Black Cat 2-1: The True Story of a Viet­nam He­li­copter Pi­lot and His Crew

Air & Space Smithsonian - - Reviews & Previews - by Bob Ford. Brown Books, 2015. 288 pp., $24.95. EDI­TOR OF AIR & SPACE.

IN 1967, BOB FORD BE­GAN a one-year tour in Viet­nam in which he would fly more than 1,000 mis­sions in U.S. Army UH-1 Hueys. Since re­turn­ing home and sep­a­rat­ing from the ser­vice, he has been man­ag­ing one of his fam­ily’s flour mills and en­joy­ing civil­ian life. He writes that af­ter a visit to a lo­cal school to tell his story, a teacher sug­gested he write a book. His depth of mem­ory of de­tails that date back al­most 50 years is re­mark­able, and un­less he was tap­ing his en­tire tour, a reader has to as­sume the con­ver­sa­tions de­picted here are re­con­struc­tions—a rea­son­able ac­com­mo­da­tion for war mem­oirs.

Ford ex­pe­ri­enced a lot be­cause of a propen­sity for vol­un­teer­ing. He asked to fly he­li­copters, and once in-coun­try, sought the north­ern­most out­post he could find in or­der to be clos­est to the ac­tion. He saw plenty.

Ford’s ap­proach to even the most ar­du­ous of com­bat sit­u­a­tions is re­lent­lessly up­beat, and only in his ac­count of the fi­nal weeks of his tour do the events seem a bit dis­jointed. The Tet Of­fen­sive, a mas­sive co­or­di­nated at­tack by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army in 1968, brought the war to the very com­pound where his unit was housed, and dur­ing the ac­tion, his clos­est com­rades were killed.

His de­scrip­tions of com­bat he­li­copter fly­ing are vivid, and marred only by rep­e­ti­tious de­scrip­tions of how low they flew and why. Over­all, this mem­oir is hard to beat.

GE­ORGE C. LAR­SON IS THE FOUND­ING

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