Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link World History Group RSS feed World History Group Subscriptions Historynet Home page

Book Review - A Hundred Feet Over Hell: Flying With the Men of the 220th Recon Airplane Company Over I Corps and the DMZ, Vietnam 1968-1969, by Jim Hooper

By Jon Guttman 
Originally published by Vietnam magazine. Published Online: July 28, 2010 
Print Friendly
0 comments FONT +  FONT -

For Lieutenant Peter Van Haren, leader of 2nd Platoon, C Company, 61st Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), October 25, 1968, was memorably scary, even for the Con Thien area. His men were pinned down, sizeable North Vietnamese forces were massing on his flanks, three of his tanks were disabled by mines, and bad weather seemed to limit any reliable air support. But flying overhead was a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog of the 220th Recon Airplane Company, performing forward air controller (FAC) duties, and more.

"Most of the time in combat, things are happening too fast or, if you're a leader, you're too busy to be that scared," he recalled. "But this time, as the FAC kept telling me how many, how well armed and how close the enemy was, it was freaking me out. We needed the info, but every tidbit made it harder for me to keep the pedal down.

Subscribe Today

Subscribe to Vietnam magazine

"And then they started shooting at him," Van Haren added. "Amazingly, he didn't peel off but hung right in there and kept directing us. As is true with many heroic actions in combat, he inspired us to keep hammering forward, even though the incoming fire was getting heavy now. That guy had some real guts!"

Such comments might have been made for any of the low and slow-flying Bird Dog crews that flew close tactical reconnaissance and called in artillery and airstrikes for beleaguered grunts or even swooped in to fire their own white phosphorus rockets or (as in this case) fire M-16s out the side doors at the enemy below. What made the 220th Recon Airplane Company's job a bit more challenging was that it operated in I Corps at the demilitarized zone, where the opposition was less often Viet Cong than it was NVA, with a wide, nasty array of return fire ranging from 7.62mm AK-47s on full automatic to 57mm anti-aircraft artillery emplaced just north of the DMZ.

War correspondent Jim Hooper was inspired to write A Hundred Feet Over Hell by the experiences shared, somewhat reluctantly, by his brother, Bill Hooper, who had been wounded in action while serving with the 220th—aka the Catkillers. In the course of his research, however, he assembled an extensive collection of memories from members of that unit and the ground troops, Army and Marine, that they supported, to construct a gripping blow-by-blow narrative of desperate actions so numerous as to become almost routine to the men who fought there. Though not a comprehensive unit history, Hooper's chronicle preserves a lot of firsthand accounts that might otherwise be lost. In addition to covering both the intensity and terror of a tour of duty in the DMZ, these include many of the lighter memories in an outfit that, by virtue of the extraordinary circumstances, indulged in the sort of between-combat shenanigans summed up by member Jim Hudson: "The thing is that the 220th was not like M*A*S*H, it was M*A*S*H!"


Zenith Press, 2009


Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Related Articles

History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet? is brought to you by World History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
World History Group

World History Group Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer!
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2015 World History Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy