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on 17 July 2010
John Halliday has written a sensitive and thoughtful account of his time flying clandestine missions over Laos during the Vietnam War. The book is unusual in that it succeeds in delivering a mix of factual first person account from the pilot's perspective with a narrative with the reader of how the system in place in Vietnam undermined the morale of the guys in the squadron and the effect it had on him over time. In some strange way, it reminded me of Ernest Gann's classic "Fate is the hunter" because of the writing style perhaps.

This is my first Amazon review, although I'm a voracious reader of aviation literature, and I think the reason why I'm writing this review is because I think you could overlook this book for other more well known titles. But don't, because if you are a pilot, or fan of military memoirs, this book is worthy of a place on your bookshelf.

postscript - Having gone over to the Amazon.com site to read reviews from the U.S., it appears that several people who served in that area around the same time as the author pour considerable scorn on the accuracy of his account. However, I'll keep my review as is and trust the author has had the integrity to tell the truth. I just wanted to add a little balance to my review.
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on 16 March 2010
First of all I should start by saying that when this book gets going, (which doesn't take long)it is an absolutely rip-roaring, continual page-turning, nail-biting, midnight-hour passing.....masterpiece !

The author is an unsuspecting transport pilot who is posted out to Thailand, assuming he'll be flying safe 'airline' style missions inside Thailand rather than Vietnam. When he gets to his new assignment, he finds out to his surprise that he will actually be flying combat missions as a Forward Air Controller in the secret war inside Laos. Flying an outdated transport aircraft he is quickly given command as he is given unofficial (and highly illegal) training on how to survive, rather than fly to the rulebook.

The book covers many of his incidents but a large portion of it focusses on one particular event in incredible detail, which I found impossible to stop reading. I still find it incredible that he survived with his crew and there are a few interviews scattered around the internet with the author backing up what happened.

The only downside I found with my paperback was a total lack of photos or illustrations and particularly given the complex nature of what happened to him, a little map or diagram would have helped. As it is though, this doesn't spoil things and a quick google of the location brought up some good photos etc.

If you have any interest in aviation, Vietnam or just want a rip-roaring read, buy this...but Caveat Emptor....you won't put it down till you finish !
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on 21 July 2013
This has to be one of the best if not the best Vietnam era aviation book I have ever read (of many). It is a mixture of commentary on the craziness of the military system (shades of Catch 22), crazy characters doing crazy things (shades of MASH), philosophy - (Zen and the Art of Combat Flying), and some of the most riveting descriptions of combat flying ever. It really does put you in the pilot seat on hair raising Forward Air Controller missions over the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos - a place where there were no US combat forces according to Richard (Tricky Dicky) Nixon. Really worth reading.
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on 11 November 2008
If you are looking for an absolute page turner that will make to laugh and cry then this is for you.
Just be warned the last third of the book just rolls like an out of control freight train and you will become completely unsociable until you have finished.
What a story ! Amazing job Mr Haliday.
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on 21 September 2009
Every so often a book comes along that you really just can not put down; FTM is one of those books. This book is up there with the very best memoirs that I have ever read, in fact it is one of the best books that I have ever read.
Griping from beginning to end.
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on 18 December 2008
I thought I had read all there was to read on the Vietnam war and then this book came into my life. Straight into my top ten on par with Ripcord, Low level hell and Chickenhawk. This is a pilot's fight with inner demons that attack him and warp his mind during and after the conflict. We, the reader are able to analyse his mind. He writes as if we are the phsychiatrst making assessments of his ability to deal with situations that no-one should have to be in.
I love this approach. It is new and fresh and reminds me a little of Tony Soprano trying to deal with his role as a mafia boss through the meetings with a psychiatrist. This though is a true account of an american pilot dealing with a mission he was unable to talk about, a plane that was totally inadequate for the task and a crew full of beaurocrats living by the book that led to frustration and anger because he was unable to deal with people who could not think or reason for themselves.
A masterful and truly awe inspiring read that puts one's own life into a perspective. I find I am now analysing myself!!
The actual facts of the book are filled with boys own stuff that left me white knuckled and sweating. I could not put this book down until I had finished it and I am now finding I want to re-read it straight away.
What must be realised here is that no matter how long ago the conflict finished we are still getting some fantastic accounts from people that were there. Long may this continue. All these heroes have the right to put their accounts into print and we should all read them and admire their courage.
A really good book, well written. Deserves a film.
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on 6 April 2010
Yes, this book is an absolute page-turner, yes it will keep you awake at night reading just one more page. But it is much more than that. It paints a sequence of images that show how the author was shown The Light, decided to follow it, rose up and fulfilled his duties to both his country and his comrades. An exceptional book, for me is a new genre that combines a riveting adventure telling with insights that have industrial psych, group theory, management and motivational implications. I don't know how to signal this to everyone interested: THIS COULD BE THE TOP NON-FICTION BOOK.
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on 20 November 2010
This book has been a surprise even after reading the other reviews. This book has been a very good susprise! Reading this book you could be seating side by side in the cockpit with the author. Excellent! Worth your money.
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on 2 November 2011
Is a really good and surprising book, that shows the difficulty he went through, and how good a pilot he is. Only bad thing was it was over to quick, it was so good i couldn't put it down
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on 2 May 2015
Stinks of BS unfortunately, I found myself wondering if the poor guy was suffering from some kind of illness. All the best to the author but not a convincing book in any way.
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