With today's technology of satellite imagery, global positioning, and unmanned
aerial systems, Jim Hooper reminds us that in Vietnam reconnaissance was
performed by real live aviators flying low-level over enemy
Hooper's style of writing quickly captures the reader's interest.
Much better organized and edited than most unit accounts, Hooper's book is
highly descriptive. This is an account of close-up war fighting. It is a
book about young aviators performing their missions in frail airplanes who
withstood terrifying experiences on a daily basis. Pilots tell, in their
own words, how they managed to cope with the situation and took off every
morning, well aware that the enemy was waiting for them.
-On Point, Army Historical foundation
A handful of aviation memoirs from the Vietnam War truly stand out. Jack
Broughtons Thud Ridge details the extraordinary courage of US Air force
pilots facing North Vietnams deadly air defenses. Robert Masons
Chickenhawk carries the reader on a gut-wrenching journey from flight school
to helicopter assaults under heavy enemy fire. The Ravens by Christopher
Robbins reveals the CIAs secret war in Laos. Taking its place among
these classics is Jim Hoopers A Hundred Feet Over Hell, the story of
the 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company. The Catkillers flew100mph
Cessnas from Phu Bai and Dong Ha to cover the Ashau Valley and DMZ, where,
within range of every enemy weapon on the battlefield, they called in artillery
and air strikes to support army and marine units fighting the NVA. In these
days of unmanned Predators and Reapers, it is astonishing to learn that the
Catkiller FACs even took their single-engine Bird Dogs into North Vietnam
in search of targets. For those interested in military aviation and tales
of raw heroism, A Hundred Feet Over Hell is a must read.
Hooper examines various combat encounters from many points of view to build
detailed composite pictures of events. And he delves deeply into the emotions
and bonds that held the unit together, recounting amusing afterhours high
jinks, the grim humor of wartime, and the washing away of a day's stress
in that universal solvent, alcohol. The best thing about the book is
that-conversational re-creations notwithstanding-every page rings true, and
with very rare exception, names are named. Writing fearlessly and with an
artfulness that few others have managed, Hooper has captured the ironies,
the buccaneer's ethos, and the rhythms of men at war. Thirty years ago, Robert
Mason published Chickenhawk, a classic personal account of Vietnam helicopter
operations that is still as potent as a satchel charge. I'd rank A Hundred
Feet Over Hell right up there with it.
-Air & Space/Smithsonian
If you're an experienced combat pilot, you'll feel a kinship with the young
men in the book. If you're not, you'll come away with a renewed appreciation
for their trials, successes, and even failures. This is a book I highly
-Walt Shiel, Cessna Warbirds.com
A "day at the office" in this outfit usually began with low-level spotting
of NVA movement and calling in and adjusting artillery
they were also
authorized to call in air strikes, which required marking the target at great
personal risk. Mix in bad weather, a unit in close contact, and it really
-Jim Perry, Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association
This book is most revealing of the hazards faced by the pilots and spotters
who flew the Bird Dogs in Vietnam. It reveals their bravery, their vital
concern over their fellow soldiers, many of whom they saved from a certain
death or capture! The first hand accounts by those who flew and were there
is outstanding! Highly recommended.
-Joe Noah, Preddy Memorial Foundation
their exploits were the stuff [of] myth
and what they accomplished
defied comprehension and belief.
-One of Life's Simple Pleasures-A Good Book
History, flying, real time experiences with focused dedicated individuals
makes for an engrossing story of men doing a job seldom heard about by the
general public. The author puts you in the front seat of the Bird Dog, out
on the front lines, taking enemy fire and staying to ensure that air and/or
artillery support gave relief to the troops on the edge of being overrun
and killed. Hats off to tireless, fearless warriors doing their job. Buy
the book, tighten your seat belt, and enjoy the flight!
-Dan O'Brien, lastflighthome.org
This book shows a part of the Vietnam War that I didn't even know existed.
Fascinating to read and hard to put down, this is easily one of my favorite
books to date.
The book recounts
combat missions flown
over the DMZ, one of
history's deadliest combat zones, helping to save the lives of countless
U.S. ground troops during their tour.
The book is rife with examples of indescribable courage and bravery of our
armed forces in the Vietnam-Laos Wars. It also describes the young men's
wild lifestyles on their days off. Understanding the men who flew the Bird
Dog as forward air controllers is as touching as it is exciting.
-North Platte Bulletin
These young pilots strapped on their little Cessna's and flew, always at
slow speeds and often at altitudes of 200 feet or less, looking for and finding
enemy troops before they could attack the American ground forces. Hooper
sure put me in the cockpit!
-The Free Library
From 1968-1969, a select group of aviators strapped into the cockpits of
their two-seat, propeller-driven airplanes and went to war in Vietnam. As
forward observers, they flew hundreds of feet above one of the deadliest
battlefields in modern history, all in an airplane no larger than a small
pickup truck. In the process, they saved the lives of thousands of American
servicemen. Now, their story is told in A Hundred Feet Over Hell.
