4 out of 4 stars
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Many people, including me, are fortunate enough to only read about wars. Even at that, reading about it often fills the reader with grief and second-hand trauma. One can only imagine its effect on those that experienced it.
It's been forty-five years since the Vietnam War, and a lot has been written about it. But the experience is still fresh in the memories of the valiant soldiers that fought gallantly for years to restore peace. Many lost their lives in the battle, however, Matt Jackson is one of the fortunate ones that made it out alive and whole. In his book, Undaunted Valor: An Assault Helicopter Unit in Vietnam, 1969 - 1970, he chronicles his experience serving the United States as an assault helicopter pilot in the 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 11th Aviation Group, 1st Cavalry Division during the Vietnam War.
Matt's first-person account of the war is very detailed and expansive. His writing style is simple and as punchy as possible without leaving out crucial details. The book is no quick read at six hundred and seventy-four pages, but between the light-hearted humour and the fast pace, time elapses quickly.
Undaunted Valor packs a punch of information for learning about the war and the geography of the area his company covered, I like that the book also serves as an invaluable guide for aspiring helicopter pilots. The narrative covers extensive areas of training, real-life experiences, and tips for intending fliers. Besides the air assaults, drop offs and pick up duties, I found the flight training and formation flying just as fascinating.
I gained a new level of respect and appreciation for military personnel after reading the book. Despite being an airstrike or one preflight checklist error away from death, they showed up every day with courage and enthusiasm.
That said, I have a quibble. Though there is an appendix and some terms are explained instantly, I would’ve preferred if he explained all the technical jargon immediately he mentioned them; I think it will make the reading experience a lot easier. Besides that, there is nothing I didn't like about the book.
Considering the pristine editing, the quality of information the book contains, and the light-hearted manner the author narrated such an intense subject, I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars.
I would recommend it to history enthusiasts and aspiring helicopter pilots. It contains lurid details of death and injuries, so I wouldn't recommend it for children.
Like most military environments, I found minimal splatters of profane language here and there. But it's nothing serious enough to detract from the reading experience.
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