Triumphant Warrior...

...The Legend of the Navy's Most Daring Helicopter Pilot, from Casemate Books

Title:  Triumphant Warrior

Author: Peter D. Shay

Publisher:  Casemate Books

ISBN:  978-1-61200-763-2

Among my own particular interests is the Vietnam War, a period which was happening while I was in my teens. In this particular case it tells us the story of Allen 'Wes' Weseleskey and his deployment to Vietnam with the establishment of HA(L)3, the Seawolves, the first US Navy helicopter unit to be established in Vietnam.

The story takes us through the beginnings of the unit, and the training the personnel went through even prior to being sent to Vietnam. This had to be done with the assistance of the US Army, who had the experienced helicopter crews who were able to train them. Once there, this US Navy squadron were to support the naval units involved with the riverine forces operating throughout the Mekong Delta. They were hosted on an airbase they shared with the army for major servicing and indeed for the initial supply of helicopters. These early machine were well worn and underpowered UH-1B models and they were to be used as gunships. The other particular feature of the navy unit though was that they also operated from some old, converted WW2 era LSTs, so they were close to the units they were supporting. The story goes on as he had problems with the command structure and he took on important roles with training new crews and as Safety Officer.

A significant part of the story is that of the Tet Offensive attacks on their Vung Tau airfield base in 1968, and with many individual accounts of what happened that night. Not long after 'Wes' was flying in support of an ARVN operation in the Delta, a unit with an American Advisor, who were ambushed by a large NVA unit. It tells us of how Wes Weseleskey, despite his helo having been hit by groundfire was still determined to go in and pick up the badly wounded American though again with a bit of controversy despite the successful evacuation of the casualty. A nice touch is that it is all rounded off with details of how the careers of the main characters who were involved turned out.

An interesting book to read and a good mix of aspects of the war highlighted by the story.

Published by Casemate Books, who kindly provided my review copy.

Robin