Missions of Fire and Mercy by William E. Peterson

Bill Peterson joined the Army at age nineteen early in 1967. His goal was to be a helicopter pilot, but he wound up serving as a crew chief on a Huey in Vietnam after he completed Basic Training at Fort Bliss and AIT at Fort Eustis. Peterson tells his Vietnam War story in Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part (CreateSpace, 302 pp., $21.99, paper), a memoir that includes many of the letters he wrote home from the war zone.

Peterson arrived in Vietnam in August of 1967. “Reality begins as the rear door of the Boeing 707 opens to the flight of stars leading to the tarmac at Cam Rahn Bay,” he writes. “The humidity hits us like a stream from a fire hose. It’s 1920 hours, with the mercury reaching 100 plus. Given the uncertainties ahead, none of us had slept much since leaving Seattle twenty four hours earlier. Judging by the feel of the oppressive heat, there won’t be much sleep for the next twelve months.”

For the next twelve months Peterson put in an action-heavy tour of duty with C Company of the 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion in the 1st Cavalry Division based in An Khe and later at Chu Lai and at Camp Evans. He wound up being awarded thirty-six Air Medals (two with valor) and three Purple Hearts.

The title of the book refers to the fact that Peterson’s unit flew many different types of missions, including combat assaults and medevacs.

The author’s website is http://missionsoffireandmercy.com/

—Marc Leepson