Publication date: 30 July 2012
Extent: 224 pages with approx 100 colour photos
Thanks to Grub Street publishing I had a great pleasure to read one of their recent publications. It is an interesting read to everyone interested in the history or modern warfare in general and aviation in particular. It changes your view of these „things”, especially in comparison to TV news, official reports or some advertisement like clips which shows war and duty like a great time of cheerful fun. Don Harward describes it in a completely different manner. In this short review I will try to describe you what can you find on these nearly 200 pages, but first few words...
...about the author.
Don Harward is definitely experienced helicopter pilot. The Author flew as a 160th SOAR pilot, Army Special Ops., 2-2 SAS and saw action in Panama, Iraq during Desert Storm, sometimes at the border between West and East Germany or Korea and now flies in Afghanistan. Before being a pilot he was enlisted soldier and commander of M60 tank in Germany and at Fort Knox. For few years he was also an airliner pilot. That's more than enough time of getting combat experience and collect good stories for a book.
...and his book.
The book is a collection of 28 letters, which are separate chapters, written by the author. Some of them were previously published by Pacific Wings magazine and proved to be popular not only amongst aviation freaks by also normal readers. Most of the stories are authors memoirs of turning jet gas into noise, as he describes himself what the helicopter is made for. It's certainly not for flying, transporting, fighting, anything. It's just for making a lot of noise. Another interesting authors theory is the answer to a question “why the helicopter hangs in the air?”. I won't tell you here, read the book.
What else can you find? This book is definitely about a lot of sand dust and a lot of hard work which has to be done on the front lines of different conflicts. About waking up very early morning, boring briefings, pre-flight routine, long flights requiring refueling and going to bed very tired everyday. An important part of all these stories, and I think it was also one of the authors leading ideas, are very private, sometimes even intimate, confessions about soldiers relationships with family in particular and other people in general. Don Harward describes his feelings when he leaves “''Stan” and goes back to “'States”, describes first thoughts when meets his wife at the airport and their family routine when he stays at home. There are also stories about going the opposite way: leaving home and going back to war. Author describes with many seemingly unimportant details his very private feelings, habits, thoughts and concerns.
Another strong and emotional attribute of these stories are descriptions of relationships between true soldiers, how they can communicate their feelings without saying a word, how one can recognize a warrior or a clerk with just one eye glimpse or a farewell ceremony and last salute to the fallen comrade. Although descriptions of combat and other actions are realistic and very down-to-earth you won't find there any shocking details like flying arms or gushing blood however you still get an idea that something like that could really happen and the author could see that.
These are just few examples of a lot of interesting stories which comes first to my mind. Of course there are also many funny adventures (like test-flying a helicopter by two greenhorn pilots) or less-funny like being a target of enemy rockets, however this is not a place to describe them all. If I would do that you would not have any reason to reach for this book.
Definitely this publication reveals many backstage details of actions (of course these which are not classified) and life of those smallest parts or modern warfare – a single soldier who flies one of many helicopters. I have read many books written by the veterans of both World Wars or Vietnam War but this one was my first about “counter-terrorist” wars which are broadcasted in TV since good few years. What the author says is so much different from the media mash served around the world that it is even sometimes hard to believe. However these things really happens out there. Don Harwards stories provides you first hand reports right from the frontlines of modern world wars around the world. Sometimes author goes into very pathetic and pompous patriotic tone what may be irritating for some readers. Anyway these are still true stories told by someone who have eyewitnessed a lot of latest wars and his reports are truly worth reading, just to get some reserve while watching TV reports.
Highs: Lot of true stories of modern war pilot who have seen a lot and now shares some of his memoirs and reflections.Lows: Sometimes too pompous and pathetic, too short.Verdict: Recommended, really good read.