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The Ravens: The Men Who Flew In America's Secret War In Laos

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30 review for The Ravens: The Men Who Flew In America's Secret War In Laos

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Truly an outstanding book. An examination of the unacknowledged war in Laos which ran concurrently with the US involvement in the Viet Nam War as told through the eyes of the Forward Air Controllers (FACs), aka The Ravens, supporting the Meo guerrillas and Royal Laos Army. Mr. Robbins uses personal accounts from dozens of first hand interviews of both Ravens and the Laos irregulars to tell of the horrific battles which took place in the Laos highlands and jungles. Interlaced between these chrono Truly an outstanding book. An examination of the unacknowledged war in Laos which ran concurrently with the US involvement in the Viet Nam War as told through the eyes of the Forward Air Controllers (FACs), aka The Ravens, supporting the Meo guerrillas and Royal Laos Army. Mr. Robbins uses personal accounts from dozens of first hand interviews of both Ravens and the Laos irregulars to tell of the horrific battles which took place in the Laos highlands and jungles. Interlaced between these chronologically told accounts Mr. Robbins also provides background history and political evens of Laos, Cambodia, China and Viet Nam as it relates to the greater war in Southeast Asia. The story itself is an engaging subject for anyone interested in 20th century military history and the reason for five stars. What makes this recounting so poignant is how Mr. Robbin's recounts the heartbreaking out come of the war in Laos and the somber annual gathering by The Ravens in remembrance of those lost to the war, both brothers in arms and the Laotians. It should make you the reader wonder if our Nation is capable of absorbing and applying the lessons learned from wars such of this to current events.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    As a naval aviator I was taught to look down upon Air Force pukes. But there ain't a ladder tall enough for me to look down upon these cats. As a naval aviator I was taught to look down upon Air Force pukes. But there ain't a ladder tall enough for me to look down upon these cats.

  3. 5 out of 5

    John Nevola

    The Ravens were to pilots as Delta Force is to infantrymen. Flying in a Top Secret campaign over neutral Laos to interdict supplies coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail, their saga is not very well known. Christopher Robbins tells this story in exquisite detail and with heart pounding drama. The Ravens were FACS (Forward Air Controllers) who flew slow, unarmed prop-driven spotter planes over enemy positions to discover and direct fighter-bombers onto North Vietnamese supply convoys heading south. Lik The Ravens were to pilots as Delta Force is to infantrymen. Flying in a Top Secret campaign over neutral Laos to interdict supplies coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail, their saga is not very well known. Christopher Robbins tells this story in exquisite detail and with heart pounding drama. The Ravens were FACS (Forward Air Controllers) who flew slow, unarmed prop-driven spotter planes over enemy positions to discover and direct fighter-bombers onto North Vietnamese supply convoys heading south. Like any "black ops" secret operation, the Ravens attracted a variety of adventure-seeking young warriors. They broke all the rules of comportment while flying the wings off of their obsolete spotter planes and drove the rear-area command staff nuts. Wearing all manner of non-issue clothes like cowboy hats and shorts, they didn't carry any identification and for all practical purposes, didn't even exist. They were expected to commit suicide if captured. Along with the Laotian Hmongs, they waged an impressive battle against the North Vietnamese for years before finally being shut down and officially forgotten. Their exploits rank right up there with Merrill’s Marauders and The Flying Tigers of World War II along with the Long Range Penetration Groups (LRPs) in Vietnam. You won't hear their story told anywhere else!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    Every time I think I've reached the end of the fractal of fuckedupedness that is the Vietnam War, I find something new. The Ravens is an oral history of the Steve Canyon program, a secret program of Forward Air Controllers that flew missions in Laos in support of the CIA backed Hmong Army of General Vang Pao. What comes through first and foremost is the immense courage of The Ravens. These men flew Cessnas (literally, the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog) against a sophisticated air defense network of 14.5mm Every time I think I've reached the end of the fractal of fuckedupedness that is the Vietnam War, I find something new. The Ravens is an oral history of the Steve Canyon program, a secret program of Forward Air Controllers that flew missions in Laos in support of the CIA backed Hmong Army of General Vang Pao. What comes through first and foremost is the immense courage of The Ravens. These men flew Cessnas (literally, the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog) against a sophisticated air defense network of 14.5mm machine guns and 23mm cannons. In a 6 month tour, 90% of Ravens would be hit by ground fire, 60% forced to crash land, and 30% would be killed in action. Flying long hours under intense pressure, the Ravens went a little bit crazy, and Robbins does an wonderful job describing the hectic ground life at the secret airbase of Long Tieng, with drinking parties, Madame Lulu's brothel, and pet bears. Though the work was dangerous and exhausting, Ravens universally loved the ability to fight as hard as they could, without the burden of REMF oversight. The on-the-ground story is put in a broader context, with overviews of Neutralist agreements in Laos, and high-level diplomacy with Kissinger and B-52 strikes. A great book on a lesser known aspect of the war.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andy Robinson

