Fast Movers: Jet Pilots and the Vietnam Exepience by John Darrell Sherwood, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Fast Movers: Jet Pilots and the Vietnam Exepience

Fast Movers: Jet Pilots and the Vietnam Exepience

by John Darrell Sherwood

The story of the air war in Vietnam is really story of the "fast movers", men who flew the jet fighters and fought in the MiG and SAM infested skies of North Vietnam. In this book, the author John Sherwood, an official historian with the U.S. Navy, draws on more than 300 revealing interviews with these courageous pilots and crews, offering an in-the-cockpit


The story of the air war in Vietnam is really story of the "fast movers", men who flew the jet fighters and fought in the MiG and SAM infested skies of North Vietnam. In this book, the author John Sherwood, an official historian with the U.S. Navy, draws on more than 300 revealing interviews with these courageous pilots and crews, offering an in-the-cockpit perspective on the Vietnam experience never before possible. He profiles fourteen aviators, including such MiG killers as Robin Olds, Steve Ritchie, and John "Pirate" Nichols, and captures the heroism and sacrifice of this truly elite group of air warriors.

From flying through walls of flak in Operation Rolling Thunder to how it feels to shoot down a MiG to the crushing ordeal of capture and imprisonment in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton," every aspect of air combat in Vietnam comes powerfully to life. Fast Movers celebrates these men and their aircraft, chronicling an aspect of the Vietnam conflict too long overlooked.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"G-pulling combat action."—Booklist

"Compelling."--Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A staff historian for the U.S. Navy, Sherwood (Officers in Flight Suits) offers this compelling presentation of America's fighter pilots of the Vietnam era. His study, though based heavily on interviews with and narratives of just 14 pilots, is by no means impressionistic. It is a presentation of personalities and mentalities in a military community that is becoming increasingly a band apart from the rest of the armed forces as well as from civilian society. Sherwood effectively conveys a central part of his subjects' Vietnam experience: frustration at not being allowed to wage all-out war. He describes in detail such fierce but futile campaigns as Rolling Thunder and Commando Hunt, which, Sherwood writes, "[f]or its technological wizardry... had little impact on the Communists' ability to wage war." Stress was a constant companion for the pilots. But few resigned their commissions or turned in their wings. Not everyone met the standards, and Sherwood is blunt in naming names. Nor was there a common pattern of behavior. Some fighter pilots were like Robin Olds, leader of one of the top-ranked F-4 wing, larger-than-life figures, charismatic iconoclasts. Others, like navy commander Roger Sheets, took pride in their professionalism. But all fighter pilots describe their common ground: the shared knowledge that they would do almost anything to help each other in need, manifested in high-risk rescue missions and again in the POW camps. It was the final element that cemented a community of warriors fighting what many saw as a senseless war. (Feb.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
At first glance, this appears to be just another collection of colorful action stories about combat in war-torn skies. While tales of this sort do have a place in school libraries, the genre as a whole seldom merits much respect. This title, however, is very different: the consummate insider's view of the air war in Vietnam, and its effects upon the personal and professional lives of American pilots. Author John Sherwood is particularly well qualified for the task. A professional historian with the U.S. Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C., he is thoroughly familiar with the world of flight, including the intricacies of flying modern jet fighters. He conducted more than 300 interviews with Navy, Air Force, and Marine pilots and aircrew while researching this book. In structure, it highlights the stories of five of these men, but so interconnected is the military aviation community that nearly all of the others seem to appear throughout its pages. Although Sherwood does give a nod to the numerous bomber, transport, liaison and helicopter pilots of the war, the book places heavy emphasis upon the elite fighter and attack pilots. The first section of the book, a profile of the famed Colonel Robin Olds and the Eighth Tactical Fighter Wing, illustrates two of the book's strong features: unsparing personality profiles of Olds and his teammates, and a dispassionate study of the effects of a combat tour on an airman and his career. Wartime pilots cope with overwhelming stresses in ways not always comprehensible to outsiders, and the career effects are not always beneficial. Contrary to the award ceremonies and the happy homecomings reported in the media, they often return tounstable family conditions and the divorce rate is extremely high. All of which is a far cry from aerial duels in the wild blue. Needless to add, there is enough of this in the book to satisfy the most discerning young aviation wannabe. But here again, the author is unsparing. War in the air, like anywhere else, is quick, brutal, and very final, and the victors are often left with sights they'd rather forget. This is the best air warfare book by far to come out of the Vietnam experience, and one of the best of the entire genre. Highly recommended to high school, public and military collections. Category: History & Geography. KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, St. Martin's, 324p. illus. notes. index., $6.99. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Raymond L. Puffer; Ph.D., Historian, Edwards Air Force Base, CA SOURCE: KLIATT, March 2002 (Vol. 36, No. 2)
Library Journal
From 1965 through 1973, while U.S. and Vietnamese forces in the South dealt with an elusive enemy on the ground, Marine, Navy, and Air Force pilots were pressing a grim series of attacks meant to force the enemy into peace talks. In this kind of warfare, "going Downtown" meant risking life on every mission against the most concentrated antiaircraft fire ever seen. The stories of several of the outstanding pilots of these campaigns, taken from both their recollections and transcripts of their on-site air-to-air conversations, generate a vivid sense of the sort of action they saw and the work they were asked to do. Sherwood, a historian at the Naval Historical Center, has produced an earnest and solid treatment. He presents the all-volunteer flyers as singularly courageous, dedicated, and capable. His book ranks among the best of this type for its sketches of the personalities in the bombing campaigns against North Vietnam. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.64(h) x 0.99(d)

