- Peter Fey
- ARRSE Rating
- 4.5 Mushroom Heads
Following her Korean War service (and a starring appearance as the USS Savo Island in the film 'The Bridges of Toko-Ri') Oriskany was updated with an Atlantic bow and three British inventions, the angled deck, the steam catapult and the Mirror Landing Sight, enabling her to operate jets better. Nevertheless she was too small to accommodate either that magnificent war-wagon the Phantom or the modern AEW Hawkeye, and this contributed to pilot attrition, as did the exhausting routine required of her air group on Yankee Station off North Vietnam. In 1966 she was crippled by a massive fire caused by a piece of defective ordnance being wrongly dealt with; we are also given the story of the massive 1967 fire in the carrier USS Forrestal. The narrative rolls through one operation after another, a catalogue of awesome courage that highlights the casualties and losses, and also reminding us that the dangers were not confined to the aircrew. The cruel conclusion the book brought to me was that all that bravery (including as PoWs under revolting torture), all those deaths, all that maiming, and all that materiel cost, achieved precisely nothing, and this was due to the flawed and ignorant leadership of the US Forces' Commander in Chief.
The references, citations and bibliography are extensive. However the notes contain a number of relevant asides so that the reader has to keep two bookmarks going. The maps I found difficult to read and could perhaps have been served up on a one-third greater scale. The author has served as an aviator in the USN and that's a good indicator of a true bill.
This book has given me a far greater understanding of what was going on 'next door' during my own RN deployments to the Far East in 1965 and 1968 and resulting visits to Subic, Pearl and San Diego and travels in the US in 1967 when the Americans' tails were up and they thought they were winning.
* see also the novel 'Rolling Thunder' by ex-USAF Captain Mark Berent