Warriors at 500 Knots

  • by Robert F Kirk
  • Narrated by Dick Hill
  • 8 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

As the ground war struggled for success in Vietnam, it became intensely clear that the skies had to be owned by the allies for victory to have a chance. It was the F-4 and its pilots that made that possible. The author, a Phantom pilot himself, details intense stories of undaunted and valiant American pilots with their legendary fierce Phantom. These are personal stories of intrepid courage and self-sacrifice to get the mission done - whatever the cost. Fierce, unflinching battles to save friendlies and destroy a ruthless enemy are all recorded 40 years later. True tales of war at 500 knots!

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great Material

I loved the material. As a 26 year Air Force veteran who's known a lot of fighter pilots, I enjoyed the "there I was" stories. Kirk's firsthand familiarity with the subject shows, and he does a great job of putting you in the cockpits and minds of the aircrews. His storytelling style is warm and familiar to people like myself who have heard friends share stories over beer and finger foods. One of the anecdotes that I chuckled at most was the one that related the challenges of flying an out-of-rig F-4 across the Pacific, having to fight the jet the whole way by keeping constant pressure on the stick to hold it level because they didn't want to admit to the problem and be stuck somewhere on the way home...maintainers who've noted how often jets fly "Code 1" on redeployment sorties understand this kind of thing. At one point during an air refueling, the pilot made an unexpected stick movement during an air refueling and the boom operator complained. Not wanting to admit to the ongoing struggle with his flight controls, the pilot apologized and said "I was just scratching my nose." That's when I started chuckling...it's the kind of tongue-in-cheek, downplaying comment a fighter pilot would make, but he wouldn't say "nose" -- I know a "mixed company" edit of a "there I was" story when I hear one. Things like that drew me closer to the author.

Dick Hill's narration, however, was somewhat off-putting from my personal perspective. Hill is a very talented and accomplished narrator, but fighter pilots have a particular way of using the language in terms of tone, inflections, mannerisms, etc. and cockpit communication is a style all its own. When they push the mic button, it's calm, precise, and almost robotic, even in stressful situations. When you've spent two and a half decades hearing the real thing, Hill's dramatization seems exaggerated and it creates a sense of auditory vertigo. The words are fighter pilot words, but the voice being used isn't even close to fighter pilot...it's like what Hollywood thinks fighter pilots sound like. So to my biased and overly-sensitive ear, Hill tended to sound somewhere between J. Peterman and the Skipper from the Madagascar Penguins. Most people would think I'm being picky, but it's like a veteran watching a war movie and latching onto the crush of a cap, position of a piece of gear, way a firearm is handled, or how someone says "good morning." It took a bit to get used to, but I let go of my biases and enjoyed the book. If Hill read cockpit communication as it is typically delivered in the real world, it would've been more accurate but far less entertaining for most people.

Overall, the book isn't Faulkner, nor is it intended to be. It's a collection of stories to pay tribute to F-4 pilots, and as such it's solid entertainment for anyone interested in the military or aviation history. It's appeal is in its unvarnished frankness and familiarity.
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- Mark Murphy

Duty, Honor, Country

Would you consider the audio edition of Warriors at 500 Knots to be better than the print version?

Dick Hill's narration brings the book alive and makes you feel as though you're in the back seat of the F-4 flying combat missions in Vietnam. Through his words, you share in the life and death decisions aircrews make on a daily basis, often times in split seconds.


What was one of the most memorable moments of Warriors at 500 Knots?

While there are many great moments in Robert's book, the most memorable one was the mining operation on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. As a retired Air Force pilot myself, flying 500 knots at 500 feet through a hail of enemy gunfire takes immense courage and dedication to mission. Taking battle damage, which forced multiple high "G" pitch ups, followed by high "G" pitch downs, then recovering the aircraft shows superior airmanship and coolness under fire.


What about Dick Hill’s performance did you like?

The correct pronunciation and annunciation of unfamiliar Air Force flying terms and acronyms, plus the reader's pacing of and emphasis on events leads to unforgettable drama that makes the reader want more.


If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Experience the real life drama of F-4 pilots flying combat missions under the most difficult of circumstances. Know the fear and joy of aerial flight as you ride along at 500 knots, pulling high "G" turns in afterburner, while dodging enemy gunfire, knowing that weather obscures near by mountain tops.


Any additional comments?

Robert Kirk's book brings to life the experiences of ordinary men, some exceptional, some flawed, as they grapple with the realities of combat. The book doesn't glorify war or the military. Rather, the book takes an in-depth look at the men who risked their lives on a daily basis. These men did this not for glory, but for each other--their only goal to complete each mission successfully then go home at the end of their tours. This is a must read for anyone who wants to experience the courage and raw emotions Air Force pilots experienced fighting an unpopular war. In the end, the author answers the question, "Where do we get such men."

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- Skullman

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-14-2014
  • Publisher: Jeff Bowden