Truth.

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within."

Ariel Durant

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Chicken Hawk and Back in the World. My Secret War.


I read a lot of books, but I don't keep all that many unless they are reference books.  There are some , though, that I hang on to and have read over and over.  I like the Horatio Hornblower books by C.S. Forester.  I enjoy the Harry Flashman books (obviously) by Douglas Frasier.   They and the books like them are always entertaining no matter how many times you go through them.

There are two books by a fellow named Robert Mason that I've read several times and never seem to give away.

The first is Chicken Hawk.


Mason flew the Huey, an aircraft I am intimately acquainted with.  The difference is, he flew it in Vietnam, during the hottest years of the war.


  Chicken Hawk follows him through basic pilot training, on into Vietnam and during the course of his tour over there.

He wrote the book himself.  It's a memoir, of a sort, and an excellent description of helicopter operations in Vietnam, as well as an insightful book into the psychology of military helicopter crews.

Vietnam  is fading away now, as fewer and fewer veterans of that war remain each year. For people of my generation it was a formative event in our lives.  For younger people today, it seems to have as much relevance as the Roman Carthaginian conflict.

The book has a value outside its setting though. Those who served will recognize the overall culture, no matter which service or where they were.  People who didn't will get some inkling of the closed world the military lives and operates in.




Things did not go well for Robert Mason after he finished his tour in Vietnam.

He came back to the states, and was posted back to Texas as an instructor pilot. This is a hard assignment for an aviator coming out of an operational squadron. It was not a good place to send someone trying to readjust to being out of Vietnam and back in the United States.

He had trouble reconciling himself with his new environment. There were problems with alcoholism, and with stress related mental problems. His family life began to come apart.

At the end of his first year back, he had to choose between staying in the Army and getting out.  Feeling he didn't "fit" anymore, he opted to leave the service.

The next few years of his life were not particularly good ones. I don't want to tell the whole story but some people, reading this, will recognize the pattern. Some won't.

Either way it's a good book. If anything, it's more gripping than the first book and neither of them are easy to put down.   Chickenhawk went through many printings, was a best seller, and was published in the United Kingdom among other countries.  Chicken Hawk Back in the World was a best seller, but can be hard to find except as a used copy.  If you can latch on to them, you won't feel your money was ill spent.

Another book I've kept (and it's virtually impossible to find a copy now)  is My Secret War by Richard Drury.


 Although it's not a secret that the CIA operated T-28 fighter bombers over Laos and Cambodia during the war, it's not so well known that USAF pilots flew the aircraft on combat missions over the same countries long before it was released in the U.S. that they were doing so. They also operated the A-1 Skyraider in the same missions.

Richard  Drury was one of the pilots who participated, and he wrote this book some years after leaving the Air Force and returning to the United States.

The first time I read this My Secret War, I was inclined to be a little suspicious about the validity of the story. It seemed to me that no military organization could operate in such an avant garde manner.  Nor could I understand why any USAF pilot would want to operate under the horrific conditions that they found in Laos and Cambodia.

Some years later I read it again and this time I didn't have any doubt at all that it was a true narrative. After leaving the Air Force in 1970, he floated for awhile and then joined the California Air National Guard in 1975.  He went back to SEA and flew for flying Tiger Airlines, then joined FEDEX ,  He is now retired and lives in California.

T-28 operated by USAF over Laos and Cambodia

Captain Richard Drury with his A-1 Skyraider .






40 comments:

  1. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)

    If I ever win big, really big lottery money, I will buy a A-1 Skyraider (father of the A-10 warthog)

    I did not read the above post yet on the helo's and fixed wings......I will tomorrow sometime.

    I did scan through everything on the crusades, really bad liberals that cant have a civil discussion and you 'Harry quoting Inside Clown Posse.

    'Harry, you quoting 'Insane Clown Posse' is like Socrates quoting "The Beatles"

    I think that surprised me more than the libtards blowing head gaskets over the Crusades.
    How in the hell do you even know about Insane Clown Posse????

    (my favorite some by them is 'Lets go all the way")

    I listen to some really bizzare music myself on occasion.

    I listen to everything from Led Zeppelin to Johnny Cash. My favorite by Johnny Cash song is 'A boy named Sue" One of the best barroom songs ever written.

    Back to everything over the past two days or so.....

    I surfed the better part of the afternoon yesterday. I got some sunburn going. The beaches were not too crowded, actually very few people. The big crowds hit this weekend and I will of course stay home and troll liberal blogs and seek revenge.