The book recounts harrowing combat missions
over the DMZ, one of history's
deadliest combat zones, helping to save the lives of countless U.S. ground
-Bill Thompson, Post and Courier
[G]uys in their early 20s were given an incredibly difficult and dangerous
they accepted that the risks were justified to support and protect
the lives of the Army and Marine infantry on the ground.
the Catkillers, flew below the mountain tops, low over the jungle,
at night, in monsoon downpours, into the DMZ and even North Vietnam, getting
far less notice than their jet brethren or the helicopter pilots who became
synonymous with Vietnam. For anyone who wants a great story, who wants to
learn about another aspect of the Vietnam War, or wants to read about a
hair-raising aviation arena, A Hundred Feet Over Hell has it all.
-Flip Colmer LCDR USN (Ret)
I was with the 2nd Bn 3rd Marines during the time frame covered by this book.
[The] descriptions of places and events are so vivid that I felt I was back
on Foxtrot ridge. If you were there you need to read this book.
-Michael Owens - Amazon.com
Very few books capture my
attention enough to read them through without
stopping. A Hundred Feet Over Hell is one of those. As a retired military
professional and Army aviator of a more recent era, I am simply amazed and
deeply impressed at the hair raising feats these Army FACs and their Marine
observers accomplished over and across the DMZ on a daily basis with their
small and frail O-1 Bird Dogs, a few marking rockets, M-16s, grenades, radios
and a map. It's the stuff of legend and a proud legacy for all current and
future warriors to be inspired by.
-Chuck Fletcher, Amazon.com
If you were in Vietnam as a "grunt" or an aviator this is a book you need
to read. It's both a history and a tribute to a unique group of young men
who did incredible things with their small, slow planes while supporting
our troops on the ground.
-John Castro, Amazon.com
In this book
there is a universal truth: warriors don't fight for their
country or flag, they fight for each other, often going far beyond what their
-Lance W. Lord, General, USAF (ret)
a classic story of war and close combat. From hell-raising antics in
the clubs and bars to hair-raising combat operations, where death was often
only inches away, this is a must read. For those who have never "seen the
elephant", this might be hard to understand; those who have will instantly
identify with the actions of their fellow warriors. Flying an unarmored aircraft
well within the effective range of every enemy weapon on the battlefield
to protect the grunts in close combat takes a special breed of heroes. This
book chronicles the exploits of such men.
-Gary L. Harrell, LTGEN, USA (ret)
This is a story about the warrior spirit that has existed in our fighting
forces since the birth of our nation. Jim Hooper has nailed this small piece
of the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of the Bird Dog pilots of the
220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company. It is a moving tribute to the men
that flew these small aircraft with skill, courage, determination and a whole
lot of brass.
-Mike Seely BG (ret) 74th RAC '65-'66; 245th SAC '68-'69
Jim Hooper's gripping account of the legendary Catkillers of the 220th Recon
shows us the spirit and ethos of American warriors.
It's about the sheer guts, ingenuity, compassion, and humor of those who
serve in defense of freedom
-Brigadier General Robert H. Holmes USAF
I flew A-4 Skyhawks out of Chu Lai, and then Bird Dogs with the VMO-6
Fingerprints at Quang Tri for the second half of my tour. [This is] a magnificent
job of presenting the deadly environment faced by everyone who flew in I
"Nomad" - Jim Lawrence, LTCOL, USMC (Ret)
I find I have to read parts over and over again because my mind fades away
as I reminisce. Having been in a grunt unit and in 3rd Force Recon in I Corps,
I felt truly a part of the pictures
provided me with
a 'verbal flashback' that made me breath harder and brought a tear to my
eye. Hooper does a remarkable job of providing the sights and sounds of a
unit in trouble.
-Tom Wilson, 3rd Force Recon
If you enjoy war movies and stories, I highly recommend this book. And if
you are a history buff, especially if you're interested in the Vietnam War,
I'd say this is a must read. The first-person accounts make you feel like
you're part of the action!
Had Hooper written A Hundred Feet Over Hell when he first heard his
brothers stories of life with the Catkillers, it might have ended with
Bill Hoopers bewilderment at having had someone spit on him because
he had done his duty. Time has passed, however, and Hooper was able to give
us post scripts to the combat lives of the men he interviewed. Many of those
men have been able to put the emotional scars of war behind them to become
successful attorneys and businessmen. Bill Hooper is now the President of
a food equipment sales company. Reading of the lives of the Catkillers after
the Vietnam conflict may be the source of my greatest pleasure in reading
A Hundred Feet Over Hell is the dramatic story of a few men who fought in
a war that I am sure that they did not understand at the time. The book presents
the Vietnam conflict as it was experienced, both the good and the bad, by
the Catkillers. The conflict in Vietnam, like every other conflict in which
human life is lost, will always be an ugly conflict, but the heroism of some
of its participants and their will to survive against all odds is inspiring.
Until I picked up A Hundred Feet Over Hell, I had never heard of the Catkillers.
Now I will never forget them.
Some accounts of war play on our emotions in a very intentional way, striving
to send the obvious message that war is hell. Others glorify
war. A Hundred Feet Over Hell does neither. It simply tells the soldiers
stories, very personal stories of courage, fear, grief, and pride in a job
well done, in what David Mitchell aptly called a concise but literate
style. This is an important work of contemporary history and a powerful
tribute to men who devoted themselves to protecting their brethren.