—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.
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 ›
It was the only Army Birddog company that spent it's entire existence under the operational control of the First and Third Marine Divisions.
It was the only Army Birddog company that flew the DMZ.
It was the only Army Birddog company that flew over North Vietnam.
It was the only Army Birddog company whose pilots routinely flew with Marine Aerial Observers in the back seat.
It was the only Army Birddog company whose pilots were qualified and on Marine Corps orders designating them Tactical Air Controllers, Airborne.
It was the only Army Birddog company whose pilots routinely adjusted US naval gunfire, including the Battleship New Jersey onto targets in North Vietnam.
Some of the escapades of Doc Clement and Charlie Finch may seem "over the top"...but they weren't...and they DID happen exactly as told. If in doubt, go the Catkiller website www.catkillers.org and read some of the official citations relating to the Silver Stars and Distinguished Flying Crosses that Catkiller pilots have been awarded.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As being one unit of Marines these CatKillers flew.over and protected, I was honored nhave red these stories. Read morePublished 1 month ago by ANTHONY MILAZZO JR
I was there on the ground out of Hue and throwing leaflets out the window of those same aircraft. Also playing propaganda tapes. This book is very realistic. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Taylor Oncale
These heroes deserve our thanks and lasting gratitude for the lives they saved with their dedication to duty. Absolutely Magnificent!Published 8 months 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 8 months ago by William Flesher
A great read, it is amazing the sacrifice of so many, so young and so brave.Published 9 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 9 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 10 months ago by Robin Obrien