The Rescue of Bat 21: Darrel D. Whitcomb, Harry G. Summers: 9781557509468: Books
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The Rescue of Bat 21 [Hardcover]

Darrel D. Whitcomb , Harry G. Summers
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1998
When his electronic warfare plane, call sign Bat 21, was shot down on 2 April 1972, fifty-three-year-old Air Force navigator Iceal "Gene" Hambleton parachuted into the middle of a North Vietnamese invasion force and set off the biggest and most controversial air rescue effort of the Vietnam War. Now, after twenty-five years of official secrecy, the story of that dangerous and costly rescue is revealed for the first time by a decorated Air Force pilot and Vietnam veteran. Involving personnel from all services, including the Coast Guard, the unorthodox rescue operation claimed the lives of eleven soldiers and airmen, destroyed or damaged several aircraft, and put hundreds of airmen, a secret commando unit, and a South Vietnamese infantry division at risk. It also examines the thorny debates arising from an operation that balanced one man's life against mounting U.S. and South Vietnamese casualties and material losses, the operation's impact on one of the most critical battles of the war, and the role played by search and rescue as America disengaged from that war.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557509468
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557509468
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #759,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Haven't read the book yet, but looks like an interesting one. DmD  |  4 reviewers made a similar statement
Then read Whitcomb's book. Paul C. Scotti  |  2 reviewers made a similar statement
It seems historically accurate and is well footnoted. Nav6218  |  3 reviewers made a similar statement
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A READ WORTHY OF YOUR TIME July 19, 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The lone survivor (Bat 21 Bravo) of a six-man crewed American warplane shot down by a surface-to-air missile parachutes near the DMZ and seeks cover to await recovery. Heavy clouds obscure visibility, but other than that the search and rescue aircraft crews have no reason to believe that this won't be anything but a moderately easy pickup.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jay Crowe commanding an Air Force rescue helicopter drops through the clouds heading for the survivor when enemy fire comes up from all directions. The dashboard begins to disintegrate. Crowe and his copilot struggle to control the helicopter and clear the area. The crew is amazed at the scene below. North Vietnamese Army trucks, tanks, guns, and soldiers are everywhere. Bat 21 is trapped between two enemy divisions barreling across the borders in a full offensive to conquer South Vietnam. Still, the rescue attempt goes on.

As the author of "Coast Guard Action in Vietnam," I am pleased to read, not only a darn good true book about the Vietnam War, but, one that brings out the fact that Coast Guardsmen were active in that long engagement. Flying combat search and rescue was only one of their numerous missions. For example, LORAN, the electronic navigation system used to keep Bat 21 pinpointed and to place ordnance on enemy positions, was installed in the theater and manned by the Coast Guard.

Do yourself a favor, get both "Bat 21" by William C. Anderson and "The Rescue of Bat 21" by Darrel D. Whitcomb. Read them in tandem. Read "Bat 21" first. It puts you with the survivor on the ground evading capture for twelve days. Then read Whitcomb's book. It pulls back the camera to take into view the entire panorama of situation, equipment, and people, that went into this remarkable rescue exploit.

When you start the reading make sure you have a block of uninterrupted time because you may not want to stop until--the end.

