Gunship Pilot: An Attack Helicopter Warrior Remembers Vietnam

LifeRich Publishing
63
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It was 1968 and Robert Hartley was on his first combat mission in Vietnam as copilot of a helicopter gunship. As he and his platoon leader flew over the A Shau Valley, a Chinook helicopter engulfed in flames suddenly came into view. Hartley noticed tiny black smoking objects exiting the tail ramp of the aircraft. Seconds later, he realized those objects were men escaping the flames and plunging to their deaths. It was in that moment that he silently wondered, How the hell did I get here?

Mr. Hartley was still wet behind the ears when he was tossed into the cauldron of Americas most unpopular war as an attack helicopter gunship pilot. As he shares a gripping, birds-eye view of battles that took him from the Demilitarized Zone in the north to the Mekong Delta in the south, Mr. Hartley compellingly details how he learned to rely on his superior training and equipment to follow through with his mission to kill the enemy and save the lives of his fellow soldiers below.

Gunship Pilot provides an unforgettable glimpse into two combat tours of duty in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot soaring high above rice paddies and jungles attempts to fulfill his duty of protecting Americas warriors on the ground.

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About the author

Robert Hartley retired from the United States Army at the rank of CW4 after twenty-two years of service and two combat tours of duty in Vietnam as a decorated attack helicopter pilot. He later flew for Pan Am World Airways and Northwest Airlines. Bob and his wife, Nancy, live near Orlando, Florida.

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Additional Information

Publisher
LifeRich Publishing
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Published on
Feb 24, 2015
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Pages
364
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ISBN
9781489703958
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Military / Vietnam War
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Sometimes you do everything right, but it just isn’t your day. A part fails and your helicopter comes apart in flight, or, another aircraft runs into you and the pieces of both fall to the ground below, or the enemy gunner pulls the trigger at just the right moment and his rounds find your aircraft in exactly the right spot to take it out of the sky. Whichever way it happens, it wasn’t your day.

Which is why, after 24 years and over 5,000 flight hours with four armed services, Major Robert Curtis was so surprised at being alive when he passed his retirement physical. Starting with enlisting in the Army to fly helicopters during Vietnam, and continuing on through service with the National Guard, Marine Corps and Royal Navy, he flew eight different helicopters—from the wooden-bladed OH-13E, through the Chinook, SeaKnight and SeaKing, in war and peace around the world. During that time over 50 of his friends died in crashes, both in combat and in accidents, but somehow his skill, and not an inconsiderable amount of luck and superstition, saw him through.

His flying career began with a misbegotten strategy for beating the draft by enlisting. With the Vietnam War raging full blast in 1968 the draft was inevitable, so he wanted to at least get some small measure of control of his future. Although he had no thought of flying when he walked into the recruiting office, he walked out signed up to be a helicopter pilot. What he did not know was that 43% of all the aircraft sent to Vietnam were destroyed in combat or accidents. Soon he was in the thick of the war, flying Chinooks with the 101st Airborne. After Vietnam he left the Army, but kept flying in the National Guard while going to college. He was accepted at two law schools, but flying is addictive, so he instead enlisted in the USMC to fly some more. Over the next 17 years he would fly around the world off US and British ships from Egypt to Norway and all points in between. His engaging story will be a delight to all aviation enthusiasts.
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