    Cracking book about the hidden war during the Vietnam era. There are some truly brave men out there, many who never made it home. Great insight into SE Asia during a time of madness - recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    The Ravens: The Men Who Flew In America's Secret War In Laos is one of the best books ever written about combat flying in general and about the war in Indochina in particular. The Ravens were a secret force of Forward Air Controllers operating in Laos in support of Royal Lao and indigenous Meo (aka Hmong which is a pejorative name) forces. The Ravens also flew armed reconnaissance, seeking out North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao forces along the Ho Chi Minh trail to attack. The secret war in Laos sp The Ravens: The Men Who Flew In America's Secret War In Laos is one of the best books ever written about combat flying in general and about the war in Indochina in particular. The Ravens were a secret force of Forward Air Controllers operating in Laos in support of Royal Lao and indigenous Meo (aka Hmong which is a pejorative name) forces. The Ravens also flew armed reconnaissance, seeking out North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao forces along the Ho Chi Minh trail to attack. The secret war in Laos spans the administrations of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. You watch as “mission creep” becomes reality. The buildup of US clandestine forces is covered well by Robbins. How a pilot came to be a Raven is explained. Quite an intricate network of bases is developed throughout Laos, supposedly secret. Gen Vang Pao and his Meo army fight against the Vietnamese forms a major part of the story. This story is essentially a tragedy as we all know the ending; we leave the Lao people to the non-existent mercy of the communist forces. Before that happens, you will read about incredible bravery, feats of flying that will amaze, sacrifice, the brotherhood of war, the craziness of a secret war, the conflict between REMFs and the men on the pointy end of the spear. I give this book my highest recommendation, 5 Stars! If you ever meet a Raven, thank him for his service. His country didn’t thank him back when it counted (or any Vietnam vet for that matter). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2L3sk...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    The best non-fiction war book I've read. It's the story of the brave (slightly mad) US pilots who fought the North Vietnamese in Laos during Vietnam, flying suicidal missions in their own clothes and with their superiors back home denying they existed. A very engaging journalistic tribute to a bunch of characters who in the end were treated quite badly. The best non-fiction war book I've read. It's the story of the brave (slightly mad) US pilots who fought the North Vietnamese in Laos during Vietnam, flying suicidal missions in their own clothes and with their superiors back home denying they existed. A very engaging journalistic tribute to a bunch of characters who in the end were treated quite badly.

  8. 4 out of 5

    S.

