It is 1967. Every young man in America must face the reality of our war in Vietnam, one way or another. Kevin McNally, twenty years old, bored and frustrated with college, decides to see if any of the military services will allow him the excitement of flying jet planes. None will as you must have a 4 year degree; but the army offers him helicopters.
In Vietnam, Kevin - now designated "Mac" - learns the routine but dangerous helicopter chores of insertion of troops and supplies and carrying out the wounded. These helicopters are armed with only two door gunners and are prime targets for the enemy. Mac hates being shot at without being able to shoot back. He volunteers to fly helicopter gunships as soon as he's allowed to; on his 30th day of flying.
The gunships are armed to the teeth, with machine guns, rockets, and canon. Mac can shoot back now, but he is also even more a prime target for the enemy. Flying the gunships is the most dangerous job in the army. Mac is shot down numerous times and wounded twice. Then, he is wounded one more time, and his days in Vietnam are over.
This book pulls no punches in describing the reality of war. The reader experiences the danger, the skill, and the daily spilling of blood. The language is harsh, the humor laced with sick irony, and no apologies are given for doing what needs to be done.
Mac learns to be ruthless in carrying out his duties - saving the lives of American troops - even as he realizes the strategic futility of the whole war. But it's not his job to question his orders. He flies twice into Laos, violating the sovereignty of a neutral country, even as Nixon assures America nothing of the kind is happening.
Mac loses many friends in combat.
Mac hardens more and more as he experiences such losses. He is no longer the bored twenty years old who wants some excitement in his life. He becomes the weary veteran just trying to live through another day.
Vietnam was our first "helicopter war," and this book illustrates the learning curve under fire as our military gained experience through the harsh trial and error of combat.
This is the story of how a naïve kid from Oregon masters the technology of war, takes pride in his skill and expertise, and does what needs to be done to stay alive and protect his comrades. It will be of interest to anyone who wants to know what war is like for the combatants, and especially to anyone who wants to better understand the innovation of "helicopter war."