From the battlefields of the American Revolution to the mountains of Afghanistan, America’s servicemen and women always have had dedicated battlefield medical personnel: medics, corpsmen, nurses, doctors, surgeons, and medical technicians. Scott McGaugh’s Battlefield Angels: Saving Lives Under Enemy Fire from Valley Forge to Afghanistan (Osprey Publishing, 272 pp., $24.95, hardcover) pays tribute to the men and women who, for generations, have fought to save the lives of American troops on battlefields across the nation and the world.
A longtime journalist, McGaugh—who is the marketing director of the USS Midway Museum—uses interviews and written first-hand accounts to present individual stories of military medical personnel from all of America’s major wars. While his main goal is to showcase their courage and honor of, McGaugh also sets out chronological accounts of the wars to demonstrate how battlefield care has evolved and greatly improved over the centuries.
Battlefield Angels features two chapters on the Vietnam War, including the story of Medical Officer Gary Kirchner’s effort to save the lives of hundreds of USS Forrestal sailors after a massive fire broke out due to the misfire of a rocket in 1967.
Retired Army LTC Gene T. Boyer’s Inside the President’s Helicopter: Reflections of a White House Senior Pilot (Cable Publishing, 416 pp., $24.95, hardcover; $17.95, paper) tells the story of a “dirt-poor” kid’s journey from a working-class Ohio home to the cockpit of Army One.
A veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, Boyer survived being shot down while flying in Vietnam during his 1966-67 tour, during which he put in more than 7,000 hours of flight time, including 376 combat hours in the air. After his Vietnam War tour of duty Boyer returned to the White House unit. In his book, written with Jackie Boor, Boyer provides readers a rare and unique behind-the-scenes perspective on the lives of five American presidents (Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan), diplomats, and celebrities he flew around the world. Throughout this book, Boyer offers a wide range of compelling, humorous, historical, and insightful stories from his time as Army One’s senior pilot. From risky landings in the mountains of Peru, to flying President Nixon off the White House lawn on August 9, 1974, following his historic resignation, Boyer’s anecdotes present some of history’s best-known and little-known events through the lens of an insider few in Washington even knew.
The author’s website is http://www.genetboyer.com/
While rummaging through his late mother-in-law’s belongings in 2009, John Siegfried, a military historian, discovered a silver POW/MIA bracelet inscribed “Colonel Myron Donald.” Intrigued, Siegfried made contact with Myron Donald, a former POW who was imprisoned by the North Vietnamese for five years. Moved by his face-to-face meeting with Donald, Siegfried embarked on a nationwide journey to meet with additional Vietnam veterans and families of those still listed as missing in action.
In Six Degrees of the Bracelet: Vietnam’s Continuing Grip (Xlibris, 356 pp., $22.99 hardcover; 15.99, paper), Siegfried documents the moving encounters and troubling stories he unearthed during his travels. Focusing on the themes of sacrifice, struggle, and remembrance, Siegfried seeks to memorialize, honor, and tell the stories of those who endured the harshest of conditions while serving in Vietnam.
From accounts of ongoing battles with post-traumatic stress disorder to stories of wives still unsure of the whereabouts of their husbands, Siegfried transforms what could be clichéd stories of war into personal accounts of pain, uncertainty, endurance, and, in some cases, triumph.
The reflections of a former Marine, Samuel K. Beamon’s Flying Death: The Vietnam Experience (AuthorHouse, 216 pp., $24.99, hardcover; $14,49, paper), is a memoir that offers insights into the everyday daily life of a Vietnam War HMM-164 helicopter crew chief.
While many memoirs recall a specific battle or reflect upon the political atmosphere of the Vietnam War, Beamon’s offers a personal, apolitical take on his 19 months in the battle zone. Throughout his book, Beamon goes over the challenges of preparing his crews for dangerous missions, of losing comrades in battle, and of the harsh conditions of war.
Making his account more illuminating, Beamon reflects upon the racism he encountered as an African American serving in the military during the Civil Rights era. Expanding the narrative beyond his time in Vietnam, Beamon also includes a discussion of his upbringing, his decision to join the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in 1965, his training, and his post-war life.
The author’s website is www.sambeamon.com
Paul J. Noto’s At the Crossroads of Justice: My Lai and Son Thang: American Atrocities in Vietnam (iUniverse, 148 pp., $23.95, hardcover; $13.95, paper) sheds light on two of the most regrettable and disturbing incidents of the Vietnam War—the killing of innocent and unarmed Vietnamese civilians at My Lai and Son Thang by members of the U.S. military.
Noto, an attorney and historian, provides details about both of the incidents, for which only two U.S. soldiers were convicted. The overarching goal of his book is to evaluate why the killings took place, as well as to explain why understanding these incidents is important today.
In addition to exploring why U.S. military leaders at the time failed to properly punish those who committed the killings, Noto attributes the incidents to a breakdown in discipline that occurred as a result of “arrogant and inept civilian and military leadership.” The author concludes by pointing out that examining these tragedies could help prevent similar incidents from occurring today in Afghanistan and in other wars in the future.
Troubled by its inability to combat North Vietnamese MiG aircraft throughout the Vietnam War, the United States Air Force launched a top-secret program after the war to train American fighter aircrews on how to do battle with the Russian-manufactured aircraft. This program, based at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, is the subject of Steve Davies’ Red Eagles: America’s Secret MiGs (Osprey Publishing, 352 pp., $25.95).
This new edition of the book, which was first published in 2008, features recently declassified information. Davies, a military and commercial aviation photojournalist, chronicles the story of the Red Eagles, a unit of the Air Force that learned how to, without manuals or instructions, operate MiGs.
Basing much of his work on first-hand accounts, Davies’ book provides illuminating insight into the personalities behind the program and into the challenging, dangerous, and exhilarating work carried out by the members of this top-secret program.
— Dale Sprusansky