The Phantom Vietnam War
David R. “Buff” Honodel was a cocky young man with an inflated
self-image when he arrived in 1969 at his base in Udorn, Thailand. His
war was not in Vietnam; it was a secret one in the skies of a
neighboring country almost unknown in America, attacking the Ho Chi Minh
Trail that fed soldiers and supplies from North Vietnam into the South.
Stateside he learned the art of flying the F-4, but in combat, the
bomb-loaded fighter handled differently, targets shot back, and people
suffered. Inert training ordnance was replaced by lethal weapons. In the
air, a routine day mission turned into an unexpected duel with a deadly
adversary. Complacency during a long night mission escorting a gunship
almost led to death. A best friend died just before New Year’s. A RF-4
crashed into the base late in Buff’s tour of duty.
The reader will experience Buff’s war from the cockpit of a supersonic
F-4D Phantom II, doing 5-G pullouts after dropping six 500-pound bombs
on trucks hidden beneath triple jungle canopy. These were well defended
by a skillful, elusive, determined enemy firing back with 37mm
anti-aircraft fire and tracers in the sky. The man who left the States
was a naïve, self-centered young pilot. The man who came back 137
missions later was much different.
“The Phantom Vietnam War will be the standard against which other
memoirs are measured—Honodel is one hell of a good pilot and a great
storyteller.” —–Earl H. Tilford, author of Crosswinds: The Air Force