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USAF and VNAF A-1 Skyraider Units of the Vietnam War by Byron E. Hukee, Osprey Publishing, 2012

Nicknamed the “Spad,” after a World War I biplane, because of its seeming obsolescence in a jet-dominated decade, the Douglas Skyraider in its single-and two-seat incarnations gave outstanding service in Vietnam and was arguably the mainstay of the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) for 15 out of the 20 years it existed. Its pilots included future South Vietnamese president Nguyen Cao Ky. Seven VNAF and four U.S. Air Force Skyraider squadrons saw action in Indochina at one time or another, right up to the fall of Saigon in 1975. A 12th squadron, based at Florida’s Hurlburt Field, trained almost 1,000 American and 300 South Vietnamese pilots to fly Skyraiders in close-air support, search and rescue, night interdiction, helicopter escort and special operations alongside the U.S. Special Forces.

USAF and VNAF A-1 Skyraider Units of the Vietnam War is a bit more personal than the average entry in the Osprey Combat Aircraft series. Besides being an aviation writer, Byron E. Hukee flew A-1s in combat for a year as a member of the 1st Special Operations Squadron. While he has certainly done his homework on all the planes, units and airmen he mentions—a large number of whom he interviewed and knew back in 1972—the author inserts himself in the action where appropriate, including a search-and-rescue mission that is illustrated on the book cover, which must be an Osprey first. After establishing the difference between Air Force and Navy Skyraiders, the author provides plenty of examples of how they were used in action, including a March 10, 1966, mission that earned Major Bernie Fischer the Medal of Honor.

Equal attention is paid to the exploits of the VNAF personnel who carried out their duties with a professionalism and valor worthy of their American allies. In the case of Lieutenant Nguyen Dinh Xanh of the 530th Fighter Squadron, his courageous efforts to keep fellow POW Captain Bill Reeder alive during a harrowing march north went above and beyond the call of duty. Ample literature has been published on the Skyraider, but USAF and VNAF A-1 Skyraider Units of the Vietnam War should have a few new twists to offer scholars and veterans, American and Vietnamese alike.

Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here.