Boomer Lit Blog Hop Features Solo Vietnam

It’s another Boomer Lit Friday!  What is #Boomerlit you say?    A new boom for us baby boomers and that boom is Boomer LIt.   Books that relate to those of us 50 and beyond.   Great stories about our times.  There are blogs about it.  Goodreads sites.  Facebook pages.   Us Babyboomers are a force to be reckoned with.

As a part of this blog hop, you are invited to a short preview of SOLO VIETNAM.   The sequel to FLYING SOLO.  Now available from AgeView Press or Amazon.

books available from jeanette vaughan flying solo and solo vietnam

Boomer Lit Books Available from Jeanette Vaughan

So here we go, your Boomer Lit Friday blog hop!  Enjoy!

Your personally chosend excerpt from 5 star rated SOLO VIETNAM!

A French cajun aviatrix.  An A-4 Skyhawk pilot.  Vietnam.

Charlene listened as she put out the large shrimp she had boiled up and then chilled for shrimp cocktail.   In true Charlene form, the table was set with china and tall parfait glasses for the shrimp.  She filled each glass with the spicy, red cocktail sauce and arranged the large shrimp all the way around.  Placing each glass over a large Romaine lettuce leaf on the plate.  Hostess with the most-est, Charlene Hebert.

“One night, after getting off at the club, I met this navy pilot,” Nora told her of her encounter.  “He had just finished his cruise in Vietnams and was on leave.  His stories.  What he had seen was horrific,”  Nora said taking a big bite of her shrimp.

“I’ve taken care of some of those Vietnam vets at Touro,” Charlene relayed.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah.  I had some trouble relating to some of their emotional tales.    My instructors told me it was because they had anxiety disorder.   It really messed some of them up bad.”

“What the heck is that?”

“Some post war thing.  They just can’t cope.  It’s bad.”

“It doesn’t help that people treat them like crap when they come home.   I just don’t understand that.”

“Some of the nurses told me it was like no other war they’d ever heard about.  Whatever’s going on over there sounds pretty wicked.”

Near the end of lunch, Nora told Charlene about her visit to the USO and the job they offered.  Charlene was a bit taken aback.

“You aren’t considering going are you?”   Again, Nora managed to shock her.

“I’m seriously thinking about it, Charlene.   I can’t shake it.   There is just something calling me.  Some force.”

“I just can’t see how you could do it.  Your kids are still at home.  Well, at least three of them.   How would they manage?”

“They are teens.  Doing their own thing.  Nellie is about to retire.    She could move in and watch over them.  It would only be for eighteen months,” Nora explained.

“That over a year!  Oh, Nora.  I dunno.  It’s so far away.  Texas was one thing.  But Vietnam?   Are you going to fly?”

“Heck no.  They don’t allow women to fly into combat zones.    In fact, it’s a big controversy at the moment.   Jackie Cochran is causing all kinds of heck about it.  Women were used in World War II all the time, as transporters and test pilots.  But the service won’t have anything to do with them now.  Which is really hacking off legions of women pilots.”

“Well, then.  As what?”

“Don’t’ laugh, but I’d be managing a USO club.  Basically I’ll be going as a den mother to a bunch of young USO girls.  But at least I’d be going.”

Hope you enjoyed the preview.  Check back each and every Friday for the Boomer Lit blog hop!

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Did John McCain have the “Right stuff?”

This wonderful post is a bit long, but worth the read! Great spin and take on fighter pilots vs. attack squadron pilots. It was written by my dear friend and colleague, the iconic Zalin Grant, whose book Over the Beach is considered the book about the airwar in Vietnam.  Enjoy and please post a comment!   He would love to read them.

The Day John McCain Got Shot Down   Zalin Grant War Tales

Did He Show the Right Stuff?

By Zalin Grant

John McCain received mixed reviews from fellow pilots when he arrived on the USS Oriskany in 1967, a month before he was shot down and captured. Cal Swanson, commander of fighter squadron VF-162, was enthusiastic.  Swanson thought McCain proved he had the right stuff by getting himself assigned to the Oriskany, an aircraft carrier sailing off the coast of North Vietnam in the South China Sea.  The Oriskany had seen more combat and suffered heavier casualties than any ship in the Vietnam War. McCain’s own aircraft carrier, the USS Forrestal, had been put out of action by a horrific fire two months earlier.

