Phantom Reflections: The Education of an American Fighter Pilot in Vietnam

Overview

Although it took place over three decades ago, the Vietnam War, at times, seems to be a scar that will not heal. This memoir/essay details the journey of an extremely eager true believer, a young pilot who couldn't wait to get in the war, and was afraid it would be over before he could participate. Starting in the early sixties, this memoir captures the thoughts and feelings of a somewhat idealistic, young pilot as he seeks adventure, glory and excitement, in what he believes to...

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Phantom Reflections: The Education of an American Fighter Pilot in Vietnam

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Overview

Although it took place over three decades ago, the Vietnam War, at times, seems to be a scar that will not heal. This memoir/essay details the journey of an extremely eager true believer, a young pilot who couldn't wait to get in the war, and was afraid it would be over before he could participate. Starting in the early sixties, this memoir captures the thoughts and feelings of a somewhat idealistic, young pilot as he seeks adventure, glory and excitement, in what he believes to be a truly worthwhile cause.

The narrative covers Colonel McCarthy's assignment to the F-4 Phantom II fighter, at the time one of the most capable fighter planes available. It details the extensive training necessary to turn him into a fighter pilot, and follows him as he is thrust into the midst of the intense air campaigns over North Vietnam and Laos. The numerous descriptions of toe curling missions give the reader a realistic feeling of what it was like to be in combat, but, more than that, they show how America's longest and most divisive war was perceived by those who were at the very sharpest point of the spear. Unlike many fighter pilot narratives of combat, McCarthy's retrospective account offered him an opportunity to reexamine his past beliefs, and he candidly discusses why they have altered significantly. While the accounts of air combat are riveting by themselves, these reflections prove to be equally fascinating.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The author flew the F-4 Phantom II fighter plane on numerous missions during the Vietnam War and he here retrospectively narrates the most significant events he experienced during the war (almost all combat missions), the stereotypical jet pilots bravado perhaps tempered a bit by time. Occasional thoughts about the wider context of the war intrude from time to time and he differs from many of his military colleagues in now believing that the US failed to recognize the limits of its power in Vietnam and that the war could not have been won even if the military had been able to fight the war with no limitations."

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Reference & Research Book News

"Mike McCarthy's Phantom Reflections: The Education of an American Fighter Pilot in Vietnam is a well-written memoir that centers on the author's 1968-69 tour of duty with the USAF's 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron (aka Satan's Angels) flying out of Ubon Royal Thai Air Base….He also shows well how his thoughts about the Vietnam War changed."

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The VVA Veteran

"[A] welcome addition to any aviation buff's bookshelf….The memoir includes many humorous and serious accounts of what life was like during this turbulent yet transformational period in Air Force history….What makes this account stand out from other Vietnam there I was…-type memoirs, is its jargon free, easy-to-understand explanations of air combat techniques, strategies, and formations….There is a welcome absence of combat glamorization that gives the book an aura of integrity. Pre-mission feelings of fear and anxiety are accurately portrayed, and the gripping narrative includes the retelling of a close call with an enemy surface-to-air missile that exploded mere meters away from McCarthy's aircraft….[I]t is addictively engrossing and a must read for anyone interested in a close-up view of the Vietnam air war."

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Air Power History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275993276
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/30/2006
  • Series: Praeger Security International Series
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

MIKE MCCARTHY is a retired Colonel currently teaching at Arizona State University. During the Vietnam War, he was an F4D Phantom II pilot assigned to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thai Air Base, and flew 124 missions against North Vietnam and Laos from 1967 to 1968. Assignments at the Pentagon in both Headquarters USAF and the Office of Secretary of Defense provided valuable insight on how major policy decisions are developed and implemented.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction     xi
A Very Restless Night     1
Clouds Gather     7
The Long Wait     12
The Die Is Cast     22
First Mission     32
Christmas and New Year's 1967     40
"You're OK!" "No, I'm Not!"     45
A Typical Mission     51
MiGs     64
The Threat Unseen     76
The Ops Clerk Kid     81
Lead's Hit!     84
It's Sunday!     91
A Very Memorable Mission     97
Sydney     103
Slippery when Wet     110
Dean St. Pierre     116
"Shillelagh"     122
The Roman 2 Episode     127
Good Bye Ubon     135
Saigon     142
Heading Back Home     148
Final Reflections as Time Goes By     154
Index     171
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