Singing the Vietnam Blues: Songs of the Air Force in Southeast Asia

Singing the Vietnam Blues: Songs of the Air Force in Southeast Asia

by Joseph F. Tuso
     
 

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The songs of the U.S. Air Force flyers during the Vietnam War, written in the cryptic language of pilots and navigators, aloft in their "beasts" a dozen "angels" up in the sky, uniquely reflect the stark emotions and black humors of that ill-fated war.

Veteran navigator Joseph F. Tuso spent fifteen years collecting the lyrics for more than a hundred songs

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Overview


The songs of the U.S. Air Force flyers during the Vietnam War, written in the cryptic language of pilots and navigators, aloft in their "beasts" a dozen "angels" up in the sky, uniquely reflect the stark emotions and black humors of that ill-fated war.

Veteran navigator Joseph F. Tuso spent fifteen years collecting the lyrics for more than a hundred songs written or sung by U.S. Air Force flyers from about 1966 through 1969. Many of the songs' authors are unknown. But their lyrics, even such jarring lines as those of "Chocolate-covered Napalm," often are set to popular melodies, such as "The Wabash Cannonball." Some songs have original tunes as well. Twenty-five of the 148 songs whose lyrics are included here were written by Dick Jonas, the premier songwriter of the Vietnam era Air Force. Many other songs appear in print for the first time.

Singing the Vietnam Blues begins with a personal overture that sets the stage for a play of war-evoked emotions and lines that are less than sacred, more than profane, and sometimes poignant. Some songs, such as the "Phu Cat Alert Pad," are based on historical events, while others have their origins in popular myths, such as "Wolf Pack's Houseboy." Whatever the direct source of the songs, it is the daily combat, rescue, or transport missions; the possibility of death; and the fear, bravado, and competition between pilots, navigators, planes, and enemy flyers or "bandits" that generated the lyrics.

Most songs are preceded by Tuso's explanation of each song's origin, other versions, references to current events or "inside jokes," and sometimes personal insights and memories. A glossary is also included.

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Editorial Reviews

John Newman

"This unique collection provides insight into the ideas and personalities of the men who flew in combat in Vietnam. Tuso's fine and careful scholarship puts the songs in context and allows them to be understood by persons who might not be familiar with the specifics of military aviation. His extensive and competent introduction and comments on each song provide virtually a capsule history of the Air Force in Southeast Asia. This book belongs in every collection of Vietnam literature.”--John Newman, Curator, Vietnam War Literature Collection, Colorado State University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780890964552
Publisher:
Texas A&M University Press
Publication date:
09/28/1990
Series:
Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series, #19
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.33(w) x 8.51(h) x 0.76(d)

What People are saying about this

John Newman

"This unique collection provides insight into the ideas and personalities of the men who flew in combat in Vietnam. Tuso''s fine and careful scholarship puts the songs in context and allows them to be understood by persons who might not be familiar with the specifics of military aviation. His extensive and competent introduction and comments on each song provide virtually a capsule history of the Air Force in Southeast Asia. This book belongs in every collection of Vietnam literature."--John Newman, Curator, Vietnam War Literature Collection, Colorado State University

John Newman, Curator, Vietnam War Literature Collection, Colorado State Universi

Meet the Author


Joseph F. Tuso flew 170 combat missions in Southeast Asia as a weapons systems officer in the F-4D Phantom. He retired from the Air Force in 1976 and is now academic dean and professor of English at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell.

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