No Reason For Dying
By Horace Coleman (reviewer)
No Reason for Dying:
A Reluctant Combat Pilot's Confession of Hypocrisy, Infidelity and War
Brian H. Settles
(BookSurge Publishing, 2009)
Brian Settles is a Nam vet fighter/bomber jock. He was an F4C GIB (Guy in the Back) when the Air Force hadn't yet decided it was cheaper to lose a pilot and a navigator than two pilots if a plane went down.
[Disclaimer: I know this guy. We've been e-mail buddies for years. The last time I saw him in the flesh was during a lay over in LA when he was still flying for an airline--and writing this memoir. - HC]
Settles grew up in Muncie, Indiana. I grew up a few hours drive east in Ohio and visited Muncie often to visit an aunt. Both places were pretty much same same. Both of us were young lieutenants in Nam.
He partied in the DOOM (Da Nang Officers Open Mess). After being so bored out of my mind below the Mekong Delta that I asked for a transfer to Dong Ha, my CO sent me to the land of the TOOM (Tan Son Nhut). I spent my time hooking up fighter bombers-carrying the same ordnance Settles' bird was putting on targets in northern South Vietnam and southern North Vietnam-with airborne forward air traffic controllers.
When I left Nam, I was credited with 99 aircraft saves and rescues. Settles flew 199 missions and spent dangerous hours ducking AA fire by the time his tour ended. I'd been back in "the world" less than two months when Martin Luther King was assassinated.
Settles was still stateside but would be Nam bound in a few months. The day King was killed, he overheard a couple of instructor pilots at Davis-Monthan AFB talking about the murder. One said to the other "Well, he was asking for it."
Brian Settles has the same parentage as Barack Obama--white mother, black father. He was adopted at an early age by a black couple, grew up in a black neighborhood, excelled at high school basketball (until a career ending injury), then entered a local college, joined ROTC, went on active duty and successfully completed flight school.
The death of pilots he met in flight school and squadron mates are mixed together with descriptions of combat missions, hangin' with black EMs in Da Nang, down time in the O Club, "comfort sex" and the feelings a black troop could have about being in Nam while the Civil Rights war "back in the world" raged and blazed:
"I read the daily headlines of the Stars and Stripes and witness the delayed news accounts of the cities burning..."
"... It leaves me feeling I sold out on remaining at home to fight for racial justice and equality."
"When the words gook, slope-heads, slant-eyes are spoken, I hear nigger."
"We are guests in this country, ostensibly fighting to preserve democracy for the South Vietnamese against communist aggression, but what about our aggression, our condescension toward even our allies? Do we have a franchise to come here and call these people dumb zips or stupid gooks....?"
"... Are we justified staring down our noses at these people who were cultivating their civilization a thousand years before America was born?"
Vietnam was a different war for every person depending on MOS and what year and Corps you were in. Nevertheless, any where you go, you take you with you. And, leave some self there. And take some "there" here.
Same same Iraq and Afghanistan? Or Pakistan?
An interesting Epilogue tells what some of the people Settles grew up with or met in flight school or Nam did in later life.
Horace Coleman was an Air Force air traffic controller / intercept director in Vietnam (1967-68). He also served in Tactical Air Command, Pacific Air Command and North American Air Defense. He speaks at grade schools, high schools and churches and lives in Long Beach, CA.