 After the Forrestal fire, McCain was assigned to Saigon as a navy PR aide.  He was perfect for the job—handsome, charming, witty.  He had met R.W. (Johnny) Apple, a well-known reporter for the New York Times, and Apple had smoothed his way in Saigon by introducing him to journalists and to the U.S. military and civilian command. 

 John McCain could have served out his tour flacking for the navy and having a lot of fun doing it—dining at Saigon’s French restaurants and hitting the bars full of pretty Vietnamese girls.  But McCain wanted to get back into combat.  He had completed only five missions before the Forrestal fire.  Cal Swanson thought McCain’s attitude reflected well on his courage and patriotism.

Navy pilot John McCain

Navy pilot John McCain

 McCain would not be joining VF-162, Swanson’s fighter squadron, however.  McCain was not a fighter pilot, although in later years the media would perpetuate the mistaken belief that he was. Trained as an A-4 bomber pilot, he was assigned to attack squadron VA-163, which had an illustrious history.  James Stockdale, a legend in the war, had commanded the squadron—and the air wing—before he was shot down and captured.

 Still, a lot of pilots on the ship were not as enthusiastic as Swanson about McCain.  They were not really convinced that he had the right stuff. Naval aviation was a small, tightly-knit community made up of highly-trained men with large egos and a fiercely competitive nature. Even if they did not know each other personally, everybody was linked together via the gossip hotline, and McCain’s reputation had preceded him to the Oriskany.

 Some of the negativity was not his fault. His family background was bound to stir skepticism and jealousy.  McCain’s grandfather had been a highly-decorated admiral in World War Two. His father, John S. McCain II, also an admiral, would soon become commander-in-chief of all forces in the Pacific, making him the highest ranking officer in the Vietnam War.

 In military terms, John Sidney McCain III was born with two silver spoons in his mouth.  It was something he evidently considered later in life to be both a blessing and a curse.

 Nevertheless, McCain had acted as though he was determined to show all those who were inclined to think the worst of him that they were right.  As he wrote in his book Faith of My Fathers, “I did not enjoy the reputation of a serious pilot or an up-and-coming junior officer.” His record as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy was dismal. He piled up demerits left and right for breaking the rules, and barely passed his schoolwork, graduating 894th in a class of 899.

 That might have been checked off to youthful rebellion.  Plenty of kids spent their college years partying but then sobered up after they were slapped in the face by the reality of making it in the outside world. But after he left Annapolis, McCain continued to show the same attitude that had almost got him kicked out of the naval academy.  He barely passed flight school. And then he crashed two airplanes and damaged a third.

 The first crash took place during advanced flight training at Corpus Christi, Texas. According to McCain, the engine stalled while he was practicing landings. The plane fell into the water of the bay just off the airfield and knocked him unconscious. McCain woke up and somehow managed to get out of the cockpit and escaped serious injury. Investigators reported that they started the recovered engine without any problem, and their report left open the possibility of pilot error.

Worst naval accident since WWII.  McCain's plane was struck by a missile aboard the USS Forrestal.

Worst naval accident since WWII. McCain’s plane was struck by a missile aboard the USS Forrestal.

The next accident took place in Spain while McCain was assigned to an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea. He tried to fly his propeller-driven A-1 fighter-bomber under a row of pylon-supported electric power lines.  This was a “hotdogging” stunt by U.S. pilots in Europe that had caused outrage.  McCain’s plane hit and damaged the lines so badly that thousands of people lost power.

 “My daredevil clowning had cut off electricity to a great many Spanish homes,” McCain wrote later, “and created a small international incident.”

 In 1965, McCain flew a navy airplane to Philadelphia to attend the Army-Navy football game. On the way back to his base in Norfolk, Virginia, the plane’s engine quit, he said, so he bailed out.  The plane crashed and was destroyed.

 In the U.S. Navy, for a pilot to crash one plane was pushing it.  To crash two often resulted in an official investigation to determine if he should be taken off flight status.  How McCain got away with crashing two airplanes and smashing power lines in Spain was a mystery, although other pilots thought it had to do with his family connections.

