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A Hundred Feet Over Hell: Flying With the…

A Hundred Feet Over Hell: Flying With the Men of the 220th Recon Airplane… (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Jim Hooper

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275402,159 (4.83)1
Title:A Hundred Feet Over Hell: Flying With the Men of the 220th Recon Airplane Company Over I Corps and the DMZ, Vietnam 1968-1969
Authors:Jim Hooper
Info:Zenith Press (2009), Edition: First, Hardcover, 272 pages
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A Hundred Feet Over Hell by Jim Hooper (2009)



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In A Hundred Feet Over Hell: Flying With the Men of the 220th Recon Airplane Company Over I Corps and the DMZ, Vietnam 1968-1969, Jim Hooper tells the stories of his brother and several of the men his brother flew with and worked with during his time in Vietnam. Throughout most of the book, the men tell their stories in their own words, helping readers better understand the stress they endured as they flew these planes right over the enemy and were shot at constantly, their sense of duty, and the friendships they forged along the way.

Hooper uses a lot of military terminology, but that shouldn’t deter readers unfamiliar with the lingo. There is a glossary in the back of the book that defines many of these terms, and while I flipped back and forth many times, eventually I just stopped trying to make sense of the acronyms and allowed myself to get lost in the book. If you think a non-fiction military book about Vietnam is destined to be dry and boring, you’d be wrong.

Full review on Diary of an Eccentric. ( )
  annaeccentric | May 8, 2012 |
A military adaptation of a 1950s design that first saw service during the Korean War, the Cessna Bird Dog was already rather long in the tooth by the time of the Vietnam war. However in the Forward Air Control role the Bird Dog managed to get into far more scrapes than many other far more glamorous combat machines. Although it was a flimsy parasol-winged light aircraft barely capable of 100 mph, the Bird Dog over Vietnam spent most of its time in the early years of the conflict in the air stooging around over the jungle, spotting and sighting within range of every enemy weapon on the battlefield. Author Jim Hooper's brother flew one and this is his story and that of his unit, the 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company, the 'Catkillers'. It is the tale of a handful of young pilots who put their lives on the line virtually every time they got airborne. They operated over the northern-most part of South Vietnam, along the so-called DMZ or demilitarized zone, either alone or with a second crewman, often, amazingly enough, venturing into North Vietnam searching out targets and directing artillery or air strikes against them. The only Army Bird Dog company to bear the Marine designation of Tactical Air Coordinator (Airborne), they supported both Army and Marine infantry, often spelling survival for embattled American or Vietnamese troops. They went to war the hard way, with nothing more than 217 hp, a radio and a map. With the exception of a handgun and a M16, they were unarmed. But as the Vietcong learned, once the Catkillers had located their target and marked it with their smoke rockets, they could bring a formidable arsenal to bear. From rolling artillery barrages to successive flights of Phantoms or Skyhawks, all the FAC had to say was "Hit my smoke," and a carpet of destruction would descend upon enemy troops, sometimes within tens of metres of friendly positions.
A handful of aviation memoirs from the Vietnam War truly stand out - 'Thud Ridge' and 'Chickenhawk' to name just two. Jim Hooper's 'history' of the 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company will become another classic, packed as it is with accounts of rare heroism and thrilling flying action. In these days of unmanned drones, it almost beggars belief that the Catkiller FACs flew low and slow in some of the most heavily defended airspace in the history of aerial warfare. 'A Hundred Feet Over Hell' is a great read! ( )
  FalkeEins | Jan 28, 2012 |
Jim Hooper‘s A Hundred Feet Over Hell is a true account of the 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company, with which his brother Bill served as one of the Myth Makers flying single-engine Cessnas that were extremely vulnerable to artillery and other ground fire. These men were charged with flying over hot zones and locating the enemy for bombers, giving precise coordinates for dropping bombs and napalm.

“Rather than sharing our joy at his return, Bill was angry. Not because of the crippling would received in an unpopular was — he accepted that as part of what he had signed on fore. The anger came from being here. In a demonstration of uncompromising loyalty over logic, it was, he believed, a betrayal of the warrior family he’d left behind.” (Page xi)

Hooper has captured the essence of these men and their time in Vietnam from their crazy stunts to the moments when they feared for their lives. Through alternating points of view the stories unfold quickly as one man feeds off and expands on the story being told by their friend and colleague. Readers will meet characters like Doc Clement and Charlie Finch, but these men are not characters, but real human beings who lived through the harsh realities of war.

Read the full review: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2010/07/a-hundred-feet-over-hell-by-jim-hooper.html ( )
  sagustocox | Jul 23, 2010 |
A handful of aviation memoirs from the Vietnam War truly stand out. Jack Broughton’s Thud Ridge details the extraordinary courage of US Air force pilots facing North Vietnam’s deadly air defenses. Robert Mason’s Chickenhawk carries the reader on a gut-wrenching journey from flight school to helicopter assaults under heavy enemy fire. The Ravens by Christopher Robbins reveals the CIA’s secret war in Laos. Taking its place among these classics is Jim Hooper’s A Hundred Feet Over Hell, the story of the 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company. The ‘Catkillers’ flew100mph Cessnas from Phu Bai and Dong Ha to cover the Ashau Valley and DMZ, where, within range of every enemy weapon on the battlefield, they called in artillery and air strikes to support army and marine units fighting the NVA. In these days of unmanned Predators and Reapers, it is astonishing to learn that the Catkiller FACs even took their single-engine Bird Dogs into North Vietnam in search of targets. For those interested in military aviation and tales of raw heroism, A Hundred Feet Over Hell is a must read. ( )
  btrandem | Feb 22, 2010 |
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To all the Catkillers, but especially Jim Henderson and Doc Clement, who, when visibility dropped below minimums and I saw no alternatives to turning back, kept me firmly on course.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0760336334, Hardcover)

A Hundred Feet Over Hell is the story of a handful of young pilots taking extraordinary risks to support those on the ground. Flying over Vietnam in two-seater Cessnas, they often made the difference between a soldier returning alive to his family or having the lonely sound of “Taps” played over his grave. Based on extensive interviews, and often in the men’s own words,  A Hundred Feet Over Hell puts the reader in the plane as this intrepid band of U.S. Army aviators calls in fire support for the soldiers and marines of I Corps.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:45 -0400)

This is the story of a few young pilots who operated in the northernmost part of Vietnam, along the DMZ. The only aerial unit to support front-line Marines, the 220th Recon Air Force rescued trapped soldiers, delivered supplies, and often made the difference between successfully rescuing a wounded comrade or laying the corpse to rest.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Zenith Press

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