As much as the Vietnam War was considered by historians to be a "helicopter war", many people are not familiar with, or been exposed to, what it was like to fly helicopters in combat in Vietnam. If you would like to explore that part of our history, Lew Jennings has published an excellent book that will do just that - 19 Minutes to Live.
The title comes from the fact that the life expectancy of a helicopter pilot in combat, in Vietnam, was 19 minutes. Still, even with those odds, Jennings' only hope to fly and serve his country in combat was behind the stick of a helicopter. He flew in two Air Cavalry units from 1969 to 1970. Escorting troops to and from the front in a Cobra Gunship, Jennings racked up over 700 missions, received three Distinguished Flying Crosses and 36 Air Medals.
Jennings' book takes the reader through his experience with flight prior to joining the army and then spans his training days and combat career during Vietnam. Jennings also takes a detailed look at how the Air Cavalry was formed and how it fit into the army's chain of command - very informative extra information.
Both the terror and the dangers are real in 19 Minutes to Live. Jennings has written a very informative and personal memoir of his combat experiences in Vietnam. Another point of interest, Jennings opens this book talking about being back behind the stick and flying missions in Iraq in 2008. He notes that several helicopter pilots serving there are in their 60s and 70s when it comes to age. Here is hoping that Jennings will be able to record those experiences in the not to distant future.