Customer Reviews: Chickenhawk
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on November 19, 2001
Being a helicopter pilot myself for the past 6 years, this book has always moved me deeply, thinking about those men, trying to maintain some sort of sanity in a crazy situation.
I have had the unfortunate luck, of evacuating wounded soldiers, from a war which is still controversial in my country, but I never faced the kind of situations that Mason discribes in the book, and I have always wandered how they did it, knowing that every morning and evry mission could spell sudden death, from the enemy, or worse, by your commander's stupidity.
I think it's a book about bravery, about how these helicopter pilots in Vietnam were willing to risk their lives every day for their fellow soldiers. I believe that flying into combat, surviving it, seeing what might happen if it wasn't your lucky day, then doing it again and again and again, takes a special kind of character. Character shown by Mason.
I have read many war books, some about Vietnam, some not. My country is (unfortunately) filled with veterans, including my entire family (my father was also a pilot and my brother was in the special forces, we've all been through combat). I think this book is special in the way it touches you intimately, making you feel, just as if you were hearing the story from the author in person.
This is not about victory or defeat, this is about something else, and to know what this thing is you must read the book and look inside to see the impact it has on you.
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on May 23, 2002
Back in the late 80's, Robert Mason's "Chickenhawk" appeared on bookshelves. Mason's personal story of a helicopter pilot in Vietnam was the first of it's kind and has since spawned a number of personal helicopter stories, and they all owe the market being opened by Robert Mason. I was still in high-school when the book out and I wanted very much to fly helicopters for the US Army at the time. After reading this book I was not sure what to do, I was scared at the thought of being shot down in battle, but also saw the pride in what the helicopters pilots had done in Vietnam. This was also the first book I recommended to my father to read, a two tour veteran of Vietnam himself. I have gone back and reread "Chickenhawk" at least 4 times over the years and it still holds up so well, and I still feel like someone hit me in the stomach everytime I get to the end and read those last few lines.
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on August 13, 2006
I recently gave away my copy of this marvelous book to my son. It wasn't too long before I went into withdrawal and bought myself another copy. Bob Mason is a truly honest man, which is not to say that he never lied, cheated, or stole, but that he is one of those rare individuals who can look at himself in the mirror and see himself as he really is, warts and all. That takes an admirable form of courage that most of us don't have. I couldn't do a memoir the way he did. I had to resort to an alter-ego in my own book. I won't claim more warts than Bob, but the ones I have I don't like.

Like Bob, I got into the Army Warrant Officer Helicopter Flight Program after high school in 1967. I was a typical wobbly-one, long on enthusiasm for flying, short on brains, experience, maturity, character, morals, and wisdom. Hey, I was only nineteen! But I sure liked to fly, especially choppers, especially Bell Helicopter's masterpiece, the UH-1 `Huey.' Bob was just coming home from Vietnam the year before I enlisted. He was one of the pioneers of the airmobile concept, assigned to the 1st Cav and traveling to Vietnam by boat with the unit's choppers lashed to the deck. I was appalled at the initial treatment he and the other warrant officers received once they arrived in country. They had to dig their own bunkers. Warrant officers are `supposed' to be officers, rating the respect and privileges of commissioned officers. Actually the commissioned officers used to joke that a warrant officer was just a spec-four with a club card. Still I had to admit that when a unit is freshly arrived in a combat zone, getting shelter up quickly is essential, and I would hate to have been killed in a mortar attack that night because I was too proud to fill sand bags that day.

The real appeal of the book is the white-knuckle flying action scenes. They were often times hair-raising nightmares, and the crews were scared to death, but some how they got the job done anyway--hence, the name of the book, `Chickenhawk.' Warrant officers were funny that way--no mission was impossible. Commissioned pilots tended to fall back on the regulations when things got rough. They had college degrees and were smarter than we were. They tended to live longer too. There were exceptions in both cases, but what I said was generally true in Army aviation.

I was saddened by the fall from grace that Bob experienced when he returned stateside. He had spent a year comporting himself bravely, and now he was haunted by that same bravery. I bought and read his second book, curious I guess, at just how far his downward spiral would take him. And he sank pretty far before he finally autorotated his life to a safe landing. I finally concluded that he was one of those guys who should have stayed in combat, extending his tour 12 months at a time, taking a month off in between to visit his wife in Honolulu. That was where he was at his best--impossible missions, tracers flying everywhere, too dark to see, too dangerous to turn on the lights, breaking every flight safety regulation imaginable, and then getting chewed out by the old man while he was pinning another air medal on his chest. Of course if Bob had done that, we probably wouldn't be reading his fine books today.

