The gripping combat memoir of a highly decorated American helicopter pilot’s Vietnam service.
Accounts of the Vietnam War often relegate the stories of US soldiers to the periphery and concentrate instead on political discourse. This may be understandable in light of the ambivalence with which most Americans viewed the conflict, but it has resulted in a somewhat sterile and Olympian history of the events. Alexander, a helicopter pilot repeatedly decorated for valor in Vietnam, desanitizes discussion about the war by sharing his candid memories of the jungle-carpeted battlefield. He begins with his Army enlistment (right out of high school) in 1963 and describes the climb through the ranks that culminated in his commissioning as an officer. Once he was promoted to lieutenant, Alexander pulled strings to get selected for flight school, hoping to bide his time until the war in Vietnam burned itself out. Just as American commitment to the region peaked, however, he completed his training and left his wife and two young daughters for the jungles of Southeast Asia. In this hostile environment he led a charmed life, repeatedly executing the most difficult aerial maneuvers under intense enemy fire yet never having a single bullet strike his aircraft. This combination of bravery, skill, and luck earned him respect from his airborne colleagues and from the infantry soldiers he supported. Freelance writer Sasser, himself a Vietnam combat veteran, does a credible job of helping Alexander find his narrative voice and adds a touch of journalistic authenticity to this honest and exciting memoir.
A rousing tale, full of sharp details and told in the harsh language of soldiers baptized in fire. (8 pp. photos)