YEAR OF THE SNAKE

ONE HELICOPTER PILOT'S STORY OF A YEAR IN VIETNAM'S MEKONG DELTA

BOOK REVIEW

 



Bailey Jones did what we all wish we had done in the war. He took notes, and every night of his 300 days in-country, he wrote in his journal. There was little, if anything, that he missed. Bailey held back none of his punches. That was the way it was on that particular day at that time in his life.

Most poignant and revealing, perhaps, are Bailey Jones entries about Captain Carl Socrates Miller, the Cobra Lead who should not have been. Captain Miller was a soft-spoken Tennessee gentleman who didn't drink, didn't cuss, and he hated to kill Viet Cong. Captain Miller would rather capture VC at helicopter gunpoint and have his gunners take them into custody. It worked a few times. But Carl Socrates Miller was not a warrior and one day, outside a village in the Mekong Delta, it caught up with him.

Year of the Snake is about a small band of dauntless young aviators sent to Vietnam to do a job and not to reason why. They did their job, insulated from the awful carnage only for the moments they floated high over the wide and majestic Mekong countryside, until they were forced to light into that low-level hell of battle called "The Delta." There was something eerily seductive in the proximity of beauty and horror. Above reality and defying gravity, Bailey and his fellow Cobras became one with their machines, flying by the sway of their bodies leaning into the wind like a bird. The gunners, with an adrenaline flush that comes with the rip of an arcade laser, learned to kill from the sky and not look back on what was their horrible soldierly duty.

In "Year of the Snake," Bailey Jones records the essence of their time in the crucible, in their "goddamed war" when young men barely in their twenties came of age and, overnight, became so much older. They quickly became warriors or they died. And sometimes, the warriors died, too.


Review Written by: Steve Stibbens
Email:
(steve@stibbens.com)
Vietnam War Correspondent, 1962-67
Author of "Reflections on the Bloody Mekong"
A history of the war in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.


Additional Review:  
Charles Buckley


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