A Certain Brotherhood
05 December 2005
A Certain Brotherhood is Jimmie H. Butler's third novel. His first two highly successful books, The Iskra Incident and Red Lightening – Black Thunder (Dutton Books) received critical national acclaim while the new impressive small press release is likely to follow the same flight pattern. A Certain Brotherhood soars along with the best Vietnam air war fiction on film or in print. It's that good and that grabbing.
However, before you get a notion it is just another tale of sleek and fast screaming jets roaring over the skies of Southeast Asia keep in mind this is a story about FAC pilots, the Forward Air Controllers, who flew souped up Cessnas in combat (picture a VW “bug” with wings and you'll get a better mental image). Come to think of it, that might not do it since a VW probably had more power and a little more protection. Coupled with the fact that these light planes, better known as O-1s and the later O-2 models, flew in combat over some of the deadliest battlegrounds in the war, like Khe Sanh and the infamous Mu Gia Pass over that nasty stretch of land that served as a main highway for the Ho Chi Minh Trail between North Vietnam and Laos, A Certain Brotherhood will keep you riveted to your seat and every now and then make you feel a bit uncomfortable as you wonder when the anti-aircraft fire will come ripping up from under you!
The painfully small O-1s and O-2s were used to mark the target areas for the Air Force jets. With little or no real protection against small arms fire, let alone heavy machine gun or anti-aircraft fire, two dozen of the real NAIL FAC pilots were killed in action while many others were seriously wounded. Flying crippled aircraft back to safety became a necessary survival skill and under the realm of fiction Butler puts the reader right into the thick of the fighting.
In this good read we meet Air Force pilots Mitch McCall and J.D. Dalton, two of the Cricket FACs (call-sign NAIL) based out of Nakhon Phanom, Thailand who introduce us to the deadly game of cat and mouse they played daily over the war zone. McCall is the quiet, professional while Dalton is all brash and brass balls with an attitude most military veterans will recognize and secretly or not so secretly applaud. From NKP to Khe Sanh we follow the pair low level through the skies as they fly in support of ground troops or search for the North Vietnamese Army troop and supply convoys going south.
A Certain Brotherhood is a gripping book and one that every fan of military science should add to his or her library in order to get a better and more balanced picture of the Vietnam War. Its only failing is that as a small press publication it won't get the widespread distribution it needs to make it a popular book. However, don't mistake popularity for credibility because this is a good story and one whose audience will grow with time and word of mouth. What I also liked about the book were the generous amount of actual combat photos, which were spread throughout the book, putting a picture with the name of the aircraft and the areas that were mentioned. The visuals added to the book in a way more publishers need to consider since it draws the reader further into the storyline or at the very least make you wonder if the FACs were out of their frigging minds for going up in an aircraft that even Buddy Holly might have had second thoughts about!
Butler knows the subject matter and territory well and writes with an authority and understanding few can match. The Colorado based writer flew 240 missions as a Cricket FAC during the war earning the Silver Star for Gallantry, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with sixteen Oak Leaf Clusters.
A Certain Brotherhood is also a great title, as most combat veterans will attest to. The Brotherhood is well served by Butler's new book.
Buy A Certain Brotherhood
This article was originally published in Behind The Lines magazine. VietnamGear.com has reproduced this article with the kind permission of Gary Linderer.
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