Would you like to keep up on your reading, but don’t know where to start? Each issue of our journal Air Power History contains a dozen or two book reviews that will help you make a selection. These reviews have long been a favorite of our members. Here is a sample:
The Hunter Killers: The Extraordinary Story of the First Wild Weasels, the Band of Maverick Aviators Who Flew the Most Dangerous Missions of the Vietnam War. By Dan Hampton.New York: HarperCollins, 2015. Maps. Tables. Photographs. Notes. Sources. Appendices. Glossary. Index. Pp. 351. $23.00 hard cover, $16.00 paperback ISBN: 978-0-06-237512-4
Wild Weasels is a label given to specially trained crews flying modified fighters with the bold mission of suppressing ground-based defenses, primarily radar-guided antiaircraft artillery (AAA) and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) so that strike aircraft can attack successfully and return to base safely. To do this, as Hampton intricately details, Weasels in the Vietnam war paved the way in a new role by routinely preceding the strikers to the target area and then departing the area last. Thus, their motto: “First in, last out.” Having flown 151 combat missions (Middle East) in U.S. Air Force fighters, earning four Distinguished Flying Crosses with Valor and a Purple Heart, this guy has an insight into his subject that is rare for a best selling author (Viper Pilot and Lords of the Sky). In fact, while his focus in this excellent book is on the early Weasels flying F–100s and F–105s in Vietnam, he flew the mission himself in F– 16s during his twenty years in the Air Force. Plus, he went way beyond the expected requirements of research to build his book, including interviewing extensively many of those who actually learned the business the hard way—looking for targets; killing them with missiles, bombs or, in some rare cases, guns; and watching buddies being shot down and rescued, captured, or killed. So, pay attention. Dan Hampton knows what he’s writing about. And what he writes about is the rise in Vietnam of the radar-guided-missile threat, for which U.S. forces were embarrassingly ill-prepared. He points out how we reacted to this threat, producing equipment that could detect radar signals, training pilots and electronic warfare officers (EWOs or “bears”) to use the new equipment and tactics, then testing them in the hottest test range in the world at the time—North Vietnam. It’s a great story that is well written. A mild word of caution: to put this Wild Weasel story in its larger context, Hampton devotes large chunks of his book to the history of the Vietnam war, including a fair amount of what happened in the ground war, primarily in South Vietnam.
If your interest is solely in the Weasel story, you may be tempted to leap over some of this. Don’t. I counted it as an added benefit of the book. If I could add one thing to the story, it would be coverage of the role played by the Air Force’s Tactical Air Warfare Center (TAWC) at Eglin AFB, Florida. TAWC was charged with influencing the equipment and tactics that were used in combat. To make sure the contact between the field and TAWC was active and useful, TAWC assigned an experienced fighter pilot and EWO to each base flying into the North. The team was called the Anti-SAM Combat Assistance Team (ASCAT) and played a key role in solving the many problems our guys encountered over the North. Having said that, I encourage anyone with an interest in this story of a challenging mission and the fearless men who flew it to read Dan Hampton’s very thorough and accurate account. You will be impressed with the thoroughness of his research, the tale itself, and his skill at writing about it.
Lt. Gen. Michael A. Nelson, USAF (Ret.), NASM Docent and former ASCAT/Wild Weasel.
Book Reviews from the Summer 2018 Issue of Air Power History
The Air War Against North Vietnam: The Thanh Hoa Railroad and Highway Bridge, Part 1 Theo van Geffen
Powering the Eagle…Over 90 Years and Counting. Pratt & Whitney’s Inspirational Women by Ned Allen, review by Daniel J. Simonsen
The Shady Lady: 1,500 Hours Flying the U–2 Spy Plane by The Mediterranean Air War: Airpower and Allied Victory in World War II by Robert S. Ehlers, Jr., review by Steve Agoratus
Rick Bishop, review by Al Mongeon
Tanker Pilot, Lessons from the Cockpit by Mark Hasara, review by Paul D. Stone
Limiting Risk in America’s Wars by Phillip S. Meilinger, review by Golda Eldridge
The Origins of American Strategic Bombing Theory by Craig F. Morris, review by Joseph Romito
Wave-Off! by Robert R. Powell, review by Golda Eldridge
Jacqueline Cochrane: Biography of a Pioneer Aviator by Rhonda Smith-Daugherty, review by Fred H. Allison
Vought F–8 Crusader: Development of the Navy’s First Supersonic Jet Fighter by William D. Spidle, review by Jeffrey P. Joyce
The Peenemunde Wind Tunnels: A Memoir by Peter P. Wegener, review by Sherman N. Mullin
History of the De Havilland Vampire by David Watkins, review by Jeffrey P. Joyce
he Art of Flight by John Watkinson, review by Golda Eldridge
The Jet Race and the Second World War by Sterling Michael Pavelec, review by Sherman N. Mullin
Red Markers: Close Air Support for the Vietnamese Airborne 1962-1975 by Gary N. Willis, review by Jerome V. Martin