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Flying Through Midnight: A Pilot's Dramatic Story of His Secret Missions Over Laos During the Vietnam War

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Riveting, novelistic, and startlingly candid, John T. Halliday's combat memoir begins in 1970, when Halliday has just landed in the middle of the Vietnam War, primed to begin his assignment with the 606th Special Operations Squadron. But there's a catch: He's stationed in a kind of no-man's-land. No one on his base flies with ID, patches, or rank. Even as Richard Nixon fir Riveting, novelistic, and startlingly candid, John T. Halliday's combat memoir begins in 1970, when Halliday has just landed in the middle of the Vietnam War, primed to begin his assignment with the 606th Special Operations Squadron. But there's a catch: He's stationed in a kind of no-man's-land. No one on his base flies with ID, patches, or rank. Even as Richard Nixon firmly denies reporters' charges that the United States has forces in Laos, Halliday realizes that from his base in Thailand, he will be flying top-secret, black-ops night missions over the Laotian Ho Chi Minh Trail. A naive yet thoughtful twenty-four-year-old, Halliday was utterly unprepared for the horrors of war. On his first mission, Halliday's C-123 aircraft dodges more than a thousand antiaircraft shells, and that is just the beginning. Nothing is as he expected -- not the operations, not the way his shell-shocked fellow pilots look and act, and certainly not the squadron's daredevil, seat-of-one's-pants approach to piloting. But before long, Halliday has become one of those seasoned and shell-shocked pilots, and finds himself in a desperate search for a way to elude certain death. Using frank, true-to-life dialogue, potent imagery, and classic 1970s song lyrics, Halliday deftly describes the fraught Laotian skies and re-creates his struggle to navigate the frustrating Air Force bureaucracy, the deprivations of a remote base far from home and his young wife, and his fight to preserve his sanity. The resulting nonfiction narrative vividly captures not only the intricate, distorted culture of war but also the essence of the Vietnam veteran's experience of this troubled era. A powerhouse fusion of pathos and humor, brutal realism and intimate reflection, "Flying Through Midnight" is a landmark contribution to war literature, revealing previously top-secret intelligence on the 606th's night missions. Fast-paced, thrilling, and bitingly intelligent, Halliday illuminates it all: the heart-pounding air battles, the close friendships, the crippling fear, and the astonishing final escape that made the telling of it possible.


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Riveting, novelistic, and startlingly candid, John T. Halliday's combat memoir begins in 1970, when Halliday has just landed in the middle of the Vietnam War, primed to begin his assignment with the 606th Special Operations Squadron. But there's a catch: He's stationed in a kind of no-man's-land. No one on his base flies with ID, patches, or rank. Even as Richard Nixon fir Riveting, novelistic, and startlingly candid, John T. Halliday's combat memoir begins in 1970, when Halliday has just landed in the middle of the Vietnam War, primed to begin his assignment with the 606th Special Operations Squadron. But there's a catch: He's stationed in a kind of no-man's-land. No one on his base flies with ID, patches, or rank. Even as Richard Nixon firmly denies reporters' charges that the United States has forces in Laos, Halliday realizes that from his base in Thailand, he will be flying top-secret, black-ops night missions over the Laotian Ho Chi Minh Trail. A naive yet thoughtful twenty-four-year-old, Halliday was utterly unprepared for the horrors of war. On his first mission, Halliday's C-123 aircraft dodges more than a thousand antiaircraft shells, and that is just the beginning. Nothing is as he expected -- not the operations, not the way his shell-shocked fellow pilots look and act, and certainly not the squadron's daredevil, seat-of-one's-pants approach to piloting. But before long, Halliday has become one of those seasoned and shell-shocked pilots, and finds himself in a desperate search for a way to elude certain death. Using frank, true-to-life dialogue, potent imagery, and classic 1970s song lyrics, Halliday deftly describes the fraught Laotian skies and re-creates his struggle to navigate the frustrating Air Force bureaucracy, the deprivations of a remote base far from home and his young wife, and his fight to preserve his sanity. The resulting nonfiction narrative vividly captures not only the intricate, distorted culture of war but also the essence of the Vietnam veteran's experience of this troubled era. A powerhouse fusion of pathos and humor, brutal realism and intimate reflection, "Flying Through Midnight" is a landmark contribution to war literature, revealing previously top-secret intelligence on the 606th's night missions. Fast-paced, thrilling, and bitingly intelligent, Halliday illuminates it all: the heart-pounding air battles, the close friendships, the crippling fear, and the astonishing final escape that made the telling of it possible.