 McCain volunteered for Vietnam and was assigned to an A-4 bomber squadron on the USS Forrestal.  He was soon to be 31 years old and held the rank of lieutenant commander, equal to that of army major.  On the morning of July 29, 1967, McCain was sitting in the cockpit of his Skyhawk waiting to be launched by the ship’s catapult. Another plane accidentally set off a Zuni missile that hit the fuel tank of McCain’s A-4, touching off a fire that spread rapidly across the ship. McCain managed to escape injury, but 134 sailors died and many others were badly burned.

 It was the worst U.S. Navy accident since World War Two and the fourth serious accident McCain had been involved in since becoming a pilot.  His reputation for being a “hotdog”—a show-off pilot who broke the rules—led to rumors that McCain had caused the fire by trying to scare the pilot behind him by suddenly shooting flames out of his tail exhaust.  There was no evidence McCain was at fault and the fire was ruled accidental. But the rumors persisted.

 The USS Forrestal fire was the worst naval accident since World War II. It started after a rocket hit John McCain’s plane.

 McCain also developed a reputation for volatility. He was a fun-guy and made friends easily.  But he lost friends easily, too. He had a quick temper and was prone to flare up over minor incidents. As his best friend from the early years said, “John could piss people off.” 

 McCain’s squadron on the Oriskany was composed of 15 alpha males who spent most of their time when they weren’t flying or sleeping in a ready room no bigger than a medium-sized living room at home. Above all, they admired officers who remained cool and calm under all circumstances. McCain’s squadron commander, Bryan Compton, was considered the ideal officer, though no one wanted to sit near him in the ready room because the flight suit of “Magnolia,” as the squadron called him, usually smelled to high heaven.

 “I would have followed Bryan Compton anywhere,” said Dick Wyman, a pilot in Swanson’s squadron.  “He was the kind of guy the worse things got, the better he was.  He was the ugliest s.o.b. you ever saw.  But he was our shining star.”

 McCain called Compton “one of the bravest, most resourceful squadron commanders, one of the best A-4 pilots in the war.”

 In any case, Oriskany pilots did not have time to pay much attention to the admiral’s son, because the ship was running bombing operations against North Vietnam on a 24-hour schedule.  The Oriskany was a small and undistinguished carrier, commissioned at the end of World War Two.  Nobody could explain why the ship had turned into the leading combat carrier of the Vietnam War. It was as though the runt of the litter had grown into a pit bull.

 The squadrons on the Oriskany were front-loaded with lieutenant commanders like McCain and it was do-or-die time for them in terms of promotions.  This doubtless accounted, at least partly, for the carrier’s aggressiveness.  These were seasoned professional officers and only the best and bravest would be promoted to the next higher rank of commander (lieutenant colonel) and very few to captain (colonel).

 The pilots watched each other like hawks, trying to stay even in the number of missions flown over North Vietnam.  Always ready to take the risks, they developed tactics to survive the surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft fire they faced every time they went on a mission.  In a war, of course, there was always the factor of luck. Sometimes you just couldn’t avoid getting shot down.

 But their tactics worked surprisingly well. To evade SA-2 missiles (SAMs), the pilots used a maneuver to confuse the missile’s guidance system.  An American electronics plane was flying off the coast during the attacks.  When it intercepted the missile’s guidance signals, the plane alerted the pilot as to whether a SA-2 was headed toward him by sounding a tone in his headset.

 “If we thought the SA-2 was homing in on us, we would try to keep our speed up until the missile was several seconds away and then barrel roll on our backs and pull vertically down,” said Roger Duter, a bomber pilot on the Oriskany with McCain. “At that time the missile was moving too fast to follow us down and we would recover and resume our course to the target.”

 Since the SAM maneuver always worked if executed properly, the biggest danger came from the fire of antiaircraft artillery (AAA). The pilots used the tactic of weave and zigzag to keep from flying into the path of the exploding flak.

 “We lost more aircraft to AAA than SAMs, though the SA-2 seemed more threatening from a personal point of view,” Duter said.

