“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
Officially the war in Laos did not exist – both North Vietnam and the USA denied they had troops there. In fact, thousands of North Vietnamese were invading the country and pouring down the Ho Chi Minh Trail on their way to the south, and the Americans were fighting a vigorous war against them from the air.
The Ravens were the pilots, all volunteers, who flew through heavy groundfire to identify targets and call in air-strikes. Their mission was so secret that they were ‘sold’ their prop-driven planes for a dollar apiece so they could be struck from US Air Force records. They wore no uniform and carried no identification. Refugees from the bureaucracy of the war in Vietnam, they accepted the murderous casualty rates of what was known as the Steve Canyon Program in return for a life of unrestricted flying and fighting.
Devoted to the hill tribesmen they fought alongside, the Ravens did their job with extraordinary skill and crazy courage and with a humour that was all of its own. This is the story, brilliantly told for the first time by Christopher Robbins, of these extraordinary men. Based on extensive interviews with the survivors, it is a tale of undeniable heroism, blending real-life romance, adventure and tragedy.
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“‘Want to take a chance?’ The men who found themselves in the secret war had first chosen to draw the Chance card in Vietnam. Later it would all seem part of the peculiar nature of things that their very first experience of war should be the board of a Monopoly-style game.”
“A book of outstanding integrity. These are the heroes no one told you about.” - Tom Clancy
“His investigative pieces for the Observer Magazine on CIA assassination plots led to his first book, Assassin, and encouraged him to write two books about the war in Vietnam, Air America and The Ravens – the former about the CIA’s secret airline in the Indo-China war, the latter about the pilots who flew during the secret war in Laos.
“These were not anti-war polemics, but written with the happy cooperation of many pilots, and they described superbly the airmen’s courage, joys and disappointments – and sometimes their deaths.” - The Telegraph
“I came across a second-hand copy of this book while travelling through Laos in 2003 (no doubt traded by a previous traveller) and picked it up basically because it was set in the country. i was delighted to find that this is a fantastic, engrossing book. Extremely well-written, from the carefully documented, brutally honest accounts of the pilots involved in this secret war, The Ravens is a shocking, exciting and moving book, one of the best of its genre. The writing is intelligent and skillful, keeping the narrative flowing whilst paying attention to detail in the historical facts. One cannot help but feel for these courageous men, fighting a just campaign under a shroud of secrecy using a handful of old aircraft.” – Amazon review
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