Read an Excerpt

Dramatis Personae Robin Olds World War II ace and commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon, 9/66-9/67. The top MiG killer of the Vietnam War until May 1972, with four kills to his credit.

Ed Rasimus A young F-105 Thunderchief pilot who served at Korat, Thailand in 1966. Rasimus flew some of the most difficult Rolling Thunder missions of the war.

Roger Sheets Navy Air Wing 15 commander during the spring of 1972. His unit participated in many significant missions, including the mining of Haiphong Harbor.

William "Charlie" Carr, Jr. A Marine navigator who flew with Roger Sheets in the A-6 Intruder during the mining of Haiphong Harbor as well as the Bai Thuong airfield attack. Carr was a member of VMA (AW)-224, the Marine A-6 unit attached to the aircraft carrier Coral Sea in 1972.

Phil Schuyler An A-6 pilot and Navy liaison officer with VMA (AW)-224, Schuyler often flew as Sheets' wingman.

Bill Angus A young Marine navigator in VMA (AW)-224 who ended up as a POW in Hanoi.

Ted Sienicki An Air Force F-4 backseater and a POW in Hanoi in 1972.

Roger Lerseth A Navy A-6 navigator who suffered significant injuries during his 1972 shootdown.

Jim Latham An Air Force F-4 pilot who flew the fast FAC mission in 1972, and eventually wound up in Hanoi as a POW.

John "Pirate" Nichols, III The Navy's all-time record holder for number of hours flown in an F-8, Nichols was also a MiG killer in Vietnam.

Richard S. "Steve" Ritchie The Air Force's first ace inVietnam, Ritchie is also the only Air Force pilot to make ace -- the rest were navigators.

Charles "Chuck" DeBellevue Ritchie's backseater and the top ace of the war, with six kills to his credit.

Clar & M. "Patty" Schneider: An Air Force intelligence officer with the 432nd Wing at Udorn, Thailand, 1972 who helped prepare intelligence for the Locher rescue. Locher and Schnieder eventually married after the war.

Roger Locher An F-4 backseater with the 432nd Wing who survived twenty-three days behind enemy lines after being shot down over North Vietnam in 1972.

Copyright © 2000 by John Darrell Sherwood

What People are saying about this

Stephen Coonts
The flying, the flak, the SAMs, the brotherhood of rare and honorable men—John Sherwood captures the raw essence of the great American adventure that was the Vietnam air war in this thoughtful, informative look at some of the legendary aerial warriors of that age. Fast Movers is the next best thing to being there.
— (Stephen Coonts, author of Flight of the Intruder)
Darrel Whitcomb
Desperate men in desperate situations—held together by a special bond. John Sherwood has captured the real stories of some of the finest Air Force, Marine, and Navy aviators of our long war in Southeast Asia. Up close and personal, he reminds us that war is a uniquely human endeavor and that the man, not the aircraft he "straps on," is really the weapon.
— (Darrel Whitcomb, author of The Rescue of BAT 21)
Mark Berent
Fast Movers names names, warriors, and wings. The leadership and dedication of its air warriors are brilliantly brought to heroic life by John Sherwood. He has captured the unadulterated essence of air warriors—what makes them tick, and what makes them stick to missions thought impossible.
— (Mark Berent, author of Eagle Station and Phantom Leader)
Walter J. Boyne
Fast Movers is the best thing ever done on the personalities of the men who flew jet fighters in Vietnam. John Sherwood's trenchant analysis of emotions, motives, triumphs, and defeats of the men who fought the air war belongs on every book shelf.
— (Walter J. Boyne, author of Beyond the Wild Blue: A History of the United States Air Force, 1947-1997)
Barrett Tillman
Fast Movers is one of the most intriguing books to emerge from the Vietnam air war. Having known several of the major players since they returned from combat, I can say that John Sherwood portrays them accurately, candidly, and objectively. His selection of individuals, personalities, and tactical aircraft does credit to the Vietnam generation of aerial tigers: men who willingly went Up North, survived flak, SAMs, MiGs, and their own politicians—and came back for seconds. Fast Movers not only describes what they did, but more importantly, it answers Lord Tennyson's fabled question: The Reason Why.
— (Barrett Tillman, author of MiG Master and co-author of On Yankee Station: The naval Air War Over Vietnam)

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