During the war in Southeast Asia, the author flew combat missions in the CK-135 Tanker, H-3 and H-53 Helicopter. This book recounts rescue missions flown by H-3 and H-53 “Jolly Green” crews in 1969 and 1970 in Laos and Vietnam while he was assigned to the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery (ARR) Squadron.
In a straightforward writing style, Waldron begins his book with flight school, additional training, including jungle survival school and transition helicopter training in Thailand. When the author recounts his rescue and recovery missions in Laos, his writing takes on a more urgent approach. Readers will get the feeling they are sitting in the cockpit with him on every mission. When any of those missions fail in making a rescue or when fellow helicopter crews are shot out of the air, readers will feel his pain.
When the author’s tour in Southeast Asia ended in August 1970, he was assigned to Eglin AFB near Destin, Florida. Shortly after arriving he was asked to join a highly secret operation – Operating Ivory Coast.
The mission was to go into North Vietnam to rescue American POWs in a prison called Son Tay. For months Army Special Forces trained and rehearsed the ground operation while Air Force pilots trained and rehearsed their supporting mission of gunship coverage and commando insertion and extraction, including the POWs.
In the pre-dawn hours on November 21, 1970, a force of 56 Army Special Forces supported by 29 U.S. Air Force aircraft and 92 flight crew members took off and slipped undetected into North Vietnam airspace. In his blow-by-blow coverage, the author details every second of the operation, including his crew heroics when his gunship (Apple 3) took out two gun towers before the Army Special Forces were inserted.
Although the raid was highly successful in its execution, an intelligence failure missed the fact that the prisoners had been moved weeks before to another prison.
In this easy-to-read informative book, readers get to feel what it is really like to fly combat rescue missions and the grief felt by survivors when a mission ends in the death of fellow airmen. Perhaps the most important value of the book is reading the precise details of the training and execution of one of the most daring raids during the Vietnam War.