BLUE MAX: MISSIONS AND MEMORIES
I wrote a bookabout the Vietnam War and my experiencesflying over there. It was a little different than flying back here in the states. Usually no one shoots at you here.
First of all, it does not matter now what you thought about the Vietnam War. I believe we who fought it, whether we believed it was a righteous war, or unpopular or popular back at home or whatever, we were there doing what our country asked us to do. Most of us were so young that we did not know whether the political arguments made by our politicians back in the world were right or wrong. As a twenty year old high school graduate, all I could see was that we were in a struggle with an almost invisible enemy of much larger size than we were, and even though they were ill prepared and had less formal training than we had, they were highly motivated and dedicated to the cause promulgated by their politicos and military leaders.
With Russia and China both providing weapons and other equipment, the enemy had all the weapons they needed, small arms, rockets, mortars and yes, even artillery. They had very few aircraft, however, and this gave us a tremendous advantage in the air. This “air superiority” allowed us to deal the enemy many defeats which would have undoubtedly ended up differently if we had not “owned” the air. It wasn’t until about 1970 that the NVA received heat seeking antiaircraft missiles. I am very glad I was gone by that time. I had enough of a challenge to suit me while I was there.
The book I wrote is about my experiences in Vietnamand has now been published by Outskirts Press in Denver, CO. In my book, there are twenty chapters, an epilogue and a glossary, as well as several of the major chapters divided into shorter sub-chapters. The title of the book is Blue Max: Missions and Memories. Blue Max was the callsign of the entire 2nd Bn./20th Artillery, Aerial Rocket Artillery (ARA). Battery “A” had the 20-series numbers, “B” had the 40’s and “C” battery had the 60’s. All commanders’ call signs ended in “six”. The Battalion Commander was simply “Blue Max Six”. XOs were ended with “five”. Platoon leaders were whole numbers with no suffix, ie 27, 48, and 69. In this example, “27” would represent the first platoon of “A” Battery, the “48” was second platoon of “B” Battery, and “69” was third platoon of “C” Battery. I flew in that third platoon of “C” Battery, and my call sign was “Blue Max 69 Quebec One”.
I present the bad times and the good times in the book. When I got to Vietnam, I had a lot of growing up to do. I led a rather sheltered life before being drafted into the Army. I learned a lot of new words in the early days in the Army. I was very naïve. My feelings were easily hurt. But, as time went on, especially in combat, I grew thicker skin. I guess I realized for the first time in my life that there were worse things in life than being put down, dying for instance. Self preservation, just trying to stay alive, caused most of the things we worried about back in the world to pale into oblivion. Other things came to the fore, senses came to life that had previously been taken for granted. Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and feeling all peaked as did a sixth sense something like intuition, knowing something bad was about to happen before it happened just from the tension or electricity in the air.
I flew UH-1 “B” & “C” model Hueyswith 1100 hp, in the early days of my tour. Our Hueys carried 48 rockets, maybe 600 rounds of 7.62mm, and a crew of three usually (two pilots and a crew chief/gunner). I flew Cobras most of the time. Our Cobraswith1400 horsepower, carried 76 rockets, 4000 rounds of 7.62 mm for the minigun, 350-400 rounds of 40 mm, and was much faster, which made it a lot more comfortable (or maybe the word is comforting) to fly. Both Hueys and Cobras are manufactured by BellHelicopter. Either of them could continue to fly with a good deal of battle damage.
We did many things with these aircraft that I know were not intended by the original designers. We flew in weather which we would not have flown in here in the states, because it was tactically or at least practically necessary. I thought the “Pink Suicide Card” or Tactical Instrument Ticket was a stupid waste of time when they gave it to us. However, when I got over there and had to fly in the clouds to get to the mission or back from a mission, I learned to appreciate that instrument training, probably most of all. That limited ability to fly on instruments saved me and my crew many times.
Whether we flew Cobras or Hueys, we always flew overloaded. Max Gross Weight on the Cobra was 9500 pounds, and every time we took off we were at least 10,300 pounds. You see, we wanted to have the maximum ordinance on board for every mission. We would sacrifice fuel (most of the time we only carried 800-1000 pounds of fuel) in favor of more rockets and ammo. With 1000 pounds of fuel we could fly just over an hour and a half. Our average mission lasted about an hour and 15 minutes. I don’t remember ever having to break off an active contact mission to go refuel (that is when the ground-pounders were still in contact with the enemy and still in danger). We usually ran out of ordinance before we ran out of fuel.
I believe you will enjoy the book. My wife says it is all the excitement without the fluff. I lived the action, but I never really learned to write the fluff. Probably if I had the book would have 400 pages, and if I had any memory at all, it would probably be 800 pages.
I recently sold a copy to a friend of mine who was a Marine in VN about the same time I was there. By the next morning I had an email which said, among many other things, “Brown, your dang book kept me up almost all night.” That is about as good a comment as I could ask for. Included below are a few short reviews for you that appear on Barnes & Nobles.com or Amazon.com web sites, copies and pasted from the sources.The way it really was!, December 7, 2006
Reviewer: / H. R. Hansen - See all my reviews
N. G. (Glenn) Brown has done a masterful job of telling his story of being a helicopter pilot in Vietnam during the Vietnam war. It is a remembrance of how it really was during the day to day operations of the unit he was assigned to and the heroics of the American soldier called to do what his country asks with uncommon skill and ingenuity; he was the master of a complex machine sometimes forced to use it beyond its intended purpose to accomplish the assigned task and to survive. A great read, enjoy it.
CATHALENE MARTELL (), A VIET NAM WIDOW, 12/20/2006
I do not like war. I do not like to discuss war stories. I do not like to watch war movies. But this book, blue max, was absolutely fascinating! i didn't ever want to put it down.I felt like i was there with the author as he lived through this time in his life. It had ups and downs (no pun intended) and at times i laughed, other times i cried, but i never lost interest. I treasure this copy, and definitely will add it to my favorites on the bookshelf. Thank you, author, for giving this insight to those of us who were left here in the states, wondering what was going on in viet nam, and had only the news on t.V. To judge it by.
A reviewer, A reviewer, 12/14/2006
Easy and enjoyable reading. Appreciate the humorous remarks and aircraft explanations. Was interesting to read the Vietnam War experiences and perspective of a Helicopter pilot.
Russ Warriner (firstname.lastname@example.org), the unit writer for the 1st Cav, 11/30/2006
Blue Max, Missions and Memories
This was one of the best books I have ever looked at about Vietnam. I am not one who likes to read and being a crew chief in this unit I was not sure I could even read it. I was surprised when I couldn't put the book down until I finished it. I served with Mr Brown and knew most of those thatwere talked about in the book, even was on some of those missions with him. I was so moved by the book I have started a book of my own.
The book is available on-line from several booksellers, but at present it is not available in book stores. Barnes and Nobles tells me that, when it is a best seller, they would be more likely to stock it in their stores. But, there is only one source for signed copies, ordering from me.
N. G. Brown