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Robert Mason


A raw and largely uncensored account of the life of a "slick" (troop-carrying) helicopter pilot's life in Vietnam. It's a great mix of war story, flight training manual, memoir, and anti-war polemic, gradually shifting between these various facets as time goes on.

Mason doesn't glamorise the war or his own part in it; nor does he gloss over details that must have been uncomfortable to write (and for his family and friends to read). What comes through strongly is heroism on a small scale and pointlessness on a large scale: repeatedly and bravely storming the same pieces of territory as the "strategy" of attrition wears down both sides. In between are some wonderful flight scenes and descriptions of helicopter tactics that will fascinate any technically-inclined reader.

The epilogue covering his return from Vietnam is poignant and revealing of the challenges that many veterans faced as they tried (and often failed) to re-integrate themselves. It's an inconvenient truth that many societies -- and the UK is no better than the US in this -- fail to deal with their troops well once they're out of the field, no matter how much they applauded them while the war was on.

4/5. Finished 05 July 2015.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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