Book Review: Assault From the Sky: U.S. Marine Corps Helicopter Operations in Vietnam

Assault from the Sky by Dick Camp

Assault From the Sky: U.S. Marine Corps Helicopter Operations in Vietnam by Dick Camp is a comprehensive history of Marine Corps’ helicopter operations in Vietnam from 1962 through 1975. Camp, Colonel Camp USMC retired, is the author of several books on the combat history of the US Marines. His books cover World War I to Fallujah. Camp served as a company commander at Khe Sanh and retired in 1988. He is currently the Vice President for Museum Operations at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

During the thirteen years of the Marine Corps’ involvement in Vietnam, over four hundred helicopters were lost along with eight hundred Marines either as crew or passengers. Each chapter of the book contains the citations of medals earned by Marines in helicopter missions. Descriptions of heroism fill the book. Numerous Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, Naval Commendation Medals, and even a few Medals of Honor.

In the first section of the book, Buildup 1962-1966, Marines begin their involvement in Vietnam. Marines started transporting South Vietnamese troops in 1962 in UH-34 helicopters. Helicopters that the army considered out of date and no longer used. The Marines used these helicopters with distinction. Marines, although not in direct combat, still needed to defend their air bases from Vietnamese sappers — Company sized units armed with explosives and grenades lead organized attacks against the bases and helicopters.

In the second section, Heavy Combat 1967-1969, Marines are involved in combat, transporting troops, and picking up wounded. Marines again demonstrate the highest traditions of the Corps. Flying into danger to rescue wounded and trapped Marines became common practice for the Marine helicopter crews. Actions at Khe Sanh are covered in detail.

In the final section of the book, The Bitter End 1975, Marines are involved in the evacuation of Americans from Vietnam. In the previous section I ran across the name Lt. Colonel Richard E. Carey as he described the Super Gaggle and what made it a success. In this section Colonel Carey is referred to as Brigadier General Carey and plays an important role in the evacuation of Vietnam.

I met General Carey a year ago. He happened to stop at the bicycle shop where I work. Carey was my commanding general when I was at Quantico. We talked for a bit about Quantico and the Marine Corps Marathon and it was quite a bit different talking to the general now then it was 30 years ago when I had been a private fresh out of Parris Island standing in a CG inspection. He had an outstanding career and it is even more remarkable the role he played in the evacuation of Vietnam.

Assault From the Sky is an excellent history of the Marine Corps’ helicopter missions in Vietnam. The book is very well cited in the text and in the bibliography. Information comes from published sources, units records, and personal interviews. Camp does an excellent job of presenting the strategic history as well as the views of the Marines who were actually there. This is an outstanding book for readers interested in Vietnam, military aviation, or the Marine Corps.

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