Delta Sierra by Larry R. Fry

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Delta Sierra: A Novel of the Vietnam War (CreateSpace, 410 pp., $19, paper) is Larry R. Fry’s first novel, but he sharpened his skills having written two nonfiction books dealing with family history, a textbook on computer programming, and Cowboys and War, a worthy book of poetry.

Delta Sierra is described as “a novel of air combat over North Vietnam.” It concentrates on the price paid by the men who flew those missions. Gary Bishop Deale, the novel’s protagonist, flies daily bombing missions over North Vietnam and Laos.

The point is made that both of these countries are heavily defended by modern weapons supplied by Russia and China. So in a sense, he is at war with Russia and China, but this fact is not confronted.

While Gary is fighting this war, his wife, Allison Faith Deale, is in graduate school in North Carolina working in a marine lab. She is aware of the dangers that Gary faces on a daily basis and tries to wait patiently for his return—if that happens.

The novel deals with real events, such as what happened to Col. Jack Broughton when he stood up for his men in an incident that should not have led to his being punished. Broughton is the author of Thud Ridge, a classic 1969 memoir about air combat in the Vietnam War.  That is still the book to read for information on this subject.

Delta Sierra covers the same territory. I recommend it highly to those who cannot get enough of this subject.  It’s written in short chapters and is easily enjoyed in short bursts.

–David Willson

Cowboys and War by Larry R. Fry

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Cowboys and War (CreateSpace, 64 pp., $15, paper) is a poetry collection written by Larry R. Fry, who served as in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam in 1962-63. The poems are written from the point of view—and in the voice of—USAF Lt. Gary Bishop Deale. Lt. Deale also is a protagonist in Delta Sierra, Fry’s companion novel which tells the story of Deale’s Vietnam War tour of duty as an F-105D Thunderchief fighter pilot.

The poems in Cowboys and War deal with Deale’s thoughts about the war, as well as his hopes, what was accomplished by the missions he flew, and how he and his fellow pilots coped with the frustrations of combat flying—as well as how they coped with the every-day stress.

When Deale is in Thailand, his wife remains in North Carolina. A major part of the book involves Deale’s thoughts about her and about their marriage.

This small book contains fewer than two dozen poems. They are rarely longer than one page and are often much smaller than that. They are powerful and pack a punch much greater than their size.

Here’s “Pickle the Load,” an example of the fine poetic art in this collection. It was written on June 30, 1967, which happened to be my 25th birthday.

 

Pickle the Load

Rolling

His plane

Upright

Following smoke trails.

Stooping

Down the chute

Like

A bad-assed bird.

Flaming

Telephone poles

Blast

By seeking death.

Drifting

Off target then

Centering

His pipper true.

Punching

His red button

Pickling

The bomb load.

Flashing,

Six orange bursts

Explode

Behind and below.

Slashing

Hot iron shards

Shred

Life from limb.

Thanks to Larry R. Fry—a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America—for this inadvertent birthday poem.

—David Willson