    I will also fly my Confederate flag with pride and defiance of political correctness this weekend.

    I have no brass Mosin food for this weekend either:(

    I gotta say that I am tired. I did a lot the past few days.

    I will write on the boots I got from a former federal agent who is leaving the country as soon as possible (he's moving to Europe) I think he's fed up and sick of all the insanity in this country.


    Oh 'Yeah Harry. Instead of putting up side bars filled with liberal hate. Put up pics of guns, especially Mosins. Make them (liberals) go into conniptions and convulsions.

    Speaking of Conniptions, I.E. K-9 Conniptions. I am glad Kymbers puppy is ok. I think the puppy should be named 'Mosin"

    Lots more to write about tomorrow


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    1. CC. My favorite Johnny Cash song is "Hurt." My favorite insane clown posse songs are "Where's God?", "Let's Go All the Way", and of course their song about the End of the World. I never post any ICP because there's too much foul language.

      Sounds like you have been having a good time down there. So far this has been an excellent weekend for me too.

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    2. aptain crunch
      please write about the reasons the agent is leavingif you can disguise him enough.
      with the moslems invading i don't know if europe is all that safe.

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    3. Hey Harry,

      (captaincrunch)

      I have not listened to ICP in years and I went to iTunes ands downloaded 'let a killa' and 'lets go all the way"
      The song, 'let a killa' is graphic but I still laughed.

      By the way. Theres an old Johnny Cash song that talks about a guy retiring from a job after 30 years and planning to 'punch his boss out'

      anyone know the title to that song?

      another favorite Johnny Cash song is 'One Piece at a Time"

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  2. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)

    I got up about an our ago. Got my threes hours of rack time in.

    I will go back to sleep for another hour or so later.

    I read the above post. You mentioned that the book 'My secret war" talks about how a squadron operated at very 'avant gard manner. I am not surprised by all I read.
    I think in a conflict when 'no normal chain of command" is watching. All kinds of rules are bent and broken. Its happened countless times overseas in recent years. I can only imagine some of the 'highjinks" that went on in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    In special ops (or any other war for that matter) the first rule is to throw the rule book out (one bit of logic to that statement) If your enemy can read your rule book. Then you are compromised (just ask Irwin Rommel)

    On the veteran thing. A great many veterans can never live normal lives after the military for what ever reason. It gets harder throughout the years for some. Easier for others. I have friends that are suffering from PTSD. I know a law enforcement officer who is suffering from PTSD and get this. Deals with it by being an artist, painting pictures of flowers and happy stuff and distressing (works for him)

    I don't have the PTSD thing, but I hate crowds, lines. I freak out in lines. I sit at the back of rooms full of people where I can have good situational awareness. I am much more calmer in rural, open area's.
    I don't get mad easily. I'm pretty calm and can take some (a lot) of grief from others depending on the situation and just walk away. Now if I am assaulted or something really bad happens. That's another story and then its game on. Everyman has his limits.
    I gotta say too that I don't hardly drink. I don't smoke and I don't smoke dope or do drugs. Covering up a problem I think makes it worse. Best way for me to deal with a problem is go to the beach of course or find a useful activity.

    Speaking of which. Yesterday another veteran friend who spent a year in Fallujah' Iraq curtesy of the Army had a problem with his air conditioner yesterday. The drain pipe clogged up and water started to leak on his floor. We worked unclogging a pipe for the refrigerated A/C and everything is back to normal. Veterans can no longer rely on the VA or the Federal Government. The only people we can rely on is each other.

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    1. I'm out of town so I am using a Kindle to respond to comments. I have to pick out each word one at a time, so I won't be as verbose as I usually am.
      We all have our quirks. I think I avoided a lot of trouble by moving out in the woods when I got out. Most of my trouble starts when someone or a group of people start acting like other people don't matter, or treating someone badly. I just can't seem to mind my own business. So there are worse eccentricities than always sitting in the back of the room.

      I feel easiest around people who have a similar background.

