Ed Cobleigh (Fast Eddie) served 2 tours in Vietnam as a fighter pilot flying the F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber. He logged in total 375 combat missions over Vietnam and Cambodja and told his personal experiences in this book by a series of short stories. He served in the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron “Satan’s Angels”.
All the facts of what happened with him in the air and on the ground during his tours are told from his point of view adorned with a good deal of humor, sarcasm and critics on the useless waist of lives and materials. The events are sometimes really exiting in the combat stories which the reader shares with him and he doesn’t avoid some self-criticism about his mistakes or misjudgements. His view on the sometimes useless orders that only became more dangerous thanks to the political decisions taken in Washington or headquarters and which were sometimes very beneficial for the Vietcong are judged and convicted sharply by Ed Cobleigh. He shares his critical opinion of the events in this war with us but also let us participate in the sometimes funny blunders and mistakes he makes himself.
My favorite story is that about his leave in Bangkok during which he was introduced in a special way to the hot Thai food. But also the story about the huge organisation that was necessary to enable a show with Bob Hope, a well- known entertainer at that time, on his airbase. A big flight operation with many patrolling planes was necessary to avoid that the Vietcong would shoot Bob Hope out of the air. Think about the costs of this operation.
His detachment on board of the USS Hancock aircraft carrier to introduce the use of laser guided bombs to marine pilots is also outright hilarious. Each story is a jewel on its own and his selfreflection makes him a human being like you and me. He takes us with him in the cockpit on his night caps (combat air patrol) were boredom and excitement are always present. Together with his reader he is musing and philosophizing about the value of his role in this war and how the leadership of the USAF cared more about their own careers than about the loss of lives of their subordinates.
You are as reader also his companion on his date with a beautiful Thais waitress serving in the officer mess that fails completely because of his guilt feelings. He falls asleep and she was gone already when he woke up. Beautiful! A rough flyboy (he calls himself a sewer doer) with his positive and sensitive characteristics. Where do you meet a guy like that? In his stories he reminds me of the books of Ernest Gann (also a famous pilot and author in the prewar years) to which he refers himself also as pilot and philosopher.
You love this man and especially at the end of his last story in the book in which he is waiting in the airport lobby for his connecting flight home after ending his tour. He listens to the voice of Anita Bryant (an American singer) while musing over his past combat adventures and cries silently about the loss of his buddies. At that moment I wiped away a symbolic tear also. A nice book to read and in which the heroism of a fighter pilot is brought back to human level. It contains some black and white photos from his flying period but the stories are great fun.