The following table lists my recommended nonfiction books about flying the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II in combat in the Vietnam War.
Into The Mouth Of The Cat: The Story Of Lance Sijan, Hero Of Vietnam by McConnell Malcolm
I love this book about the bravery of the only graduate of the Air Force Academy to win the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War. It is a true story of duty, honor and country and courage.
Lance Sijan was always a special kind of person: as a child growing up in the Midwest; as a cadet who made his mark in the Air Force Academy. But it took Vietnam to show how special he was - in an epic of jungle survival and prison-camp defiance. On the night of November 9th, 1967, Sijan was ejected from his crippled F-4 fighter-bomber over the steep mountains of Laos. Although critically injured and virtually without supplies, he evaded capture in savage terrain for six weeks. Finally caught and placed in a holding camp, he overpowered his guards and escaped, only to be captured again. He resisted his interrogators until the end, and he died two weeks later in Hanoi. His courage was an inspiration to other American prisoners of war and he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
One Day in a Long War: May 10, 1972, Air War, North Vietnam by Jeffrey Ethell
Aviation writers Ethell and Price examine the most active single day of air combat over North Vietnam: May 10, 1972, when 338 missions were flown by U.S. aircraft over the North. Sixteen planes on both sides were shot down; U.S. forces lost only four. The buildup to this surge of hostilities is examined, the training of the forces analyzed, the attackers' various tactics against ground and air defence described in detail. While it is the authors' intent to reach even a non-aviation audience with this compact and well-written history, some background in the air combat environment won't hurt. Eyewitness testimony and dialogue from recorded in-air conversations help bring a personal element to the awesome expenditure of military might. One of the best on the period and its arms, well organized and intense.
Based on cockpit recordings and interviews, this is a minute-by-minute narrative of the opening day of Operation Linebacker, a Navy/Air Force aerial onslaught against targets in North Vietnam. Participants (and some eyewitnesses on the ground) describe the attacks on bridges and stockpiles, while the leading edge of the attack--reconnaissance aircraft, flak-suppressing missions, search and rescue, airborne command and control--is also recounted. Since many of the operation's Navy pilots were graduates of the newly established "Top Gun" course at Miramar Naval Air Station in California, their performance on 10 May '72 confirmed the cost-effectiveness of this training beyond doubt. On the other hand, that day also saw the greatest loss of U.S. aircraft of any 24-hour period in the Vietnam War. Stories of the pilots who were shot down, either by MiG fighters or by surface-to-air missiles, include that of Air Force Captain Robert Locher, who survived 23 days on the ground before being rescued in a risky helicopter operation.
Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Oldsby Christina Olds, Ed Rasimus, Robin Olds
Robin Olds was many things to many people. To his West Point football coach he was an All American destined for the National College Football Hall of Fame. To his P-38 and P-51 wartime squadrons in WWII he was the aggressive fighter pilot who made double ace and became their commander in nine short months. For the pioneers of the jet age, he was the wingman on the first jet demo team, a racer in the Thompson Trophy race, and the only U.S. exchange officer to command an RAF squadron. In the tabloid press he was the dashing flying hero who married the glamorous movie star. For the current crop of fighter pilots he is best known as the leader of the F-4 Wolfpack battling over North Vietnam. For cadets at the Air Force Academy he was a role model and mentor. He was all of those things and more.
Here’s Robin’s story in his own words and gleaned from the family and friends of his lifetime. Here’s the talent and learning, the passion and leadership, the love and disappointments of his life. Few men have written on the tablets of aviation history with such a broad and indelible brush. Olds was a classic hero with vices as well as virtues, a life writ large that impacted many.
Once a Fighter Pilot by Jerry Cook>
The true adventure tales of a U.S. Air Force fighter who flew more than 400 combat hours while on duty in Vietnam. The book provides a rare insider's glimpse into the world of the flying elite, detailing their education, training, emotions, and day to day experiences. It is poignant, sometimes funny, brutally honest, always exciting, and an eye-opening look at one of the most tumultuous eras in U.S. history.
Palace Cobra: A Fighter Pilot in the Vietnam Air War by Ed Rasimus
Picking up where his acclaimed When Thunder Rolled left off, Palace Cobra is the story of Ed Rasimus's return to Vietnam to fight a war that many Americans tried to forget. When F-105 pilot Ed Rasimus completed his 100 missions over Vietnam, he returned stateside to a normal life: sitting at a desk and teaching student pilots. Two years later, he volunteered to go for a second tour of duty. Determined not to die in a losing cause, and relentlessly searching for that next adrenaline rush, Rasimus and the other F-4 Phantom pilots continued the ferocious air war in the North--dodging SAMs and gunning for MiGs--and routinely cheated death.
