ASSAULT FROM THE SKY
US Marine Helicopter Operations in Vietnam
Written by Dick Camp
Review by Joseph J. Gleason
The author, Colonel Dick Camp, a 26 year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corp, who has written more than 100 magazine articles and ten books should be well known to students of military history. This is a must read for every student of the history of aerial combat in Vietnam.
Assault from the Sky is more than an accounting of the three main stages of the Corp’s involvement in the Vietnam War from 1962-1975 and the vital role that helicopters played in the support of our troops and those of the Republic of Vietnam. The reader is taken through the fine details of planning and execution of several missions to insert personnel, replenish munitions and supplies and evacuate the wounded while under constant close enemy fire during major assaults.
This is an action packed work that keeps the reader turning the pages in anticipation of the next attack on his senses. These series of battles flow from one to the next while the emotional reaction to the previous attack or narrow escape lingers in the mind of the reader. Each account of an enemy assault is described in such a way that the reader hears the sounds of war, smells the burning fuel, is blinded by the flash of explosive and burdened by the weight of mud and wounded struggling to evacuate with the only hope that their chopper is still functional, limping back to a new clearing only to be met with new small arms fire or rocket attacks.
Colonel Camp has written this fitting tribute to several of the men he personally knew who were later selected as examples to be decorated for their bravery. A compilation of true accountings whose details are often further documented in the actual language of the numerous citations awarded, the reader is given little time to pause and reflect on character development. It is not about the persons involved as much as it is about the situations they faced and the ways in which they responded without hesitation. This is what we have always admired about Marines.
With a brief introduction into the early development of helicopters for military purposes the reader quickly comes to the obvious realization that it was the situational necessities of war in Vietnam that accelerated the evolution of helicopters from the mere small unarmed STOL delivery machines, requiring extensive high altitude counteroffensive support that were featured in the popular television series MASH, into its modern day version capable of long range, high speed, independent counteroffensive, heavy supply, critical insertion, and rapid withdrawal missions within virtually any environment that our free and independent modern forces demand.
Colonel Camp’s accounting of these very situations demonstrated that a helicopter could change the course of events by bringing an effective surgical aerial assault to an experienced and mobile enemy in a hostile jungle environment mostly unsuitable for winged aircraft take off and landings. I suspect students of military history would agree that rotary aircraft are irreplaceable in the arsenal and will continue to evolve as a most effective means of Marine troop deployment.
Any reprint should take into consideration the need to enhance the photos to provide a more rich experience for the reader. The after action reports seem redundant adding few details.
Overall, this reader was impressed with the dedication to the subject matter and with the captivating style of the author. His experience as an accomplished author shines through in the manner in which he brings the reader artfully through the fog of war with clarity.
While I am not personally a student of military history I would be interested in other works by Colonel Camp. Any aspiring author of military history could learn from his style.
Review by Joseph J. Gleason, 20thCenturyAviationMagazine.com/AviationBookreviews