    [image error] anyway, not to be too change-of-topic: http://www.salon.com/2013/06/02/bret_... (WP skeptical that Specktor is a Notable Writer, btw) okay quick story, since I've been selfishly spamming the site for a few days. sometimes somebody runs into you on the street and so you get all the gossip that has been stored up for a few years. the theme of this data d/load is "fate's arrow?" --> once upon a time there were two people arriving in japan around 2006 to take up a job teaching English. Alfa [image error] anyway, not to be too change-of-topic: http://www.salon.com/2013/06/02/bret_... (WP skeptical that Specktor is a Notable Writer, btw) okay quick story, since I've been selfishly spamming the site for a few days. sometimes somebody runs into you on the street and so you get all the gossip that has been stored up for a few years. the theme of this data d/load is "fate's arrow?" --> once upon a time there were two people arriving in japan around 2006 to take up a job teaching English. Alfa was a "texanette," a small but athletic girl who was proud of her home state and took pride in her combination of analytical talent and social popularity. She was the class president of her high school, a private school in the San Antonio region, and she played lacrosse well enough to get nationally ranked, if not very high. (like #583 of her age cohort in the country). her parents were lawyers, they had two Mercedes benzes, and from age seven to age twenty-five she had known nothing but success and being at the top of the social pyramid. so okay, texas is not connecticut, and an S500 is not a bentley; a mcmansion in san antonio is not a castle in yorkshire. but, by all measures, very high social elite. Charlie was Ting Rong Ding, the Malaysian who nobody understood got the visa to teach English in Tokyo. He speakee Inglish likee dis, yeah? He say Malaysian pidgin gud az British English you no can . iz not dialect but gud regional inglish wid own grammar. u thinkee u bettah 'cuz u english in book? now as you can imagine alpha and charlie lived in very different expat worlds. somebody organized a football tournament I don't think charlie even got the email. a beach blast was held in two or three summer weekends, and of course alpha had her pick of which to attend or not, making by her attendance the one she went to the "cool" one. charlie went around spikin' ching-chong changlish for sixd ord seben months, and I think mostly the foreigners in Tokyo avoided him--at least the aussies and brits and californians, though of course there is no exact demarcating line, it was just a matter of whether you felt more comfortable a fellow member of a developed country or you preferred charlie ting rong's unique experiences in the japan nightclub. fast forward ten years. Alfa has completed her doctorate, gotten married (a socially high individual from a professional Minnnesota family), is doing clinical research and some patient care. she has a number of papers out and is board-certified, making a good living.... yet, strangely... she seems at times troubled or disappointed in some way. there is this faint air about her, not entirely having to do with her specialty (mental health), of things going well... but not exactly as dreamed about. well Charlie! mr. Charlie has dated and then married a japanese girl--not a Tokyo University graduate, but still a regional school; they have land outside osaka, a famous soba restaurant; charlie runs a number of town noodle night events, and he is integrated into japan, considered lucky, and he's loud and happy and boisterous. what happened!!! if you had met the two people, you would have instantly picked alfa as the person to hang out with. how could a person brought up in one of san antonio's top families, with a lineage extending to the bushes and the prescotts and the astors go anything but total success? and what value would there be in hanging out with two shoes charlie? but that's the thing, right. alfa was already born at the top. no matter what she did, she would only just maintain her position--although collapse was also possible had she pursued some unfortunate path-- working for enron, or deciding to go into development and being shot in the congo. for charlie, every day in tokyo was a success. getting the visa was a success. making a first world friend was a success. just talking to a japanese girl was a success. for charlie, starting as he did at the bottom of the heap, mere survival was an accomplishment. and of course, despite his greater happiness, of course he's still socially lower than alfa. if you met Dr. Alfa in her lab coat, of course you don't know about the bottle of vodka stashed in her file cabinet. you don't know about the affairs and drama hidden behind proud WASP faces in San Antonio's elite social scene. that is the story of alfa and charlie. now is this a book review, I dunno. maybe there is more than meets the eye. but it is a story i suppose.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    I ready wished and wanted this book to be greater than it was, it was not the subject but rather the author that made me wish this story was written by someone better; since the writer has long since passed; I will not be too critical. But, my main criticism of this book is more the fault of the writer in particular of being lazy; making filler material and/or trying to convince the reader of his presumably in depth knowledge of the history of the Vietnam war in one overly long yawnable chapter I ready wished and wanted this book to be greater than it was, it was not the subject but rather the author that made me wish this story was written by someone better; since the writer has long since passed; I will not be too critical. But, my main criticism of this book is more the fault of the writer in particular of being lazy; making filler material and/or trying to convince the reader of his presumably in depth knowledge of the history of the Vietnam war in one overly long yawnable chapter called the “big picture”. Unfortunately, the author goes on tangents throughout the book taking away focus on the story of the Ravens. If the history of the Vietnam War was what the reader was intended to learn and if one is really interested in that subject, this would not be the book I would recommend. Besides, the history of the Vietnam War has been covered in a number of better written books by better authors; i.e “Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam A History” is one that comes to mind. This sin of the author’s laziness, is not only inconsiderate of the reader but, more importantly does a dis-service to the brave men are supposedly the real subject of this book. Again, I really wish another author will take up the torch and write a more compelling, complete and better told story of the Ravens with the necessary research to fill in the gaps left by this author, and have instead of filler, a more compassionate and inspiring tale told. This my main criticism which in my opinion turns this book which by it very subject matter should have gotten at least 4 stars instead to one that I would rate a 3 just for the subject matter alone; the brave heroes that fought and sacrificed in a little known and secret campaign in Laos.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bill Conrad