When America finally got serious about ending the war, Rasimus and the other pilots put it all on the line, pounding Hanoi with everything they had, and flying above POW camps to let the troops know they were not alone. Gripping, earnest, and unforgettable, Rasimus's combat memoir is, in the end, a heartfelt tribute to those who never made it back.
Clashes: Air Combat over North Vietnam, 1965-1972 by Marshall L. Michell, III
This is a must have book for anybody interested in the life and death battles in the air war over North Vietnam. This classic work, part of the Marine Corps reading list, makes full use of declassified U.S. documents to offer the first comprehensive study of fighter combat over North Vietnam. Marshall Michel s balanced, exhaustive coverage describes and analyzes both Air Force and Navy engagements with North Vietnamese MiGs but also includes discussions of the SAM threat and U.S. countermeasures, laser-guided bombs, and U.S. attempts to counter the MiG threat with a variety of technological equipment. Accessible yet professional, the book is filled with valuable lessons learned that are as valid today as they were in the 1960s and 1970s. Some 15 photos and 45 drawings and maps, including diagrams of both American and North Vietnamese formations and tactics, are included.>
Phantom in the River: Flight of Linfield Two Zero One by Gary Foster
On May 14, 1967, a US Navy F-4B Phantom II jet, flown by Ev Southwick and Jack Rollins, launched from the USS Kitty Hawk. Their F-4 was rendered disabled while flying a mission against the formidable air defenses of the Thanh Hoa Bridge in North Vietnam. They did not return to their carrier. The two airmen ejected and were taken prisoner.Phantom in the River is the account of the plane's flight and mission to destroy the Thanh Hoa Bridge- a site where air defenses were formidable and quite a few Americans were shot down- and of the two pilots' heroic survival. Also included is the story of the author's trip to Vietnam in 2004. Along with the two Navy airmen, the group reunite with the wreckage of the pilots' Phantom. What results is an emotional visit to the bridge and site of their capture 37 years earlier.These two pilot's have never spoken about their mission before, until now. This is their account of what really happened.
Warriors At 500 Knots: Intense Stories Of Valiant Crews Flying The Legendary F-4 Phantom II In The Vietnam Air War by Robert F Kirk
As the ground war struggled for success in Vietnam, it became intensely clear that the skies had to be owned by the allies for victory to have a chance. It was the F-4 and its pilots that made that possible. The author, a Phantom pilot himself, details intense stories of undaunted and valiant American pilots with their legendary fierce Phantom. These are personal stories of intrepid courage and self-sacrifice to get the mission done - whatever the cost. Fierce, unflinching battles to save friendlies and destroy a ruthless enemy are all recorded 40 years later. True tales of war at 500 knots!
Phantom Reflections: An American Fighter Pilot in Vietnam by Mike McCarthy
As the Vietnam War raged thousands of miles away, Mike McCarthy completed his flight training in the United States, eager to get into the war and afraid it would end before he could participate. He needn't have worried. By 1967, he was flying his F-4 Phantom II fighter with the U.S. Air Force's 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, also known as Satan's Angels. Before his tour ended, McCarthy completed 124 missions during the intense air war over North Vietnam and Laos and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. His memoir recreates the horror and exhilaration of air combat.
Nickel On The Grass: Reflections of a U.S. Air Force Pilot by Philip Handley Colonel USAF (Ret)
This book is a series of vignettes that capture the life of an extraordinary aviator, fighter pilot and leader, Colonel Phil Handley. In a career that spanned 26 years “Hands” earned a reputation as an exceptional pilot and leader in war and peace. I do not know anybody who served with him who does not admire him for his dedication, integrity and courage.
The central theme of the stories he relates is that the fraternity of true fighter pilots is made up of men who share a love of adventure, have exceptional flying skills, are willing to risk all rather than admit defeat and believe earning the respect of their peers is their greatest accomplishment. The really good ones possess a sixth sense about people and machines that gives them an edge over mere mortals in the air and on the ground. This is a book about a man who lived most of the stories and counts among his friends and acquaintances the central characters in the others. It has been my privilege to have been his friend and fellow fighter pilot for the past 30 years.
