Rampant Raider:. An A-4 Skyhawk Pilot in Vietnam. By Stephen R. Gray. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2007. Maps. Photographs. Index. Pp. ix, 284. $32.50. ISBN: 1-59114-342-0.
Small and nimble, the A-4 Skyhawk proved itself to be a very sturdy and capable combat aircraft in the violent skies over North Vietnam. In Rampant Raider, author Stephen Gray straps the reader in for a wild and harrowing journey through the life and times of an A-4 pilot during the Johnson Administration.
After flying more than 250 combat missions and logging more than 300 carrier landings, Gray left the U.S. Navy and began a career as an airline pilot, accumulating more than 24,000 flight hours. Motivated by "very little reality and a lot of fantasy" written about Vietnam, he decided to set the record straight, offering a first-hand perspective of the air war.
Narrative in form, the book delivers the goods on flying the A-4 in Vietnam. Gray bombards the reader with heart-wrenching stories of strike missions, carrier life, and friends lost. His writing style leaves the reader wanting more and unable to put the book down. As he tells of dodging surface-to-air missiles, rescuing downed buddies or flying a crippled jet back to the carrier, Gray is able to put the reader into the A-4 cockpit with him. Whether attacking the famous Thanh Hoa bridge or experiencing the sheer terror of exploding flak, the reader will be enamored with Gray's account.
Not leaving any stone unturned, Gray also explains the various roles of different personnel on an aircraft carrier and how they work with each other to accomplish the mission. Describing how the munitions personnel loaded each bomb by hand or how the Landing Signals Officer (LSO) critiqued...