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Chief Warrant Officer Fredrick "Fox" P. Cullen, Jr.
This is a story as seen through the eyes of one 1st Lieutenant Army aviator, during the early US military commitment to support the Republic of South Vietnam in its counter-insugency operations against North Vietnam's campaign to reunite Vietnam under communist rule. It depicts the daily life of these soldiers and aviation crew members as they went about proving the importance of the helicopter in modern warfare. Describes in detail how the helicopter was employed, puts you in the pilot's seat, death and humor, frustrations encountered, and a tribute to those soldiers and airmen who paid the ultimate price.
Posted January 16, 2002
Pi¿-o-neer¿ a noun meaning: ¿One who goes before, preparing the way, for others to follow.¿ There is no other way to describe the original members of the 33rd Transportation Company (Light Helicopter)(CH21), except as pioneers in U.S. Army Aviation history! All original members of the 33rd left their families in the U.S. and quietly departed Ft. Ord, CA with their destination as¿¿unknown¿! The move was classified as Top Secret and no one was able to tell anyone, including families, where they were going under penalty of court-martial. Vietnam was not classified as a combat zone in 1962, but as an advisory zone¿ no one told the VC. 1LT Robert J. Brandt, a National Guard officer newly assigned, became the Commander of the 573rd Maintenance Detachment and, would be the only Commander of the 573rd Maintenance Detachment for the entire year. The 33rd was originally to deploy to ¿unknown¿ locations in March of 1962. The orders were delayed and many of their helicopters were transferred to two other Transportation Companies (8th and 57th), which did deploy. Then the U.S. was scoured for low time CH-21¿s to replace the ones given up by the 33rd. The unit was again alerted to move in August of 1962. All aircraft and all other equipment finally departed for Hawaii by ship scheduled to stop in Hawaii to pick up the aircraft and equipment of a sister unit, the 81st, before continuing on. Then, the day before the main body of personnel was to depart Travis AFB, 1LT Brandt was diagnosed with pneumonia! After spending a night in the Ft. Ord hospital and receiving a massive dose of penicillin that led to a rapid improvement, Brandt convinced the Army doctor that he HAD to go with his unit the next day. Convinced by his improvement, the doctor loaded Brandt up with more penicillin and off he went. He recovered enroute with no ill effects. Throughout book, MG Brandt tells a complete story of the first year of the 33rd in Vietnam. People, places and incidents are described in very vivid detail. Almost every pilot is mentioned as well as many of the key enlisted men and NCO¿s. Using letters sent home to his wife along with the help of several comrades he is still in contact with, MG Brandt reconstructs many events that tell the story of their first year. Combat assaults, re-supply and medical evacuations are carried out in two aircraft flights because of engine and maintenance concerns. The red soil and extreme moisture conditions made maintenance of the CH-21 radial engines and wooden rotor blades very, very difficult. Brandt estimates that his engine shop rebuilt a CH-21 radial engine every 8 days! Thunderbird Lounge is a story of missions, maintenance and mayhem. Every page is brimming with tales relating the many humorous incidents and events that made life in combat and the poor living conditions of Bien Hoa airbase bearable. Great photos are placed at the end of each chapter that compliment and highlight the people and incidents within the chapter. Thunderbird Lounge is truly a wonderful book. It tells a positive story about men as pioneers overcoming adversity, boredom and the enemy. Some of the participants may have seen things differently than MG Brandt, as he looks back after 40 years. However, no one can say he didn¿t tell it candidly, and fairly, as he saw it. 1962 was truly a time when real men pioneered the use of helicopters in combat and developed the textbooks for US Army Aviation airmobile operations. Those textbooks, as well as the lessons learned, were effectively used by thousands of pilots over the next 9 years in that ¿unknown¿ location so very far away.
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Posted January 11, 2013
Excellent account of an early army aviation unit in Viet Nam. Despite limited supplies the aviators overcame difficult situations. If you are looking for information about early army aviation stories then this book should be read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 26, 2002
This book nails it. The author deftly documents the fears, frustrations, frolics and foibles of these pilots and crews as they endure their moment in the muck of the 'only war they had.' There is a movie in here somewhere. To quote the late commander of the 33d,'Good job Brandt.'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 21, 2002
This book details the brave, honorable and often humorous actions of helicopter pilots and crewmembers in early Vietnam. This is slice of history that you have not been served before. An enjoyable and very worthwhle read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.