Based on audiotapes he recorded during the war and sent home to his family, Randy Zahn's Snake Pilot recounts his experiences flying AH-1 Cobra helicopters during the Vietnam War. Unlike the pilots who flew the fast-moving strike jets, Zahn experienced the war "up close and personal," witnessing the grisly effects of the Cobra's firepower on enemy soldiers. He does not glorify killing but rather explains in sharp relief the kaleidoscope of emotions associated with combat and displays a sensitivity rarely found in memoirs written by battle-hardened warriors.
""Snake Pilot" puts you in the seat of one of the most awesome weapons of the Vietnam War: the Huey Cobra gunship. In short, [Zahn's] book chronicles the AH-1 at its point of maximum impact. It also is a telling tale of modern war: a story of how a naive middle-class kid from the suburbs is transformed by the pathos of war. This is the best memoir to date on the air war in Vietnam."
Evidently, the publisher's printing press has a maximum number of pages that it can print in a book of this size. Regrettably, Randy was forced to cut major portions from the original manuscript that detailed more than the actions of a cobra pilot. In spite of this, Randy has completed the impossible task: He has documented the details correctly, and has also caught the tone, captured the frustration, and has put into writing what it was like to be a very young cobra pilot in Charlie Troop, 1/9 Cav. This is personal. This is a personal account; with all of the personal feelings and interactions that one is expected to have in combat. He has not blown his personal, the troop's, nor the 9th Cav's exploits out-of-proportion (like another author has), and has tried his best to describe the unit as it was.... a great Troop in the highly recognized 9th Cavalry, "doing it all like it was supposed to be done" in Nam. As such, the good and the not so good are both reported as fairly as any human being in combat can. When you are done reading his excellent book, you will no doubt have assimilated his personal feelings for what it was like to be a "Snake Pilot." Grover Wright Charlie Troop, 1/9 Cav 1969-1970 Snake Pilot
Puts You in the Front Seat.2003/12/6
I have to admit, I don't know much about how things were during the Vietnam War...mainly because I wasn't here yet. I know things weren't good at home and worse yet overseas. However I have the great opportunity to work with Randy and was thrilled to learn he was writing a book. When he told me about the letters and tapes his parents saved and what the book was about, I knew I had to read it. "Snake Pilot" is a brilliant telling of what went on day-in and day-out in Randy's world while he was in Vietnam. The book is written in Randy's own words and many times I felt as though he was sitting next to me telling the story. The language easily lets you imagine what it must have been like and while the pictures in my mind can't compare to anything Randy and his comrades endured, I could see the cities, hooches, aircraft maneuvers and what it must have been like to fly over the jungle....I could also imagine what his buddies must have been like and the bonds they formed. I can honestly say that I laughed, cried, shook my head in disbelief and cursed my way through the book. Of course, there is a waiting line in my family to read the book...so I couldn't give anything away even when I wanted to say, "listen to this!" I plan on buying this book for several people in my family who are history buffs. This gave me an amazing insight to the war in Vietnam and the adversity our soldiers faced. Don't worry if you aren't a military buff, there is a wonderful glossary that I had to refer to time and time again. That was a genius idea! Thank you Randy, for this glimpse into history. And although I wasn't here at the time...thank you.
Randy sent a copy with a very personal message and signature to my mom back in the states, upon finally recieving it here in Iraq I read it cover to cover closing it only to go on mission. It brought back a lot of memories of stories my father, Charles Frazier, used to tell me about the days in Tay Nihn, Phouc Vihn and all the insanity of losing friends. Being at war myself, I really connected with a lot of the stories. It was a great book deeply personal, full of the heartache of Vietnam. PFC Frazier, Jason J 21 M.P. (ABN)
Fellow C-Trooper's review2003/10/3
This is an outstanding account of how things were in C-Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam. Randy has done an excellant job discribing not only the events of his experience but also his feelings at the time. I served 3 years prior to Randy; but, the events amazingly paralleled each other. This is a must read for anyone who flew or crewed helicopters in Vietnam, and anyone who was ever exposed to the way the 1st of the 9th flew. Buy it and read it right away. You will not be disappointed. Great job Randy. Thank you.
Tells it like it was.2003/12/20
Randy arrived in RVN almost the day I left. We have friends in common. Randy captured the emotions, and day-to-day life of those of us in C/1/9. His story very much parallels a lot of us. As I was reading the book, I occasionally had to take a break to come back to the current year. His telling of his story has told the story of all of us! Welcome Home!