LET A SOLDIER DIE by William E. Holland


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Helicopters--Hueys, ""slicks,"" Chinooks--were the distinguishing force of the American side of the Vietnam war; and they are the distinguishing feature of this immaculately technical Vietnam war novel. ""The Troll,"" a crack gunship pilot, flies a mission one day that changes him forever: American troops are fired-on by the gunships of the Troll's own squadron--though not by the Troll himself. The mistake devastates him; he more or less grounds himself thereafter, during which time his best friend Covington is shot down in an over-the-water mission. (The Troll might have spared Covington had he been willing to fly himself.) Additionally haunted by the casualties of Hill 473, the Troll in the meantime meets and falls in love with Alice Porter, a surgical nurse tending to the wounded of that ill-fated company. And it's Alice's later death (from artillery shelling) that sends the Troll, demolished, back into the skies, behind the gun once again. Holland's dour plot, then, is rudimentary. But his ability to make vivid the particularities, the atmosphere, of this aerial war is awesome; the hellacious difficulty of flying the helicopters, the daring touchdowns and evacuations--all these are enthralling and sharp and terrible. And if the helicopter is to Vietnam what the tank was to WW II, that specific mechanism of war finds its apotheosis in this fictionalization--to an even greater extent, perhaps, than in Robert C. Mason's non-fiction Chickenhawk (1983).

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1984
Publisher: Delacorte