Vietnam to Western Airlines by Bruce Cowee

One of the missions of Vietnam Veterans of America since its founding in 1978 has been to counteract stereotypically negative images of Vietnam veterans in the news and entertainment media. That’s also the mission of Bruce Cowee in his book Vietnam to Western Airlines: An Oral History of the Air War (Alive Book Publishing, 536 pp., $36.95), a series of oral histories from thirty-three men who—like the author—flew in the military in the Vietnam War, then went on to become pilots for Western Airlines.

These men “are the cream of the crop of the generation that came of age in the 1960s,” Cowee writes. “They are my heroes, and their stories speak for themselves as a testimony to their courage and flying skill.”

               Bruce Cowee in Vietnam

Cowee received his commission as a USAF second lieutenant in December 1966 after completing Air Force ROTC at the University of California. He flew C-7A Caribous out of Cam Ranh Bay during his 1968-69 Vietnam War tour.

In his book, Cowee introduces each chapter with a few paragraphs about the Air Force, Navy, and Marine pilots in question. He then lets the men tell their pre-war, war, and post-war stories.

—Marc Leepson