As the ground war struggled for success in Vietnam, it became intensely clear that the skies had to be owned by the allies for victory to have a chance. It was the F-4 and its pilots that made that possible. The author, a Phantom pilot himself, details intense stories of undaunted and valiant American pilots with their legendary fierce Phantom. These are personal stories of intrepid courage and self-sacrifice to get the mission done - whatever the cost. Fierce, unflinching battles to save friendlies and destroy a ruthless enemy are all recorded 40 years later. True tales of war at 500 knots!
©2011 Robert F Kirk (P)2011 Robert F Kirk
I loved the material. As a 26 year Air Force veteran who's known a lot of fighter pilots, I enjoyed the "there I was" stories. Kirk's firsthand familiarity with the subject shows, and he does a great job of putting you in the cockpits and minds of the aircrews. His storytelling style is warm and familiar to people like myself who have heard friends share stories over beer and finger foods. One of the anecdotes that I chuckled at most was the one that related the challenges of flying an out-of-rig F-4 across the Pacific, having to fight the jet the whole way by keeping constant pressure on the stick to hold it level because they didn't want to admit to the problem and be stuck somewhere on the way home...maintainers who've noted how often jets fly "Code 1" on redeployment sorties understand this kind of thing. At one point during an air refueling, the pilot made an unexpected stick movement during an air refueling and the boom operator complained. Not wanting to admit to the ongoing struggle with his flight controls, the pilot apologized and said "I was just scratching my nose." That's when I started chuckling...it's the kind of tongue-in-cheek, downplaying comment a fighter pilot would make, but he wouldn't say "nose" -- I know a "mixed company" edit of a "there I was" story when I hear one. Things like that drew me closer to the author.
Dick Hill's narration, however, was somewhat off-putting from my personal perspective. Hill is a very talented and accomplished narrator, but fighter pilots have a particular way of using the language in terms of tone, inflections, mannerisms, etc. and cockpit communication is a style all its own. When they push the mic button, it's calm, precise, and almost robotic, even in stressful situations. When you've spent two and a half decades hearing the real thing, Hill's dramatization seems exaggerated and it creates a sense of auditory vertigo. The words are fighter pilot words, but the voice being used isn't even close to fighter pilot...it's like what Hollywood thinks fighter pilots sound like. So to my biased and overly-sensitive ear, Hill tended to sound somewhere between J. Peterman and the Skipper from the Madagascar Penguins. Most people would think I'm being picky, but it's like a veteran watching a war movie and latching onto the crush of a cap, position of a piece of gear, way a firearm is handled, or how someone says "good morning." It took a bit to get used to, but I let go of my biases and enjoyed the book. If Hill read cockpit communication as it is typically delivered in the real world, it would've been more accurate but far less entertaining for most people.
Overall, the book isn't Faulkner, nor is it intended to be. It's a collection of stories to pay tribute to F-4 pilots, and as such it's solid entertainment for anyone interested in the military or aviation history. It's appeal is in its unvarnished frankness and familiarity.
Dick Hill's narration brings the book alive and makes you feel as though you're in the back seat of the F-4 flying combat missions in Vietnam. Through his words, you share in the life and death decisions aircrews make on a daily basis, often times in split seconds.
While there are many great moments in Robert's book, the most memorable one was the mining operation on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. As a retired Air Force pilot myself, flying 500 knots at 500 feet through a hail of enemy gunfire takes immense courage and dedication to mission. Taking battle damage, which forced multiple high "G" pitch ups, followed by high "G" pitch downs, then recovering the aircraft shows superior airmanship and coolness under fire.
The correct pronunciation and annunciation of unfamiliar Air Force flying terms and acronyms, plus the reader's pacing of and emphasis on events leads to unforgettable drama that makes the reader want more.
Experience the real life drama of F-4 pilots flying combat missions under the most difficult of circumstances. Know the fear and joy of aerial flight as you ride along at 500 knots, pulling high "G" turns in afterburner, while dodging enemy gunfire, knowing that weather obscures near by mountain tops.