30 review for Flying Through Midnight: A Pilot's Dramatic Story of His Secret Missions Over Laos During the Vietnam War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Liam

    I can't believe I left this book sitting in a box for more than six months after I got it... This is one of the best flying stories I've ever read, right up there with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Ernest K. Gann. I can't believe I left this book sitting in a box for more than six months after I got it... This is one of the best flying stories I've ever read, right up there with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Ernest K. Gann.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Theophilus (Theo)

    I love this book. Halliday provides much insight into the total mechanisms of what goes through a military person's mind and the sometimes ridiculous military bureaucracy/autocracy that affects not only how the mission is performed, but also how it affects the peole who are on the line performing it. Speaking of the upper echelon during the Vietnam war, Halliday posits, "... have forgotten their proper role in American society. They've become a law unto themselves. ... They've forgotten they se I love this book. Halliday provides much insight into the total mechanisms of what goes through a military person's mind and the sometimes ridiculous military bureaucracy/autocracy that affects not only how the mission is performed, but also how it affects the peole who are on the line performing it. Speaking of the upper echelon during the Vietnam war, Halliday posits, "... have forgotten their proper role in American society. They've become a law unto themselves. ... They've forgotten they serve the people." He continues, "They've forgotten that civil disobedience, free speech, and the right of assembly are constitutional basics they swore an oath uphold. They feel those kids gunned down at Kent State 'got what they deserved'." Halliday also sheds some much-needed light on the fact that historians and the media alike have chosen to ignore the fact that hundreds of Americans fought, and some gave the supreme sacrifice, from bases in Thailand, particularly in engagements in Laos and Cambodia. His description of NKP was right on the money. Extremely well-written. Interesting from cover-to-cover. A non-fiction page-turner. Thank you John Halliday.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Noah W

    Interesting books about secret air missions in Laos during the Vietnam War. 1. It was interesting to see the tension between the pilots who were thrown into a crazy arena and the "Desktops," administrative paper pushers. 2. The book shows the transition of a man who was began as a textbook pilot and turned into a maverick who could take calculated risks. 3. A few passages showed the math/technical side of flying in layman's terms and opened up the world of flying in ways that I knew existed, but wa Interesting books about secret air missions in Laos during the Vietnam War. 1. It was interesting to see the tension between the pilots who were thrown into a crazy arena and the "Desktops," administrative paper pushers. 2. The book shows the transition of a man who was began as a textbook pilot and turned into a maverick who could take calculated risks. 3. A few passages showed the math/technical side of flying in layman's terms and opened up the world of flying in ways that I knew existed, but was ignorant of. 4. I was impressed by how much they could accomplish without computers or GPS, relying on pencils, a compass, altimeter, and poor maps. 5. Great for seeing how people are resourceful and think outside the box! My takeaway: Some of my favorite work experiences have been when the leader told me and anyone with me to essentially: "Get the job done as long as it is ethical, moral, and you get back alive." As much as I like my paperwork and forms, good leaders know how to trust their men to get the job done.

  4. 5 out of 5

    William Bentrim

    Flying Through Midnight by John T. Halliday The reality of this book is depressing. Depressing because once again we have failed to learn from our history. The story of a young man and the country that sent him into harm’s way with inadequate tools and superiors has been repeated ad nauseum for centuries. Old men send young men to fight battles they are too infirm to fight and too greedy to ignore. Author Halliday was fortunate to survive a maelstrom that ground up 58,000 of his peers. His experi Flying Through Midnight by John T. Halliday The reality of this book is depressing. Depressing because once again we have failed to learn from our history. The story of a young man and the country that sent him into harm’s way with inadequate tools and superiors has been repeated ad nauseum for centuries. Old men send young men to fight battles they are too infirm to fight and too greedy to ignore. Author Halliday was fortunate to survive a maelstrom that ground up 58,000 of his peers. His experiences in dealing with the entrenched “Desktops” and the ennui of entrenched bureaucrats was many times hard to read. I suspect that to truly appreciate the book, I would need to be a pilot and veteran and I am neither. I do know that friends who endured Vietnam were forever changed. This book sadly reinforced some of the stories that I heard from un-diagnosed PTSD friends. It is a book worth reading and hopefully, at some point, we will start to learn our history and stop repeating it. I recommend the book. Web:www.flyingthroughmidnight.com

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kaila Walker

    This was the first military/war book that I ever read. Its a great story and it served as a gateway book for me into the genre. The language was strong and even offensive at times which is why I'm not going to recommend it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    This book was an easy read. It focused on the authors Adventures as a pilot in Laos in a secret Air Force Squadron. It was really easy to read like I said and I really enjoyed it. And I do recommend this book for anybody who wants the general idea of what it is to fly an antique airplane in a war 30 years after it was designed

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bob Reisinger

    Great read. I never really new my dad buy this kind of writing helps me understand why he couldn’t live a normal life. Thanks Mr Halliday for sharing your story and for having the stamina to get it published.

