For Scott O. Ferguson, memory lane stretches from horizon to horizon—and then some. He served with the U.S. Navy in World War II and with the Air Force in the American wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Ferguson recollects his combat experiences in Sketches of an Earlier Time: A Three-War Combat Veteran Recounts a Twentieth Century Life of Duty and Adventure (Merriam Press, 149 pp. $9.99, paper). His stories cover the middle half of the 20th century—from his birth in 1925 to his retirement as an Air Force colonel in 1975.
Alongside his look at warfare, Ferguson spells out the difficulties of a childhood during the Great Depression and of family life amid a military career. Barbara, his wife, often single-handedly raised four children during long separations caused by the call of duty.
Having lived through most of the same years, I vouch for the accuracy of Ferguson’s remembrances. His accounts provide touches of insight about the times and moods of society in decades gone by.
During World War II, as soon as he was old enough, Ferguson dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Navy. He served nearly four years as a seaman. His adventures in New Guinea and the Philippine Islands provide unusual views of a young man’s reaction to unpredictable events, along with dilemmas he created. To me, this was the most revealing part of the book.
In 1949, after marrying, Ferguson completed Aviation Cadet training and found assignments in fighter/interceptor aircraft. He flew the F-84G (in the book he refers to aircraft only by letters and numbers) in Korea and performed “all types of missions with all manner of purpose,” he says. Ferguson’s biggest concern was the presence of “flak traps everywhere.” His memories of the Korean War are a continuous flow of anecdotes about his squadron’s successes and failures.
During the Vietnam War Ferguson supervised the covert Task Force Alpha/Igloo White electronic warfare activities at Nakhon Phanom Air Base in Thailand in 1967-68. He flew many missions into Laos with O-2 Cessna FACs and in the back seat of F-4s. His stories from this time are as interesting and informative as earlier ones.
Excellent photographs ranging from Ferguson’s childhood to recently accompany each section of the memoir.