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The Ravens: The Men Who Flew in America's Secret War in Laos

de Christopher Robbins

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1265168,350 (4.25)1
Officially the war in Laos did not exist - both North Vietnam and the USA denied they had troops there. In fact, thousands of North Vietnamese were invading the country and pouring down the Ho Chi Minh Trail on their way to the south, and the Americans were fighting a vigorous war against them from the air. The Ravens were the pilots, all volunteers, who flew through heavy groundfire to identify targets and call in air-strikes. Their mission was so secret that they were 'sold' their prop-driven planes for a dollar apiece so they could be struck from US Air Force records. They wore no uniform and carried no identification. Refugees from the bureaucracy of the war in Vietnam, they accepted the murderous casualty rates of what was known as the Steve Canyon Program in return for a life of unrestricted flying and fighting. Devoted to the hill tribesmen they fought alongside, the Ravens did their job with extraordinary skill and crazy courage and with a humour that was all of its own. This is the story, brilliantly told for the first time, of these extraordinary men. Based on extensive interviews with the survivors, it is a tale of undeniable heroism, blending real-life romance, adventure and tragedy.… (mais)
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Exibindo 5 de 5
This book is every bit as good as Robbins' other work, Air America. Just as with the latter, The Ravens reads almost as an adventure story. But it's history. And Robbins enjoyed unparalleled access to many of the men who were Ravens, forward air controllers in Laos during the "Secret War." Today, this group of veterans is quickly disappearing from the scene. Most are in the late 70s and early 80s. Fortunately, Robbins was there to cover the story of Air America and The Ravens from the 70s to the 2000s. Alas, Robbins himself passed away almost two years ago. An invaluable resource for the history of the neglected part of the war in Southeast Asia is no longer with us. ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
I think my only complaint, if you can even call it a complaint, is that large portions of the book are not exactly about the Ravens. You should stop reading right here if you don't want any spoilers.






These large portions I mention are a history/bio of Laos and the Hmong people sprinkled in numerous places. While it does provide some background about the people and country, as well as some of the motivations behind the people in the story, it did take me out of the story since I had to wade through these bits. I am sure the author had their reasons, and I attribute this to the year it was written. Times have changed, as have FOIA requests, I actually wouldn't mind seeing this revisited and revised. Definitely a fascinating subject. ( )
  CH3 | Sep 1, 2018 |
The book is average, or slightly above. Too much discussion about pilot abnormalities, and the the book has no easy to follow flow. Written more or less chronologically, there are large gaps between discussing certain pilots and their activities while injecting historical information of importance. The book can be challenging to follow because of this lack of continuity. Additionally, the author admits he's not been to any of the areas described in the book, yet makes the claim that no jars were damaged the bombing. Whose word is he taking on this? I've seen craters literally just a few feet from the jars and find it difficult to believe that some of the broken ones were not broken because of the bombing. I'm not anti-war material at all, but I do believe there is a bit too much hero worship going on in this book. Read the book while in Laos, mostly while at the Plain of Jars. ( )
  untraveller | Feb 25, 2018 |
A solidly written account of the forward air controllers in Laos. By default it is a survey history of Laos from the 1950's to the 1970's. The work of these air controllers is amazing to read and they were...exotic...individuals. There is a constant cycling of people, as the flyers were only there for a tour or two (only as it relates to the full arc of the war). This book dovetails with the author's Air America and are good readingl ( )
  Whiskey3pa | Jul 8, 2015 |
This book can feel disjointed at times. This is not entirely the author's fault. The American pilots in Laos only served for a year (the Laotian Hmong pilots fought until they were dead), so there is a continuously rotating cast of characters that can make it hard to distinguish the men who flew over there. The adventures and hijinks the pilots had are interesting. Unfortunately the book deals more with pilot drink binges and does not get into the effect the bombing runs had on Laotian peasants. More bombs were dropped in that country than in the European theater during WWII. This book is one of the few on the Laotian war and while it is not perfect it does give the reader part of the puzzle. This reader would also recommend Shooting at the Moon if one is interested in Laos. ( )
  cblaker | Mar 9, 2011 |
Exibindo 5 de 5
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Officially the war in Laos did not exist - both North Vietnam and the USA denied they had troops there. In fact, thousands of North Vietnamese were invading the country and pouring down the Ho Chi Minh Trail on their way to the south, and the Americans were fighting a vigorous war against them from the air. The Ravens were the pilots, all volunteers, who flew through heavy groundfire to identify targets and call in air-strikes. Their mission was so secret that they were 'sold' their prop-driven planes for a dollar apiece so they could be struck from US Air Force records. They wore no uniform and carried no identification. Refugees from the bureaucracy of the war in Vietnam, they accepted the murderous casualty rates of what was known as the Steve Canyon Program in return for a life of unrestricted flying and fighting. Devoted to the hill tribesmen they fought alongside, the Ravens did their job with extraordinary skill and crazy courage and with a humour that was all of its own. This is the story, brilliantly told for the first time, of these extraordinary men. Based on extensive interviews with the survivors, it is a tale of undeniable heroism, blending real-life romance, adventure and tragedy.

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