A BOOK REVIEW BY WALTER J. BOYNE OF
Misty: First Person Stories of the F-100 Fast Facs in the Vietnam War
Edited by Major General Don Shepperd, USAF (Ret.)
1st Books, 2003, 1 800 839 8640 $17.00 Paperback, $25.50 Hardback (Dust cover)
This book is the most realistic presentation of combat flying possible, because it is the straight unvarnished truth from the pens of 155 of the pilots who flew what many consider to be the toughest mission of the Vietnam War, that of the Misty Forward Air Controllers. These were men who saw the war up close and personal. They were fired at every day-and hit too often.
The Misty pilots flew the North American F-100 Super Sabre on the Top Secret Fast-FAC missions over North Vietnam. To Major General Don Shepperd’s credit, he undertook to edit this book with the understanding that all of the submissions from the Misty pilots would be printed, as written, without editorial comment or clean-up. The result is an absolutely fascinating series of stories that are told in pilot’s terms of events and missions that range from the terrifying to the hilarious.
Don Shepperd might easily have had this book published by a New York publisher, if he had been willing to soften its edge, delete some of its stories, and follow a more conventional lay out. Instead, he very wisely chose to use a modern tool of the trade, 1st Books, so that the story of Misty would be comprehensive, pull no punches, leave no one out, and present the most graphic picture imaginable. These are all heroes, but these are not all hero stories, for the candid revelations portray pilots exulting in a successful mission and pilots absolutely terrified by the hail of flak in which they find themselves.
Readers will be familiar with many of the authors in this book, for they include famous names such as Henry Buttleman, Bud Day, Ron Fogleman, Merrill McPeak and Dick Rutan. Their stories are great, but so are the tales of less famous pilots, who put their lives on the line for fifty missions and more. Of the 155 Misty pilots, forty-four were shot down either while flying the Misty mission, or subsequently,
There is no literary artifice in Misty, but there is some damn good writing, for these stories come straight from the heart of men who flew a tough mission and saw their friends die in the process. These are heart-thumping flying stories told by veterans who put as many as eight hours on a mission, refueling as necessary to keep their thirsty Huns in the air. Often they would be diverted from their reconnaissance to help with a rescue mission, keeping contact with a downed pilot until the Jolly Greens arrived, then staying on to make sure that the rescue was unimpeded.
Part of the fascination of Misty is the candid, realistic pilot language used to tell the stories. There’s no softening here for the script writer, no making it easier for the squeamish to take. For example, here’s an excerpt from Misty 35, Don Jones, telling about his first mission. Jones was a RB-57 and RB-66 reconnaissance pilot, and with Jim Mack (Misty 24) was sent on a search mission for Bob Craner (Misty 17) and Guy Gruters (Misty 29). They had gone missing the previous day, and there had been no beeper or MAYDAY. He writes:
“After what seemed like an eternity, the radio finally came back with “Hey, Misty, this is Craner.”