—Mike Seely BG (ret) 74th RAC '65-'66; 245th SAC '68-'69
—Tom Wilson, 3rd Force Recon
“Hooper examines various combat encounters from many points of view to build detailed composite pictures of events. And he delves deeply into the emotions and bonds that held the unit together, recounting amusing after-hours high jinks, the grim humor of wartime, and the washing away of a day’s stress in that universal solvent, alcohol.
“The best thing about the book is that—conversational re-creations notwithstanding—every page rings true, and with very rare exception, names are named. Writing fearlessly and with an artfulness that few others have managed, Hooper has captured the ironies, the buccaneer’s ethos, and the rhythms of men at war.
“Thirty years ago, Robert Mason published Chickenhawk, a classic personal account of Vietnam helicopter operations that is still as potent as a satchel charge. I’d rank A Hundred Feet Over Hell right up there with it.”
-Air & Space Magazine
From the Inside Flap
Forward air controllers in Vietnam were acknowledged as having perhaps the most dangerous aviation role of the war. Flying at speeds well below the top end of most family cars, they spent hours over hostile terrain in flimsy, propeller-driven Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs. Their work was crucial in finding and stopping the enemy before they could attack American troops, and supporting those troops with artillery and air strikes when battle was joined.
Of the many army Bird Dog units in Southeast Asia, none operated in as hostile an environment as the “Catkillers” of the 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company. Their tactical area of operations was up against the Demilitarized Zone (an oxymoron if ever there was one) in I Corps, the northern-most combat zone in South Vietnam. At the time it was estimated that there were seventy-eight thousand NVA soldiers in the area.
The Catkillers were under the operational control of the 3rd Marine Division. Unlike the U.S. Army aerial forward observers farther south, who could only direct field artillery against enemy targets, Catkillers were authorized and trained to control air strikes, which they did regularly in support of both marine and army ground units. Elsewhere in Vietnam air strikes had to be controlled by U.S. Air Force FACs.
In the DMZ with the 220th RAC’s 1st Platoon, it was normal to come under fire on almost every mission. Bullet holes in their aircraft were so common that they were barely worthy of mention. When crossing the Ben Hai River into North Vietnam in search of enemy artillery, flying at 120 miles per hour in the sights of an array of anti-aircraft weapons, only good fortune kept more Catkillers from being lost. The stories of these valiant men in their small planes has been largely overlooked before, but the risks they took on a daily basis ensured more U.S. servicemen made it home. A Hundred Feet Over Hell ensures their stories are not forgotten, as the men relive their missions in their own words.
More About the AuthorsDiscover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.
Top Customer Reviews
"A Hundred Feet Over Hell" is a very personal story told by the men who lived the war. Hooper does an amazing job telling the story of how these aviators called in airstrikes in support of ground troops. After reading the book, the reader gains a new appreciation for the difficulty of simultaneous flying a plane; describing a target to a jet aircraft traveling four times as fast and 10,000 feet higher than you; and avoiding ground fire. American aviators were the best in this lethal business.
In the chapter "Busy Month of June", Hooper describes a Catkiller attack on a North Vietnamese Truck Convoy. "I started climbing, mentally computing where I wanted to roll in. At about eight hundred feet, I nosed over. Fixed on the windscreen of the lead truck, I armed both outboard tubes. The truck grew larger, and I could see the driver leaning forward to look up. Steaadyyy. Passing through five hundred feet, I squeezed the trigger, holding the dive for the split second it took the rockets to ignite and clear the tubes. In less time than it takes to describe, they hit. What happened next was not part of the plan.Read more ›
From grunts on the ground wading through the swamps of the Delta or struggling through the jungle highlands, to medical personnel providing care to wounded warriors, to the pilots and crews of helicopters or "fast-mover" jet aircraft, to small Special Forces units patrolling deep in enemy-controlled areas in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos, each veteran saw the war from their individual perspective. In this book, Jim Hooper tells about the Vietnam war from the perspective of his brother Bill and his fellow aviators providing their forward air controller services in support of Marines and Army grunt units on the ground in the northern part of South Vietnam known as I Corp.
As a veteran of the U.S. Army (1967-70), I served both stateside and elsewhere in the Asia during the period covered by this book. Probably because of my service as well as my long-standing fascination with military history, I have read many books about war and I can say that this book ranks right up there with the very best.
As a retired military professional and Army aviator of a more recent era, I am simply amazed and deeply impressed at the hair raising feats these Army FACs and their Marine observers accomplished over and across the DMZ on a daily basis with their small and frail O-1 Bird Dogs, a few marking rockets, M-16s, grenades, radios and a map. It's the stuff of legend and a proud legacy for all current and future warriors to be inspired by.
I highly recommend this book for your reading and library collection. You won't be disappointed.
Above the Best!
I've ridden in one of these airplanes; my dad owned and flew one on the farm in the '70's. These are little more than motorized tin cans with some wings and plastic windows. The very idea that these pilots would fly into some of the most hostile terrain in the war, scribbling radio frequencies and coordinates with wax pencils on the windows, communicating with troops under fire and ground control, in zero-visibility weather, literally hanging out of their windows shooting weapons and throwing grenades, all at only hundreds of feet above the ground in mountainous territory and with plumes of napalm exploding around them...it is terrifying. These boys had nerves of steel.
When Jim Hooper began to help his brother compile his thoughts about his experiences in Nam, he located some of his brother's platoon mates and found them eager to share their memories as well. As horrific as the war was, it seems that they were not only adrenaline junkies, feeding off the constant thrill of near-death experiences, but also felt the camaraderie and the bond of a unified cause to be unparalleled in life. The result was something more than just a book. It is a real-time narrative, with all of the players taking turns, jumping in with their contribution to the story.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
These heroes deserve our thanks and lasting gratitude for the lives they saved with their dedication to duty. Absolutely Magnificent!Published 1 month ago by 1931super6
My grandfather was with the 220th, 66-67 he would have enjoyed this book. These pilots were amazing in the way they had to fly, and dedication to the job.Published 1 month ago by William Flesher
A great read, it is amazing the sacrifice of so many, so young and so brave.Published 2 months ago by richum
The best Vietnam book I've read. Places you right there with the bullets flying past. These boys had some Brass Ones.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
As a former FAC who lived stories just like these I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning what it was really like. Robin O'BrienPublished 4 months ago by Robin Obrien
Very good book to read and mostly true facts of what was going on there in the DMZ.Published 4 months ago by alan ogawa
Well written. Undoubtedly one of the best books I've read on FACs in Vietnam.Published 9 months ago by Tdaero
If my father had chosen to remain a pilot in the army past 1962, this is most likely what he would have been doing. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Gamemaster_MH
I was aware of the O-1s from reading books about Vietnam by infantryman and long range reconnaissance patrol team members . This book provides the O-1 pilot's perspective. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Amazon Customer