--Ejner Fulsang, author of "A Knavish Piece of Work," [...]
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on October 22, 1997
While not as action-packed as Mason's first book, Chickenhawk, this sequel is still a fine read. The Kirkus Review calls the book "flat-footed." Before I read this book, I probably would not have been surprised to hear that the sequel to what is probably my favorite book of all time does not live up to the first installment. Chickenhawk is mostly a war story, rich in detail and technical information about the helicopters Mason flew. I am fascinated with helicopters and that is probably why I like Chickenhawk so much. I approached Back In The World with skepticism. I doubted that it had any chance to be as interesting as Mason's first book. But as a fan of Chickenhawk, I was happy to discover that Back To The World does not really try to stand by itself. In many ways, it is just the story of how Chickenhawk was written. It is the story behind the story.
The Kirkus Review makes it sound as though this book is dull, and belittles the significance of Mason's incarceration and his description of the way Chickenhawk was recieved by the public. Personally, I thought Mason's imprisonment was conveyed in a style reminiscent of Henri Charrier's Papillon, another of my favorites.
The point is, it is impossible to fully understand or appreciate Chickenhawk as a description of the Vietnam Experience without reading this book. If you liked Chickenhawk, this is a must-read.
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on April 22, 2004
I never knew this book existed, but being an ex Army chopper pilot with the 1st Cav in Vietnam, I found this to be the most realistic book ever written on this subject. I identified with every single word. Not like the junk you see in the movies.
Probably in the top 5 books on any subject that I've ever read
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on September 29, 2005
This is by far the best book about Vietnam ever written. I really enjoy his sense of humor coupled with his cynicism. Being in the military myself, I found this right at home.

The other thing that impressed me, was how he was able to completely change the tone toward the end of the book. You could feel when he had changed and would never be the same. It's almost depressing. However, this is still a great book, one I have read over and over and never grow tired of.
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on August 23, 2005
When this book came out was shortly after I had completed the very first AOBC (Aviation Officers Basic Course) at Fort Rucker. Following that is ORWAC (Officer Rotary Wing Aviator's Course) of course, so I read it while I was trying to learn how to fly helicopters.

His descriptions of learning to hover were dead on (of course they didn't help, not much does) and that lent everything else the "air of authority". His style is very readable and his information is first hand and accurate.

Excellent book and a must-read for anyone interested in helicopters, Vietnam or just a good military book.
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on January 30, 2009
Chickenhawk is the author's personal account of his experiences as an army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. The book chronicles his experiences from his entry into flight school until his discharge from the army four years later. Mason gives a detailed accounting of his experiences and his feelings, relating the events and holding nothing back. His storytelling gives an impression of the war as long days of boredom and monotony, punctuated by various brief and extended periods of pure terror and brutal warfare.

Mason presents himself as a thinking, feeling soldier caught in a hellish war. He sees and feels the suffering and inhumanity the war inflicts on his fellow GIs, enemy soldiers, and on the people of Vietnam, and he relates the bravery and cruelty of both combating armies with an even hand. He also pulls back the curtain hiding the bureaucratic underpinings of the army and gives us a glimpse of how some men suffered under the inhumane indifference of army rules but other worked the system to their advantage.

Mason only touches tangentially on the political reasoning behind the war, and focuses mainly on his personal experiences. But he feels the futility of the war, the irrationality of fighting a foe that blended in and out of the jungle shadows seemingly at will, and of defending a people that didn't seem to appreciate US involvement in their affairs and actually may have been the enemy, hiding in plain sight.

All in all, a harrowing, insightful story, and a good read.
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on August 7, 1998
I have read all of Mason's books-- Actually the first book I read was "Solo", the sequel to the (and I hate this word:) Techno-Thriller "Weapon"-- which made me want to go out and get all his books, and when I got to Chickenhawk I just cried. So, last week I was book shopping and I always look for new books by my favourite authors I was shocked silly to find a sequel to Chickenhawk! This book is in no wise a bland recap of Mason's years between being a Helicopter Pilot to being an author and a lecturer. `My body sent me a painful message, saying that it had developed an extreme dislike of alcohol. What a shock. Alcohol was as much a part of my biology as my blood. The message was a headache so horrible that I couldn't see straight....I switched to smoking pot....I began to feel better immediately.'" This is without resonance? That is one of the most powerful and Honest statements Mason makes in this book. Mason honestly tells the reader what it was like trying to readjust to the world, after the hell of Vietnam. And we see that is was not easy... but he suceeded. I commend him for that and I commend him for writing this sequel, which must have taken more guts to write than the original Chickenhawk. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Bob!
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on September 9, 2005
Mason's journey of personal experiences as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam war in "Chickenhawk" make excellent and real reading that drops you right in the thick of each situation. You can almost smell the environment he is in.

Mason also writes with an easy and almost relaxed style, which makes for a very smooth read. Combined with some technical information, though not too much, Mason has struck a great balance in his book.

Anyone who is interested in the personal experiences of personnel in Vietnam would enjoy this book immensely and get a lot from it. It is a great book and a great story.
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