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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read! February 8, 1999
By A Customer
Most veterans are aware of the rescue of BAT-21 (Bravo), Lt. Col. Iceal "Gene" Hambleton, that was shot-down by an enemy missile during the April '72, NVA Easter Offensive. In the initial stages of this powerful enemy thrust into I Corp, U.S. intelligence failed to brief U.S. personnel who were flying in the area that the enemy had crossed the DMZ and had brought with them SAM missiles and an incredible amount of AAA fire support to provide protection to the massive NVA armored invasion. Brave men were caught off guard by these formidable air defenses south of the DMZ, and they paid dearly. The earlier movie, "BAT-21," touched on some of the truth about this rescue mission. But much of what was shown was purposely fictitious due to national security issues. Since that time much of the information surrounding this rescue mission has been declassified allowing the facts to be known to all for the very first time. Author, Darrel Whitcomb, has done an incredible job of collecting files, first-hand interviews, grid maps and photos to describe the events leading to the downing and rescue of BAT-21, and has written about the ultimate sacrifice of those who perished or were captured in attempts to rescue Hambleton. For example, just minutes after BAT-21 landed just south of the DMZ, Blueghost 39 and his crewmembers of F Troop, 8th Cavalry were killed or captured when encountering extremely heavy enemy fire when they entered the recovery area which unknowingly was in NVA hands. Days later the entire crew of Jolly Green 67 would perish when hit by massive enemy AAA fire as the NVA sprang a trap. Whitcomb fluidly reports of repeated and aborted attempts to extract BAT-21 and of the cost to the Nails, the Sandys, the Jolly Greens, the USAF, the VNAF, and ultimately the few MACSOG-80 personnel still in-country. All were involved during the course of not only rescuing BAT-21, but other downed airmen in the immediate area during what has to be one of the most intense--if not THE most intense--battles involving combined U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. "The Rescue of BAT-21" is much more than its title indicates. Whitcomb's book is also a well-researched historical look at the Easter Offensive and how the war very suddenly and dramatically changed in the closing days of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. In "The Rescue of BAT-21" Mr. Whitcomb has done a service to the veterans who participated and perished on this rescue mission. He has told their story, one which needed to be told. It is a fitting tribute to the countless brave and dedicated men who flew the air support and rescue missions throughout the war--often times at great personal risk and sacrifice. From Vietnam to the rescue mission in Somalia, Darryl Whitcomb has captured the moment in his incredible work, and warns of the "dangers of drawn-out coalition warfare without defined objectives." Darrel Whitcomb, who is a highly decorated veteran who served three tours himself in Southeast Asia as a cargo and Nail FAC pilot, has captured the spirit of America's fighting men...the 'how' and 'why' many willingly risked their lives to save even one fellow America in danger of being captured or killed by enemy forces. This is a true story of "duty, honor & country." In his poignant postscript the author details the return of Blueghost 39 in 1994 and more recently in 1997, the return of Jolly Green 67 and crewmembers who perished during this 15-day SAR mission. All of them were buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. They are now, finally, "home" We offer our sincere and personal thanks to Nail 25 for writing this important work and setting the record straight. His take of the prevailing attitudes of the aircrews in the chapter entitled 'A Long, Bitter, and Frustrating War' were precisely on the mark. And his 'Disconnect' chapter was especially insightful, describing the evolution of the American experience in the war brilliantly. We sincerely thank the author for newfound understanding and pride. We hope many will take the opportunity to read it. For many fellow veterans this work will be a very special addition to their collection. Mike Austin -- Blueghost 23 Roger Young -- Silver Spur Scout C.E.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From one who was there January 25, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book is an extremely accurate history of this rescue and its heros. I was the on scene commander who arrived to find the Jolly in flames. There are other books written about this rescue but none are as accurate and well presented. The author did an excellent job in allowing a "non" military reader to understand this rescue situation without missing the power of the enviornment.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncle Sam -vs- a steamroller
The danger of trying to fight guerrillas with technology is that the asymmetry will become weakness.
The North Vietnamese would not even wait for U.S. Read more
Published 8 days ago by R. Drew
3.0 out of 5 stars I was expecting more...
The book is a hard read. The author fills it with so many details that it doesn't get truly interesting until the actual ground egress of the downed pilot, which is comparatively... Read more
Published 25 days ago by hobberod
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rescue of Bat 21
Wonderful book, arrived in great condition, already read it and added it to my library of 1600 plus books. You did a great job sending this to me, thanks, Karen
Published 3 months ago by Karen
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rescue of Bat 21
This book is a must read for anyone interested in the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive an the spectacular efforts put forth by the individuals in the air and on the ground... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Brain
5.0 out of 5 stars Professionally done History
This book reads like an Air War College thesis. It seems historically accurate and is well footnoted. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Nav6218
5.0 out of 5 stars Bat21
Ordered this after looking into a bunch of military/rescue books. Haven't read the book yet, but looks like an interesting one.
Published on August 20, 2011 by DmD
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book
The true story of BAT 21, finally giving credit where it was due. The first book and the movie missed the mark very badly. Worth the read.
Published on May 3, 2010 by BulletMan
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rescue of Bat 21
Book arrived within a few days and was in the condition that it was described or better, very happy with there service.
Published on February 27, 2006 by Darrell John Bossert
5.0 out of 5 stars It is nice to hear the complete story
For years my family has wondered what happened during this period of the conflict. I was eight years old when my brother, Bruce Walker - Covey 282 Alpha, was declared MIA. Read more
Published on February 14, 2001 by "swalker42"
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book
I recently purchased this book through an South African bookstore and it rocks ! It is great book to read .
Published on September 7, 1999
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