MiGs Over North Vietnam: The Vietnamese People’s Air Force in Combat, 1965-1973
by Roger Boniface. Specialty Press, 2008, $54.95
Although numerous books have been published on the American bombing effort over North Vietnam, comparatively little has been written about the fighter pilots who opposed it. As the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has been increasing its engagement with the world, however, journalists and historians have been permitted more access to its military and its veterans. One author who had that opportunity was Roger Boniface, a resident of both Britain and Singapore, who has incorporated his research into MiGs Over North Vietnam.
In what is probably the most detailed treatment to date, this book chronicles the early bombing strikes, Operation Rolling Thunder and Operations Linebacker I and II, from the perspective of the defenders. Excerpts are included from North Vietnamese combat reports, as are personal recollections from surviving pilots. The book also includes a list of all the North Vietnamese airmen killed in combat, with dates, as well as a rundown of their air-to-air claims, which provides a useful tool for checking against American claims and losses (not surprisingly, they are anything but a perfect match).
Originally published in Britain, MiGs Over North Vietnam features a narrative style that suggests that the author has more than a little sympathy for the North Vietnamese among whom he had immersed himself. This might not sit well with some American readers, but if taken for what it is, it counterbalances fairly well the slant to be found in so many American histories and firsthand accounts. There are also some linguistic quirks to get used to (Hanoi, for example, is spelled “Ha Noi” here), but overall the book is a considerable achievement and an excellent addition to the library of any student of the air war over Indochina.
Originally published in the February 2009 issue of Vietnam Magazine. To subscribe, click here.