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  3. I read "My secret War" a while ago, I shall look for Mason's books at the library when I am done with the one on the Ottomans. A couple of other ones that are also good reads from military aviators are:
    A Lonely Kind of War, by Marshal Harrison (FAC in Vietnam)
    Fulcrum, By Alexander Zuyev (Soviet Mig pilot defector)
    Wings of the Morning by Orestes Lorenzo (The Cuban pilot defector who flew back in to Cuba on a C-310 to rescue his family)
    The last one is a fantastic read. Today Orestes is a successful businessman/builder in Florida who owns and flies his own L-39 Delfin Jet

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    1. I read Mig Pilot about Viktor Belenko but I never heard of Fulcrum. That's one I will have to read. If you can't get the books through your library I will be glad to lend you my copies.

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    2. Thanks for the offer. The library in town is quite good and if they don't have it here they can usually get it through the inter-library loan system. They have found some quite obscure tomes for me in the past. I will give them a try first. If all else fails I'll let you know.

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    3. Let me know then. I'd be glad to mail them up.

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  4. I just checked Thriftbooks.com and they have a copy of My Secret War by Richard
    Drury for $18.50. I can't afford that, maybe someone else wants it.

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    1. That's a good price. Thanks for passing the word. I hope someone from here will buy it as it's a great story about a part of the war that there still isn't much information on in the public domain.

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  5. Harry,

    I knew my Dad served in Vietnam but didn't know how many times until recently when I found some of his paperwork while going through the estate. He served 5 times, I remember as a young child the stories he would tell about returning to the U.S. The Vets., weren't treated well back then by their fellow Americans. He had people spitting on him, and threatening him. It so bothers me, our soldiers fight for our freedoms, and when they return home they don't get the help or respect they deserve. The older crowd (like us) know the sacrifice soldiers have experiences. As for the younger kids now a days, I don't think they care about anything but themselves, and their cell phones.

    When things settle down, I plan on requesting with my Dad's DD214, copies of his medals and records.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I remember all to well how some portions of the population treated returning vets. The sixties and early seventies were bad times in this country. I'm sometimes convinced we just stagger along from crisis to crisis, patching things up but never fixing anything.

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  6. I am going to have to find a copy of "My secret war" I am a big fan of piston engine avation...I don't get to read a lot about the end of the era... Thanks for the tip.

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    1. I loved flying the T-28 Trojan. It was the closest I would ever get to flying something like a Hellcat and I knew it at the time. Flying over the gulf offshore of Pensacola you could get just a little feel of what flying over the Pacific would have been like. All I needed was some Zeros, some Vals, and the odd Kate or Betty.

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    2. When my shop was in the Gaithersburg "airpark" development there was a T28 based there.... He didn't fly it often, but when he did it was unmistakable. Same with skyraiders. A sound like no other radial even. I met a guy that is threatening to give me a non airworthy R975... I will at least build a display engine, but if I am lucky, maybe I can put it together well enough to actually start and run...I go to airshows when I can, much cooler to hear them and see them fly than just looking at them in a museum. In museums they are dead objects....
      I am a model builder as well, I have been thinking about building "your " T 28 from the pic, but the combat one in the picture.... Might have to find 2 kits. I am going to have to live to be 150 to finish all the things I want to do.

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    3. I have lots of old pictures of T -28 Trojans from Vat-6 at NAS Whiting Field in the mid seventies. If you need some to see what they looked like from different views I'll email you some. There's a T-28 (can't remember if it's a B or C model, that I flew a lot hanging from the roof in the Naval Aviation Museum atq NAS Pensacola. I had an ancestor who got his his wings at Pensacola in the late 20's, have some interesting pictures he took.

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  7. I just bought all three from AbeBooks. A good resource for used books.

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    1. Someone once recommended that outfit to me for hard to find books. Now that I am trying to avoid buying from Amazon they will come in handy. I hope you enjoy the books as much as I have over the years.

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  8. Hey Harry--- Everytime I see someone do a post about planes, I have to show the boys. Our oldest does model airplanes, and flips out everytime he sees one.
    In October there is a big airshow of sorts with WW11 and Vietnam era planes.
    So, we will be taking them.

    Hows the weather been over there? Been really hot and dry here

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    1. Glock mom, it has been very hot and humid in North Georgia. I am in a neighboring state tonight and it's muggy with showers and some thunder.
      I didn't know your boy's were interested in aviation. Send me a mailing address (any will do) and I will send them some nice aviation books with lots of color profiles and four views. I would be glad for them to have the books.

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  9. Just ordered a copy of chickenhawk as it sounds interesting. Thanks for the recommendation, been ages since I've read any war books.

