Easy Target: The Long Strange Trip of a Scout Pilot in Vietnam

Thomas Smith, Author, Tom Smith, Author
Thomas Smith, Author, Tom Smith, Author Presidio Press $24.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-89141-595-4
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Mass Market Paperbound - 352 pages - 978-0-451-19301-8
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Flying scout helicopters in Vietnam was the aerial counterpart of walking point. Initially cast as target-spotters for gunships and air-assault forces, the scout pilots evolved into live bait as enemy weapons and tactics improved. Their small helicopters were vulnerable even to minor damage, and parachuting from a damaged bird was impossible. Casualty rates could be as high as 50%; a scout unit often resembled a WWI fighter squadron, with replacements dying almost before they could unpack. Yet fresh volunteers kept coming--even if only to stay out of the infantry. In his visceral memoir, Smith tells the familiar story of a young man who flunked out of college, sampled the 1960s counterculture and found himself first in the army, then in Vietnam. For Smith, the war was a theater of the absurd whose only meaning was survival. His narrative of low-altitude, high-risk operations in 1969-70 replicates that of others: initial confusion giving way first to proficiency and pleasure in stalking and killing anonymous enemies, later to a sense that both his skill and his luck are running out. Gritty enough to appeal to adventure fans, this memoir makes a useful contribution to a subject--American helicopter pilots in Vietnam--whose recorded history is largely still in its anecdotal stage. Photos, not seen by PW. (Oct.)
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