Jay and David Groen are brothers who both served in the Vietnam War, and they are the co-authors of Huey: The Story of An Assault Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam, a fine novel first published in 1984 and now available as an e book (Artha, 282 pp., $7.97, Kindle).
Jay Groen was a U. S. Air Force Intelligence linguist. David Groen was a warrant officer who flew Hueys in Vietnam as a pilot and an aircraft commander. He flew hundreds of combat sorties, earning the nickname “The Flying Dutchman.”
“I want to honor and acknowledge the contributions of all Americans, the South Vietnamese and the allied nations who fought with us,” David Groen says in his end notes. He and his brother based this novel on his experiences.
In the novel, John Vanvorden, later known as the Flying Dutchman, arrives in South Vietnam in July 1970, twenty years old, a warrant officer, and a helicopter pilot. He will fly the UH-1H Iroquois, known as the Huey. He is assigned to the 155th Assault Helicopter Company in Ban Me Thuot, Camp Corriel.
Those who have read the classic book of helicopter combat in Vietnam, Chickenhawk by Robert Mason, but who still have an appetite for more books of that sort can do no better than to read this novel. After reading Huey, I am convinced that the Groens used all of the most exciting of the combat sorties involving mission that David Groen flew as the basis for most of the action in this book.
The book is not all non-stop action, which would have been too much of a good thing. There are many death-defying near misses for our hero, including the one that starts the novel off with a bang, and left me to wonder for many pages whether the pilot survived that direct hit between the legs or, at best, just lost his manhood. There are many hospital scenes; they are moving and sometimes as scary as the combat scenes.
The philosophical beating heart of this sensitive book comes when the Flying Dutchman is in the hospital for a long time and encounters a spiritual librarian who leads him to Buddhism and the concept of Karma and how it relates to reincarnation and the Golden Rule. Don’t think for a moment that this is boring stuff. The Groens make it exciting.
Huey also takes us with the Flying Dutchman on R&R, a scene that is the longest I’ve ever read on that subject. We also get the usual stuff about shit burning, John Wayne, how violent and scary the ROK troops were, and the wire mesh on bus windows. C-rat ham and lima beans (”ham and motherfuckers”) is mentioned here, too, linked with the memory of a dying comrade who used them to play a funny trick on his buddies.
The new Kindle version contains a lengthy biographical section on both authors. I was saddened to learn that Jay Groen is dead. But this fine novel will live after him.
Read it and tell your friends about it. I think they’ll love it as much as I did.
For more info, go to http://arthapub.com/huey