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    1. Hey, Kev. Good to see you. I've been dropping by your place but have not commented as I didn't want to scare off your readers. :-)

      I think you will like Chicken Hawk. Most war books the fellow who is telling his story sits down with a pro and then the professional writes the book. But this fellow had his wife help him so if it's not as polished as most it's more honest.

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    2. Yeah sorry I've been a bit quiet commenting lately, I've been so busy its mental. Back off with the girls again now so I can take a minute here and there. Also my phone stopped me commenting for a while for some strange reason so that stopped me!

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    3. No worries. I'm glad all is well there on the homestead with you and the family.

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  10. Chickenhawk was the first war book I ever read as a young man. It left a big impression on me regarding the horrors of war. Oddly enough, reading this book helped me to cope with some of my own issues at that time. I didn't know there was a sequel until this post. I would very much like to find a copy of it. --Troy

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    1. If you can't find one let me know. You can borrow mine.

      Sometimes when you are struggling with something it helps to know that other guys, who are good and honorable men, have to deal with things too. That you aren't a head case or a wimp.

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  11. I read Chickenhawk back in High School in the early 80's. One of my all time favorites. I may still be around in a box somewhere. I did not know there was a sequel. I really enjoy your blog. A daily reader.

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    1. I appreciate it. I try to make it relevant and useful. It's supposedly about self sufficiency but I wander sometimes. Mostly late at night when I'm looking at old pictures or something of that nature.

      I have been pleasantly surprised at how many people know these books.

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  12. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)

    "I found the quote of the day from 'Commander Zero" in the previous post.

    "I simply gather the things I need to make sure that when the engine of natural selection finally starts humming, I'll be around afterwards and they won't. I was telling someone yesterdsy, it's too late to save the world so Im just gooing to save myself and my loved ones"

    That pretty much sums it up......

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    1. I hope the people I like can make it through whatever is coming. Once the net goes down I don't suppose I'll ever know.

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  13. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)


    I forgot your on that island (watch out for Pirates)

    South Padre Island at this moment looks like 'The Island of Doctor Moreau" (remember that one) with all the tourist.

    If I was going to fly in plane in any conflict (going back to the discussion of piston powered aircraft) It would ground attack aircraft of some sort with the best being the A-1 Skyraider. I like the idea flying over tree tops and getting leaves in the crevesses on the belly of the aircraft. I've seen all the movies, Bat 21, Flight of the Intruder and others.
    That's the real thrill. Flying low, fast. Seat of your pants flying at tree top level and taking small arms fire. I bet it would be fun being a sneaky bastard and coming in under radar to drop ordinance on somebodies SAM battery in the middle of the night and blowing all their crap sky high.

    I know in reality its not all that fun, but I know those pilots that do that get one hell of an andreline rush and some pilots must grudgingly admit its one hell of an wild ride.




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    1. True. The down side is that at low altitudes your options are limited if something goes wrong. Although in the environment you invision you'd never know it. One second you'd be there and the next you just wouldn't.

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  14. Thanks for sharing Harry, my best friend from high school was a mechanic on Huey's in the Army before they went Blackhawk. I got a ride in one at Grand Forks CAP encampment back in the mid 80's. smooth ride.

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    1. Most of the hueys from my day were scrapped, given to third world countries, or turned into target drones.

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  15. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)


    I found this on the 'Gates of Vienna' blog and I recommend reading it. Its an account on the barbarian immigrant horde that's moving through Europe at the moment.
    I think the Europeans have signed their own death warrant on their culture, history and traditions. The Europeans will become second class citizens in their own countries and age old hatreds and genocides will remerge.

    Get ready for the new masters just as the Spaniards did many centuries ago.

    heres the link http://gatesofvienna.net/2015/09/the-power-of-the-fist-is-what-matters/

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    1. I'll take a look. The Romans had the Goths, and the Europeans of Today have the Syrians, Turks, Palestinians, the former Soviet Republics, all of Africa, and much of the Far East. I think it will end the same way.

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  16. I was about 16 when Nam was winding down. Guy I knew who was a year older than me joined up. He was on one of the last planes in. Things were falling apart so fast they landed, got off the plane, looked around, got back on the plane and left. He was in-country for less than 45 minutes.

    Worked in the fire dept with a lot of vets, some from Nam. Good guys in tight spots, but the former tunnel rat was bat sH*t crazy. Took him a lot of years to deal with his demons.

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    1. We're all products of our life history, I suppose. Some people get lucky, and some don't. It's just kismet.

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