Robert Kirk's book brings to life the experiences of ordinary men, some exceptional, some flawed, as they grapple with the realities of combat. The book doesn't glorify war or the military. Rather, the book takes an in-depth look at the men who risked their lives on a daily basis. These men did this not for glory, but for each other--their only goal to complete each mission successfully then go home at the end of their tours. This is a must read for anyone who wants to experience the courage and raw emotions Air Force pilots experienced fighting an unpopular war. In the end, the author answers the question, "Where do we get such men."
I thought both were great. The narrator in the audio version did a great job. His voice, in my opinion, lent itself to the book at hand and the material that was being read. For me, the varying tone and inflection of the narrator made it more lifelike. Whether it was hearing about the first mission and the feeling of going into the unknown, a plane going down and thinking about the emotions of losing crew members, or to the trip home knowing the pilots (and all of the military personnel involved) gave all they could to defend our country, I was engaged throughout.
Many moments moved me. With so many details of what was going on and the surroundings the author provided (from real life experiences the author was able to glean from), it gave me the opportunity to, in my imagination, put me right there in that jet. I could feel the varied emotions the author was conveying at every turn of the page.
A great book! I have recommended this to others (especially the audiobook format) including my sons who have a great interest in the military, flying and of our country's past.
I would listen to Warriors at 500 Knots several times to make sure I didn't miss anything, and also because even having read the book, and now listening to Dick Hill narrate it brings the stories to life even more.
I liked the factual information and the way it is presented in story form. It brings that terrible mis-understood era home to those of us who were not part of it,
He had the right touch, neither too dramatic or too bland. He did a good job with good material.
this seems like a decent book but the narrator has the strangest inflection I've ever heard. I don't know why they choose certain narrators for a military-type novel about fighter pilots the narrator is totally off and should be reading a mystery novel not an action book about flying in Vietnam
The person who read it speaks to slow for a pilot story. Pilots usually speak fast when flying. The accent sound is not for this story.
Written by someone obviously and justifiably proud of his service. The stories are interesting but suffer somewhat from the repetition of non-essential details such as the process of preparing for a mission which is repeated unnecessarily in each story.
I love every book so far read by Dick Hill.
The story was pretty cool, a nice collection of short anecdotes that make you feel a little what it was like for the airmen operating in Vietnam.
Married (1975), Vietnam-era (not in-country) vet (USN Retired), 4 sons, 11 grandkids, love riding my Harley.
Mr. Hill's narration is terrible! I don't understand why he felt all of his character's voices needed to resemble some John Wayne wannabe, particularly during radio calls. The book itself was decent...not in any way spectacular. Definitely ficticious. You say Kirk was a phlyer of the phabulous phantom? He might wanna consult with others when putting together a book.
"Great book terrible narrator"
If only the narrator didn't make everyone sound like a "southerner" and the author didn't fill the book out with the same explanations in every chapter about "arming the bombs" etc we the readers do have a memory
"Awful narration. "
I have listened to over 75 books with many having being narrated by someone with an American accent. Please be clear; I have no problem with the accent of our Atlantic cousins and have enjoyed the vast majority of my Audible library. This specific book however, I could not complete owing to the almost comic or pop art inflection of the narrator who's efforts to add drama and accentuate points detracted from stories which are perfectly able to stand on their own. I didn't finish this book for this reason.
"Narrator just didn't gel, a great collection of stories though"
This is a great collection of stories about life as an F4 pilot and back seater during the Vietnam war. Brought to life the daily rigours these brave men faced from both the enemy and the egos of some of those classed as friendlies who also did their best to kill both themselves and the rear seater. This book had me laughing and amazed at the conditions these guys faced adversity without question.
The narrator spoils the story for me and I came close to calling it quits and claiming a refund, I am glad I stuck with it as it is an amazing book.
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