    History is full of odd moments, waiting to be documented. The Ravens by Christopher Robbins certainly qualifies as a nearly forgotten event. The Ravens were civilian forward air observers that also engaged the enemy in the secret war in Laos. Christopher did an excellent job capturing their story, and this task proved to be especially tricky given the fact that much of what occurred had been classified. This book contains many lively characters, and Christopher went into great detail to describe History is full of odd moments, waiting to be documented. The Ravens by Christopher Robbins certainly qualifies as a nearly forgotten event. The Ravens were civilian forward air observers that also engaged the enemy in the secret war in Laos. Christopher did an excellent job capturing their story, and this task proved to be especially tricky given the fact that much of what occurred had been classified. This book contains many lively characters, and Christopher went into great detail to describe their lives, missions, and personalities. Their story is an essential part of our history, and I enjoyed learning what they went through. Christopher did an excellent job explaining how chaotic and unorganized the planning, execution, and result were. He also did an excellent job describing how effective their results were. It must have taken lots of courage to fly poorly maintained obsolete planes into combat, with the knowledge that a rescue would not be likely. An entire war fought outside the military and public eye. I recommended this book to a friend who likes war stories. He is halfway through and told me he liked it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cringe

    I think my only complaint, if you can even call it a complaint, is that large portions of the book are not exactly about the Ravens. You should stop reading right here if you don't want any spoilers. These large portions I mention are a history/bio of Laos and the Hmong people sprinkled in numerous places. While it does provide some background about the people and country, as well as some of the motivations behind the people in the story, it did take me out of the story since I had to wade throug I think my only complaint, if you can even call it a complaint, is that large portions of the book are not exactly about the Ravens. You should stop reading right here if you don't want any spoilers. These large portions I mention are a history/bio of Laos and the Hmong people sprinkled in numerous places. While it does provide some background about the people and country, as well as some of the motivations behind the people in the story, it did take me out of the story since I had to wade through these bits. I am sure the author had their reasons, and I attribute this to the year it was written. Times have changed, as have FOIA requests, I actually wouldn't mind seeing this revisited and revised. Definitely a fascinating subject.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sheila Nielson

    I wanted to read this book because we had just vacationed in Laos and our guide was from the Hmong people. This book tells the story of the ‘unknown’ war that happened in Laos during the better known Vietnam war. I found the book fascinating, but admit that the technical descriptions of airplanes and guns and war grew long and boring to me. Still, I have a greater respect for these brave pilots who dedicated their lives to what would be a losing effort.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fred Fanning

    This is a fast pace exciting book. It covers one military district in the secret war of Laos and the American volunteers that flew as Ravens there. The stories are unbelievable, but ring true of a secret war. The book is well researched with sources in the back of the book. The people outlined in the book are heroic and selfless in their actions. I really enjoyed the book and the information provided about this time period.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Don Soapes

    If you love flying,you will love this book!! Just when you think you have read and know all there is to know about our involvement in Vietnam you find a book like this one that tells a story of a whole other war most of us didn't even know was going on. The history of the Ravens,or forward air controllers,over Laos and Cambodia is a amazing read. If you love flying,you will love this book!! Just when you think you have read and know all there is to know about our involvement in Vietnam you find a book like this one that tells a story of a whole other war most of us didn't even know was going on. The history of the Ravens,or forward air controllers,over Laos and Cambodia is a amazing read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Riki Urabe

    This book is the first book I read about the war in Loas during the Vietnam War and it was a real eye opener. The book is about the Ravens who were FACs in Laos, but the book also provided background to the lead up of the American involvement in Loas. The book also covers the discrimination against the Hmong people, and how they are still in refuge.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Wc Morrison

