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Fast Movers: Jet Pilots and the Vietnam Experience Hardcover – February 23, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
A staff historian for the U.S. Navy, Sherwood (Officers in Flight Suits) offers this compelling presentation of America's fighter pilots of the Vietnam era. His study, though based heavily on interviews with and narratives of just 14 pilots, is by no means impressionistic. It is a presentation of personalities and mentalities in a military community that is becoming increasingly a band apart from the rest of the armed forces as well as from civilian society. Sherwood effectively conveys a central part of his subjects' Vietnam experience: frustration at not being allowed to wage all-out war. He describes in detail such fierce but futile campaigns as Rolling Thunder and Commando Hunt, which, Sherwood writes, "[f]or its technological wizardry... had little impact on the Communists' ability to wage war." Stress was a constant companion for the pilots. But few resigned their commissions or turned in their wings. Not everyone met the standards, and Sherwood is blunt in naming names. Nor was there a common pattern of behavior. Some fighter pilots were like Robin Olds, leader of one of the top-ranked F-4 wing, larger-than-life figures, charismatic iconoclasts. Others, like navy commander Roger Sheets, took pride in their professionalism. But all fighter pilots describe their common ground: the shared knowledge that they would do almost anything to help each other in need, manifested in high-risk rescue missions and again in the POW camps. It was the final element that cemented a community of warriors fighting what many saw as a senseless war. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
From 1965 through 1973, while U.S. and Vietnamese forces in the South dealt with an elusive enemy on the ground, Marine, Navy, and Air Force pilots were pressing a grim series of attacks meant to force the enemy into peace talks. In this kind of warfare, "going Downtown" meant risking life on every mission against the most concentrated antiaircraft fire ever seen. The stories of several of the outstanding pilots of these campaigns, taken from both their recollections and transcripts of their on-site air-to-air conversations, generate a vivid sense of the sort of action they saw and the work they were asked to do. Sherwood, a historian at the Naval Historical Center, has produced an earnest and solid treatment. He presents the all-volunteer flyers as singularly courageous, dedicated, and capable. His book ranks among the best of this type for its sketches of the personalities in the bombing campaigns against North Vietnam. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
-Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, CA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
"introduction of the internal gun in the F-4E in 1972" - the F-4E was introduced in 1965.
"The F-4 was the first operational USAF fighter capable of flying at twice the speed of sound" - I guess the F-104, F-105, and F-106 don't count, right? The F-4 was actually the Navy's first Mach 2 fighter. You would think that the author, the NAVY'S OFFICIAL HISTORIAN, would have caught that one.
"Kirk would end up training Olds on every aspect of the F-4 weapons system and would travel to George AFB in California to Olds how to fire the AIM-7 Sparrow missiles" - Olds states in his memoirs that this training occurred at Point Mugu NAS.
On the MiG-19: "Although it's top speed of 620 knots was far below that of the F-4....." - the top speed of the MiG-19 was 909 mph, or 789 knots.
"The F-4 could fly as slowly as 130 knots, whereas the MiG-21 essentially lost it's manueuverability at under 215 knots." - a somewhat pointless comparison. You're not going to fly at stall speed in air combat.
Olds was "selected to attend the National War College (NWC) in 1964". Then, just two paragraphs later: "...Olds arrived at Bentwaters a few weeks after the Kennedy assassination in 1963, and left in the fall of 1965". Robin Olds was a helluva guy, but it's tough to be in two places at the same time. Olds attended the NWC before he went to Bentwaters.
In Chapter 2, Sherwood keeps referring to noted F-105 pilot Karl Richter as "Carl". JHC! Seriously?
In Chapter 4: "These were policy statements issued by Colonel John Flynn, a senior officer at the Hanoi Hilton". Flynn was THE Senior Ranking Officer (SRO) among the POW's. A couple pages later: "LtCol Robinson Risner, the senior imprisoned Air Force officer for most of the war". Risner was shot down in 1965; Flynn in 1967.
I think the reader gets the general idea. The problems with the rest of the book are well-covered in some of the other reviews.
The new book Fast Movers: Jet Pilots and the Vietnam Experience takes a hard look at some of those men and what ultimately inspires them. Author John Sherwood, official historian of the U.S. Naval Historical Center, is well suited to bring this long-overdue book to the public. He realized that most books dealt only with air war tactics. Few examined the warriors themselves. With over 300 interviews and extensive research, Sherwood attempts to reveal the personal side of these pilots. Contrary to most opinions, these men wanted to be there, to test themselves against the most hostile environment ever designed. They were the "fast movers", those who flew jet fighters and attack aircraft. In all, 14 pilots are examined here: some Air Force and some Navy, some famous and some not. Whether battling the North Vietnamese defenses or trying to survive in such places as the Hanoi Hilton, these military professionals proved they had "the right stuff." John Sherwood tells their story well.
Robert S. DeGroat, Flight Journal