Unforgotten in the Gulf of Tonkin
On November 18, 1965, U.S. Navy pilot Willie Sharp ejected from his F-8 fighter after being hit over a target in North Vietnam. With a cloud layer beneath him, he did not know if he was over land—where he would most certainly be captured or killed by the North Vietnamese—or over the Gulf of Tonkin. As he ejected, both navy and air force aircraft were already heading toward him to help.
What followed was a dramatic rescue made by pilots and other airmen with little or no training or experience in combat search and rescue. Told by a former military flight test engineer, Eileen A. Bjorkman, this story includes nail-biting descriptions of air combat, flight, and rescue. Bjorkman places Sharp’s story in the larger context of the U.S. military’s bedrock credo—No Man Left Behind—and calls attention to the more than eighty thousand Americans still missing from conflicts since World War I. She also explores the devastating aftershocks of the Vietnam War as Sharp struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Woven into this gripping tale is a fascinating history of combat search-and-rescue missions that officially began in World War II. Combining the cockiness and camaraderie of Top Gun with the heroics of Sully, Unforgotten in the Gulf of Tonkin is a riveting tale of combat rescue and an unforgettable story about the U.S. military’s commitment to leave no man behind.
Reviews“Bjorkman has written not only a superb account of one navy pilot’s rescue during Vietnam but also the histories of the F-8 Crusader, naval air training, air/sea rescue, aircraft carrier operations, psychological after-effects of combat, and the American ethos of everyone leaving combat arenas. Bjorkman deftly weaves these diverse topics into one cohesive story centered on Willie Sharp’s ejection and rescue on November 18, 1965. A gripping tale and marvelous history.”—Col. Scott A. Willey, USAF (Ret.), book review editor for Air Power History
(Col. Scott A. Willey 2020-03-02)
“Eileen Bjorkman masterfully blends the saga of the daring, heroic rescue of a downed fighter pilot in the Vietnam War with a history of the military air rescue mission whose brave men and women selflessly fulfilled its motto ‘That Others May Live.’ . . . A fascinating read.”—Gen. John Michael Loh, USAF (Ret.), former commander of Air Combat Command and fighter pilot in the Vietnam War
(Gen. John Michael Loh 2020-03-02)
“Unforgotten in the Gulf of Tonkin is a tale well-told, a true page-turner. Much as writers like Walter Isaacson and David McCullough make history come alive, Eileen Bjorkman’s narrative grips the reader and causes him or her yearn to know what happens next. Put this book on your short list—you won’t be disappointed.”—Capt. George Galdorisi, U.S. Navy (Ret.), author of Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue
(Capt. George Galdorisi 2020-03-02)