  8. 5 out of 5

    James Pratt

    terrible. surprised this was allegedly written by a pilot...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Sergi

    Great story telling, but not sure I believe it all happened as it’s told.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Josh Chambers

    Entertaining, especially as audio book. Some insight into crew aircraft issues.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Selah

    AMAZING story!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Seth Nelson

    Very well written.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Steve Oglesbee

    I have read many books about Vietnam and flying there, mostly helicopters but this one is about a USAF/CIA fixed wing group. Once I began, I realized there was something different, unique about this book and its writer. This is a riveting book on many, many different levels. From a historical perspective it is presented as true and believable. From a book related to the Vietnam experience, it is recognizable but not what many knew about. However, it is the writing style and content that is capti I have read many books about Vietnam and flying there, mostly helicopters but this one is about a USAF/CIA fixed wing group. Once I began, I realized there was something different, unique about this book and its writer. This is a riveting book on many, many different levels. From a historical perspective it is presented as true and believable. From a book related to the Vietnam experience, it is recognizable but not what many knew about. However, it is the writing style and content that is captivating. I read it in two nights, unable to put it down until I literally fell asleep while fighting to stay awake. At many points in the book I felt as though I didn't know up from down or whether anything I was reading was real or not. The author does that through his writing because the events and experiences described are written that way. One has the feeling that, at the time described, the author didn't either. One is almost literally in that time and space when reading. Even if one does not care for historically based books about war or Vietnam, this one, I believe, will still be fascinating to the reader.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dalton

    Just to start off, THIS BOOK IS AMAZING!!!!! Normally I hate non-fiction books because they are just straight forward facts but not this book. Plus it was written almost as an autobiography because the author actually was the pilot in the book so he's not necessarily a great writer with great writing skills. He did in this because it is a really well structured story that is interesting. Warning this book is about war and written by a war veteran so there is some cussing involved but he also us Just to start off, THIS BOOK IS AMAZING!!!!! Normally I hate non-fiction books because they are just straight forward facts but not this book. Plus it was written almost as an autobiography because the author actually was the pilot in the book so he's not necessarily a great writer with great writing skills. He did in this because it is a really well structured story that is interesting. Warning this book is about war and written by a war veteran so there is some cussing involved but he also uses words like refiguring, excursions, intervened, adrenaline, mournfully, and addiction. I would even give this book six stars if I could. He wrote so well I felt as if he could be talking to Wiley (a friend he made there) trying to convince him to get the plane out of the range of the cannons right in front of me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    strange writing

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susie Shields

    Picked up this book from a recommendation by a pilot. His words were "I stayed up all night reading it!" I didn't think the subject matter (Vietnam conflict) would interest me as much as it did. Flying Through Midnight was as thrilling a book as I have ever read and it did keep me up all night! This is a cathartic account of the author's experiences as a pilot in 1970 during the conflict. He was stationed in a top secret military base in Laos where he flew harrowing missions. His retelling is on Picked up this book from a recommendation by a pilot. His words were "I stayed up all night reading it!" I didn't think the subject matter (Vietnam conflict) would interest me as much as it did. Flying Through Midnight was as thrilling a book as I have ever read and it did keep me up all night! This is a cathartic account of the author's experiences as a pilot in 1970 during the conflict. He was stationed in a top secret military base in Laos where he flew harrowing missions. His retelling is one that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Even if you don't think the subject matter will interest you - I would bet you'd love this read!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kwoomac

    i think I'm almost done with my Vietnam period. This book was written by a air force pilot who was sent to Vietnam in 1970. While the author did describe his time and activities, he spent much more time discussing the bureaucracy and the incompetence of management. In a way, this was more depressing as decisions were made by admin around what would help their own careers while ignoring the ramifications on others. The writing was okay, his desciptions fairly easy to follow, and he and his bunch i think I'm almost done with my Vietnam period. This book was written by a air force pilot who was sent to Vietnam in 1970. While the author did describe his time and activities, he spent much more time discussing the bureaucracy and the incompetence of management. In a way, this was more depressing as decisions were made by admin around what would help their own careers while ignoring the ramifications on others. The writing was okay, his desciptions fairly easy to follow, and he and his bunch of cronies were likeable.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    While traveling to Laos recently to look for pilots who are missing in action from the vietnam war, I picked up a couple books on the airwar in Laos to better understand what was going on there. This was an excellent story. There were times when he started to lose the thread of the story, but when he brought everything around for the conclusion, it was worth the wait. I also really enjoyed his personal epilogue as he detailed how he almost gave up ever seeing this book published.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Derek Baker

    Secret missions over Laos during Viet Nam War. A great flying story, now “declassified”. Author gets off on some kooky philosophy in a few places. (A couple of times I wondered whether I’d really want to fly with him.) A compelling read. The secret air base where he survives a night landing shows up in another book I'm reading -- so good context.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Adam Christian

    This is one of the best books I've read in years. Highly readable. The writer thinks like I do. His describing his psyche and dealing with stress is friendly and amazing. Better the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    This was a very interesting first hand insight into the author's war experiences. After about page 100, I couldn't put this book down! I spent several nights up until 2 am reading! Great book- even if you aren't into war stories.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    Great book. As a child I lived in the village near NKP for a while during the war. This book gave me some insight into what my father was doing at NKP, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jared

    Great book!!! I love memoirs especially ones about pilots.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Excellent book covering the activities that "never happened" over Laos during the Vietnam War. A must-read for any Vietnam buff.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bob Zimmermann

    A true story, one of the best books to come out of the Vietnam war era well told story from a viewpoint seldom seen. Could hardly put it down

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robert Marshall

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marc

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily Bryant

  29. 4 out of 5

    TJ

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ralph

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