 All pilots were taught the tactics to keep from getting shot down.  To the American public, every pilot brought down by enemy fire was a hero. But carrier pilots made a sharp distinction between someone who was unavoidably shot down and a pilot who simply made a mistake.

******************************************************

Compliments to Zalin Grant.  Some fine writing there.   Reprinted from Pythia Press with permission.  Copyright 2008.  For more of his War Tales, follow him on Pythia Press. Find out what happens next . . . in Part II of Did John McCain have the “Right stuff?”  next week’s post!  

 

Boomer Lit Blog Hop – a new genre of books

There is a new boom for us baby boomers and that boom is Boomer LIt.   Books that relate to those of us 50 and beyond.   Great stories about our times.  There are blogs about it.  Goodreads sites.  Facebook pages.   Us Babyboomers are a force to be reckoned with. As such, I am delighted to participate in a blog hop to give you such a taste!  Here is an excerpt from my upcoming release Solo Vietnam.   A sequel to Flying Solo which involves a baby being born into this time frame.  Solo Vietnam continues that story into the most controversial war ever.  A French Cajun aviatrix.  An A-4 Skyhawk pilot.  Vietnam. Enjoy Solo Vietnam!

Solo Vietnam Cover

Available April 2013 from AgeView Press

As she walked the few blocks from the olive colored streetcar, which dropped her off at Carrollton and Birch, she thought about everything she had been through. The illicit affair with the love of her life, her pilot instructor, Steve Novak. Their crazy temporary living arrangement, where she served as caregiver to his sickly wife, Marci.    Their star crossed love affair, which had produced her baby daughter, now living in Texas somewhere.  The ill-fated goodbye on the steps of the train station in downtown Dallas. It was a time from which Nora thought she could never recover.  And yet, here she was; a sultry, moderately popular, New Orleans night singer, a pilot, and a woman with her own place, freedom, and independence.

Her children, now ranging in age from eleven to seventeen were all teenagers.  Well, all but one, Iggy.  Her lone son, the youngest, was a precocious, pre-pubescent teen.  For the briefest moment, she reminded herself that he was not the youngest.  That would be the baby she gave away, now age five.  Ugh, too painful.  No.  She would not think about that at all.  Mardi Gras was over.  Time for lent.

Ready to take on the commotion of getting the children off to school, Nora creaked open the black-faced wrought iron gate to her home.  As she climbed the five stairs up to the raised, single floor duplex, she could tell something was amiss.  The normal chaos of the early morning was frenetic.

Cathy, already dressed in her long, navy blue, wool uniform shirt and white blouse slammed open the front filigree screen door.   “Thank goodness you are finally home.  Kayce’s gone!” she exclaimed.

“Kayce’s gone?  Whatever do you mean?”  Nora queried.

“She’s gone.  Kaput.”  Cathy histrionically bellowed.

As Nora entered the parlor, Leisel bounded in.  “Yep. Cathy’s right, Mama.  Kayce is missing.  She musta left before we even got up,” she hurriedly explained.

Nora dropped the two grocery bags she was carrying and clambered back to the girls’ shared bedroom.  Then, she checked the bathroom off the middle bedroom and the kitchen.  Kayce was nowhere to be found.    Opening the back screen porch door, she scanned the red brick patio surrounded by azalea bushes and large backyard with its towering oak trees.  Nothing.  No trace of her.

Iggy, who had followed Nora into the kitchen, noted a hand-written card propped next to Nora’s coffee pot on the stove.  Nora could tell it was Kayce’s handwriting.  It simply read,

Mother.  I’ve tired of the calamity of your life and your choices.  I have

gone to seek my own life and happiness. I am against the war, the

establishment and especially you.  I have left the pain of New

Orleans forever.  You can find me and my people in Haight-Ashbury.

“Oh my God.  Christ almighty.  Kayce has run off to be a flower-child,” Nora rolled her eyes.   “Good Lord.”

This Boomer Lit book is coming out this month, April 2013 from AgeView Press!  The best selling, 5 star rated Flying Solo is already out in print, ebook and Kindle.  Hop on over to some of the other great boomer lit books!

books available from jeanette vaughan flying solo and solo vietnam

Books Available from Jeanette Vaughan