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MiG Killers: A Chronology of U.S. Air Victories in Vietnam, 1965-1973

MiG Killers: A Chronology of U.S. Air Victories in Vietnam, 1965–1973 by Donald J. McCarthy Jr. Specialty Press, 2009, 160 pp.

In MiG Killers, Donald McCarthy describes US aerial victories in Vietnam, including those by Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps pilots. Several chapters of chronological narratives that describe each encounter make up the bulk of the book. One appendix offers a summary of those kills, and another discusses the MiG aircraft in some detail. Early chapters address the nature of air-to-air combat in Vietnam, the armament available and its use, and the process by which the services analyzed reported MiG kills and gave official credit. McCarthy has also included aircraft tail numbers when known as well as photos of nearly every kill aircraft. The author made use of a variety of official sources together with input from numerous historians, enthusiasts, and pilots. Although the book has no footnotes, the introduction does list many of the documents and people who contributed to this effort.

Readers should use care when citing numbers from this book. Specifically, McCarthy includes kills widely presumed valid by historians but either not included on official military credit lists or later withdrawn for various reasons. Furthermore, discrepancies exist between the chronological narratives in chapters 4 through 11 and the kill list in appendix B. For example, the first entry in chapter 4, “MiG Kills of 1965” (p. 23) is not listed in the appendix (p. 148)—the only such omission. Although chapters 4–11 are described as chronological, that is so only in terms of the date of the first kill by specific aircraft tail number. For example, readers wanting more information about the 11 May 1972 kill in appendix B (p. 155) would naturally look in chapter 9, “MiG Kills of 1972 (January–June)”—but they won’t find it there. Instead, it is listed in chapter 8, “MiG Kills of 1968/1970” (p. 97). On dates with multiple MiG kills, the sequence in the narratives does not always match the one in the appendix—a minor annoyance but one that should have been caught during editing. In one case, a kill date of 12 April 1967 in the appendix (p. 150) does not match the date in the narrative (p. 57). In the “Armament” chapter, the .50 caliber machine gun used on the B-52 is correctly called the M3 (p. 19), but in appendix B it is listed as the M60 (p. 157). Another small glitch is the author’s placement of the Tolicha Peak Electronic Combat Range in “upstate New York” rather than Nevada (p. 47). These discrepancies suggest that readers should take a cautious approach to using this book as an authoritative reference.

MiG Killers will serve any reader—historian, aviation enthusiast, or fighter pilot—who wants a comprehensive summary of American MiG kills during the Vietnam War. The research is thorough, the individual accounts are detailed, and the descriptions and discussions of 1960s-era air-to-air combat weapons and tactics are educational. Although the inclusive coverage of Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps action under one cover is welcome, poor editing—primarily the lack of consistency between the narrative chapters and appendix B—remains a drawback.

Scott D. Murdock

Buckley AFB, Colorado

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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