their Army and Marine Corps brethren were on fire-control missions in the South or strafing enemy forces from lumbering gunships bristling with ordnance. Also covered are dustoff medical evacuations, daring rescues of downed air crews, the logistics of ferrying Bob Hope's troupe around combat zones during yuletide, as well as flight-line views on bombing halts, roles of engagement, target restrictions, and other command decisions. Allowing his generally thoughtful subjects to speak largely for themselves, Chinnery has produced an uncommonly vivid picture of what it's like to wage a modern air war in an essentially primitive nation. The engrossing text (previously published in the UK) has over 80 candid and official photographs, plus a wealth of helpful maps.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's