In the summer of 1967, Mark Garrison had dropped out of college at Southern Illinois University just before entering his third year. He had run out of money and had to work for a while. These were the days before the lottery and the draft soon came calling. In order to somewhat control his own future, he enlisted in the US Army's helicopter flight school program. Little did he know that this adventure would be the most profound experience of his life.
Garrison flew hundreds of missions for the 119th AHC, stationed in the Central Highlands at Camp Holloway in Pleiku, Vietnam. He was awarded 25 Air Medals, four campaign Bronze Stars, and The Distinguished Flying Cross, among numerous other awards. His narrative takes you through the whole process, from basic training, flight school, flying combat in Vietnam, and his return to the United States. His description includes many incidents in combat flight, including being hit by rocket propelled grenades and being on fire in the air, over hundreds if not thousands of enemy troops. But this is not all. He elaborates on the daily lives, emotions, and nuances of the pilots and what they considered their mission to be.
Guts 'N Gunships is a must listen if you are to have a realistic understanding of what flying helicopters in Vietnam combat was all about.
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As a Huey and later, Black Hawk crew chief in the '80s and '90s, I had heard plenty of stories about "Slicks" and "Gunships", from guys who were there. I had not heard specifics of their missions and how they operated. Of course, I wouldn't because these guys were humble and didn't bring attention to themselves. This book opened my eyes to the reality of the Helicopter's mission in Vietnam and the brave men who crewed them.
Vietnam was so highly politicized, many forget the incredible skill and bravery of the U.S. fighting man who, in most cases, served not because they wanted a military career, but because of a sense of duty. These men were cut from the same cloth as the incredible warriors who fought in WWI, WWII, Korea and the wars of today. I'd love to see a resurgence of books about the Vietnam war without all the political nonsense we've been forced to swallow for the last 40+ years!
This book was well written. The story was gripping, terrifying, funny and at times, sad. Eric Martin's narration was spot on and excellent. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Especially those interested in Military history, or U.S. History in general.
Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get any worse... They did! (Paraphrasing Mark Garrison)
"The Incredible True Story of U.S. Army Helicopter Air Crews in Vietnam."
- SGT Med