Review by Stuart Forth.
The F-4 and A-10 are two vastly different aircraft. The former is a supersonic, afterburning, multi-role weapons system that, although not pretty, looks menacing from any angle. On the other hand, the A-10 is a slow, ungainly and ‘Butt Ugly’ (author’s words, not mine) machine, built around a massive gun and designed specifically for close air support. These two aircraft form the backdrop for this book, but any other fighters could well have been used. Other than the fact they were both operated by the USAF, they both have one thing in common. They both need a fighter pilot to operate them and that is what this book is about.
The author had a twenty-eight-year career with the USAF and these memoirs are as much about the lifestyle, and the people he encountered during this time, as they are about the aircraft he flew. Most people are familiar with the stories of the great fighter pilots, such as Baron Manfred von Richthofen, ‘Johnnie’ Johnson and Robin Olds, but this book does away with the spectacular and focuses on what life is really like among the rare fighter pilot breed. The author’s own combat tour in Vietnam is even glossed over as, he admits, it was an unremarkable tour, not without its exciting moments, but no more valiant than any other. If you want stirring Vietnam combat tales, then I would refer you to Jack Broughton’s excellent Thud Ridge or Ed Rasimus’s fantastic When Thunder Rolled. That is not to say this book is boring. Far from it. It is an absorbing read, written with the classic humour fighter pilots seem to have.
If you are a Phantom or Warthog fan, you will love this book, but you don’t even have to be an aviation enthusiast to enjoy it. It is a refreshing change from the usual pilot memoir (if you’ve read any of Dan Hampton’s books, this is the polar opposite!) and the author writes in such a humble and respectful way that it becomes a fitting tribute to fighter pilots the world over. A fantastic book because of this different approach to the subject matter.