Striving for Air Superiority: The Tactical Air Command in Vietnam by Striving for Air Superiority: The Tactical Air Command in Vietnam
Fast Movers by John Darrell Sherwood
The story of the air war in Vietnam is really story of the "fast movers", men who flew the jet fighters and fought in the MiG and SAM infested skies of North Vietnam. In this book, the author John Sherwood, an official historian with the U.S. Navy, draws on more than 300 revealing interviews with these courageous pilots and crews, offering an in-the-cockpit perspective on the Vietnam experience never before possible. He profiles fourteen aviators, including such MiG killers as Robin Olds, Steve Ritchie, and John "Pirate" Nichols, and captures the heroism and sacrifice of this truly elite group of air warriors. From flying through walls of flak in Operation Rolling Thunder to how it feels to shoot down a MiG to the crushing ordeal of capture and imprisonment in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton," every aspect of air combat in Vietnam comes powerfully to life. Fast Movers celebrates these men and their aircraft, chronicling an aspect of the Vietnam conflict too long overlooked.
On Yankee Station by John B. Nichols
Combining vivid personal narrative with historical and operational analyses, this book takes a candid look at U.S. naval airpower in the Vietnam War. Coauthors John Nichols, a fighter pilot in the war, and Barrett Tillman, an award-winning aviation historian, make full use of their extensive knowledge of the subject to detail the ways in which airpower was employed in the years prior to the fall of Saigon. Confronting the conventional belief that airpower failed in Vietnam, they show that when applied correctly, airpower was effective, but because it was often misunderstood and misapplied, the end results were catastrophic. Their book offers a compelling view of what it was like to fly from Yankee Station between 1964 and 1973 and important lessons for future conflicts. At the same time, it adds important facts to the permanent war record.
Following an analysis of the state of carrier aviation in 1964 and a definition of the rules of engagement, it describes the tactics used in strike warfare, the airborne and surface threats, electronic countermeasures, and search and rescue. It also examines the influence of political decisions on the conduct of the war and the changing nature of the Communist opposition. Appendixes provide useful statistical data on carrier deployments, combat sorties, and aircraft losses.
Fox Two: America's First Ace in Vietnam by Randy Cunningham
I am a fighter pilot by heart, and I love turning and twisting through the skies in search of a good fight. But this is more than a story of aerial combat. It is a story of a ship, USS Constitution, and the men who sailed her, their feelings, thoughts and actions during the Vietnam conflict. Fox Two describes many of our air-to-air combats, recorded as they happened. We didn't win them all, but lessons learned and some of the restrictions that we had to live with - and in some cases die with - should be known by every American so that your sons will not pay the same price as did many of our men in a war we weren't allowed to win.... From 1965 through 1971 the US Navy scored 29 kills with Sidewinders. During the time period of this book, Navy pilots were credited with 23 Sidewinder kills and one Sparrow kill. All five of my victories were made with the Sidewinder, making Lieutenant (jg) Bill Driscoll and me the first US aces of the Vietnam War. Thus the Title, Fox Two.
To Hanoi and Back: The U.S.A.F. and North Vietnam 1966-1973 by Wayne Thompson
No experience etched itself more deeply into Air Force thinking than the air campaigns over North Vietnam. Two decades later in the deserts of Southwest Asia, American airmen were able to avoid the gradualism that cost so many lives and planes in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Readers should come away from this book with a sympathetic understanding of the men who bombed North Vietnam. Those airmen handled tough problems in ways that ultimately reshaped the Air Force into the effective instrument on display in the Gulf War. This book is a sequel to Jacob Van Staaveren’s Gradual Failure: The Air War over North Vietnam, 1965–1966, which we have also declassified and are publishing. Wayne Thompson tells how the Air Force used that failure to build a more capable service—a service which got a better opportunity to demonstrate the potential of air power in 1972. Dr. Thompson began to learn about his subject when he was an Army draftee assigned to an Air Force intelligence station in Taiwan during the Vietnam War. He took time out from writing To Hanoi and Back to serve in the Checkmate group that helped plan the Operation Desert Storm air campaign against Iraq. Later he visited Air Force pilots and commanders in Italy immediately after the Operation Deliberate Force air strikes in Bosnia. During Operation Allied Force over Serbia and its Kosovo province, he returned to Checkmate. Consequently, he is keenly aware of how much the Air Force has changed in some respects—how little in others. Although he pays ample attention to context, his book is about the Air Force. He has written a well-informed account that is both lively and thoughtful.
Phantom Over Vietnam by John Trotti
In his two separate tours in Vietnam, US Marine Corps pilot John Trotti was uniquely placed to see and experience the war in Vietnam from the war's early and optimistic days during his first tour, to the cynicism found in his second. Remarkably, Trotti is able to bring vividly alive the experience of being strapped into the cockpit of an F-4 Phantom jet and experience every aspect of a mission, from the adrenalin rush of combat to the emotional drama of nursing a badly-damaged fighter out of enemy territory and to safety.