    Brilliant and Brutal The real story of the Secret War and it's Heroes, the Hmong and the Ravens, Air America, CAS, and the other characters who fought and died in Laos. Thank you for the real story from the men who were there. Heartfelt and moving. A part of US/ Southeast Asia history that should always be remembered. Brilliant and Brutal The real story of the Secret War and it's Heroes, the Hmong and the Ravens, Air America, CAS, and the other characters who fought and died in Laos. Thank you for the real story from the men who were there. Heartfelt and moving. A part of US/ Southeast Asia history that should always be remembered.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ty And

    Fantastic Account of the Laotian Air War Excellent work about a largely ignored part of the US war in Southeast Asia. Robbins does an excellent job weaving together tales of flying dangerous missions with the strategic and political actions placing the pilots’ lives in the line. Highly recommend this well researched and very readable book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    THOMAS RYASKO

    congratulations to JFK always our favorite swimmer and writter executive made commander aviator bush jealous he failed on the right optic outside of mich😂❤❤igan but we will remember he loved the crash into great value one fellow aviator on the eastern side of cata😂lina island in depth still in QUESTION AMOUNT OF INCHES are?WEST OF GUTTENBERG REFRENCE IN THE FANCIEST LAND OF JOHN Deere

  19. 5 out of 5

    Reviews by Alyssia

    As a retired English teacher, with almost 30 years of classroom experience, I tell you this: I can, and others like me can, teach people where to put commas and periods and when to start new paragraphs, but I can't teach creativity. An individual either has it, or not, and Christopher Robbins has it. As a retired English teacher, with almost 30 years of classroom experience, I tell you this: I can, and others like me can, teach people where to put commas and periods and when to start new paragraphs, but I can't teach creativity. An individual either has it, or not, and Christopher Robbins has it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brett G

    Outstanding narrative of a secret war that even now most people don't know about. Robbins really gets into the actions and thoughts of all the pilots involved as well as the history of Laos and the secret war that was waged there. Outstanding narrative of a secret war that even now most people don't know about. Robbins really gets into the actions and thoughts of all the pilots involved as well as the history of Laos and the secret war that was waged there.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chad Montabon

    A sound book, very well researched with a lot of information I believe available no where else. There is an in-depth analysis of Van Pao (at least during the war years) and several Laotian soldiers and pilots that I also have not found anywhere else.

  22. 5 out of 5

    John Hales

    This is a brilliant depiction of weary, incredibly brave pilots flying at the sharp edge of conflict. It brings back bad memories and the anger forged by a mis-led dance in a quag mire.

  23. 5 out of 5

    joel gardner

    Amazing One heck of a read. As true story. Heroism but great sadness. Shameful ending of the war by U S

  24. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    Amazing bit of history you will not necessarily learn in school.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Judy Weihe

    Well written I wish I could of shared this book with my brother who flew many missions in F4s out of Udor. He was also a hero of Vietnam and Laos.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Read this years ago, was very good and interesting.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    Detailed! This book was a slow read for me. There is tons and tons of detail, and at times it was exhausting to read. But it was a great narrative!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Metcalf

    Great Read. Well prepared and presented. From a Project 404 guy, thank all Ravens for showing us a view of our Secret War. Till we meet again at Charley Bar or the White Rose...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    Great book about an under-valued part of military aviation.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Derek Baker

    These are stories about gutsy pilots flying for the CIA in America's secret war in Laos. But the book is as much or more about the Hmong people who we used and discarded in the War in Vietnam. It's probably worth reading for that story alone. Because of the background on the Hmong, Ravens added meaning to the movie Gran Torino for me. It was also fascinating to read details of what went on in the secret base, Long Tieng, in Laos. This is the mysterious hidden base where Halliday (Flying Through These are stories about gutsy pilots flying for the CIA in America's secret war in Laos. But the book is as much or more about the Hmong people who we used and discarded in the War in Vietnam. It's probably worth reading for that story alone. Because of the background on the Hmong, Ravens added meaning to the movie Gran Torino for me. It was also fascinating to read details of what went on in the secret base, Long Tieng, in Laos. This is the mysterious hidden base where Halliday (Flying Through Midnight) makes his miraculous blacked-out emergency landing, and is surprised to find himself alive and in the hands of the CIA.There's a fairly long Vietnam War background section in the middle of the book. It's important, but I bogged down reading it as it was so many names and dates that I found it very difficult to retain sequences of events. I took a break and it was well worth returning to read the end of the story of the Hmong.

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