Chariots of the Damned
By Mike McKinney, Mike Ryan
Publisher: Collins 2002 320 Pages
PDF 2 MB
The sensationally titled Chariots of the Damned: Helicopter Special Operations from Vietnam to Kosovo documents death-defying chopper-based Special Ops rescue missions. Writers Mike McKinney, an instructor pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and Mike Ryan (Warplanes of the Future) take turns writing chapters recounting both successful rescues and such notorious failures as those in Somalia and Iran, with an analysis of tactics. They also provide lots of technical information about the choppers themselves, tracing the evolution of helicopter technology over the last 30 years or so.
Low and slow, a military helicopter is vulnerable to any enemy with a rifle, and that lethal hazard to the pilot is what ties together these dozen-plus war stories. The strength author McKinney brings to his book is his military experience flying one of the machines that frequently figures in these narratives, the H-53. He and his coauthor inject much technical material about the capabilities of various models of helicopters, acronym-heavy details that may lack drama but are critical to success or disaster in combat operations. McKinney also aims to impress upon the reader the skill, nerve, and will of the pilot who flies into heavy fire. This combination of technology and courage structures the stories but, unfortunately, never quite succeeds in raising this work's literary level. Practically all the reader learns about the pilots who died is their bravery and their rank. Still, readers have much to admire in these renditions of the helicopter's role in American missions from the Son Tay raid of 1970 to recent rescue operations in the Balkans.