Taking Fire: Saving Captain Aikman: A Story of the Vietnam War. By Kevin O'Rourke and Joe Peters. Philadelphia: Casemate, 2013. Photographs. Notes. Glossary. Bibliography.: Pp. 216. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-61200-126-5
Taking Fire is the story of a single event in a single day during the Vietnam War: the rescue of Capt. Lynn Aikman, an F-4 pilot shot down over North Vietnam in the days following the North Vietnamese 1972 Easter offensive. Captain Aikman's flight of F-4s, call sign Valant, was providing cover for strike forces when it was jumped by North Vietnamese MiGs. In the space of less than a minute, two of the four aircraft went down. This book chronicles the efforts of the extraordinary people of the U.S. Air Force who risked their lives to try to bring these four aviators home.
The book started as a college research project in 1982. Kevin O'Rourke wanted to highlight what he felt was an under-appreciated Air Force mission in Vietnam--combat rescue. He came back to the project in later years wanting to share the story with a wider audience. Since his original effort, many books about the rescue service and specific rescues have come out (Bat-21 probably is the best known); this is a fitting companion to those earlier works. O'Rourke focusses on the people. He describes the lives of key participants leading up to that fateful day. By using first-person accounts from F--4 aircrew (including the Fast FAC who witnessed the shootdown) to rescue crewmembers Chuck McGrath (pararescueman) and Dale Stovall (helicopter pilot) to McGrath's wife (an Air Force medical technician stationed in Thailand), he builds a complete picture of the day's events. His goal is to show that, although this sort of mission occurred almost every day in Southeast Asia, all were fraught with danger and required a unique blend of professionalism and courage.
The book is a quick...