The Spirit of Attack: Fighter Pilot Stories

  • Published

The Spirit of Attack: Fighter Pilot Stories by Bruce Gordon. AuthorHouse LLC, 2014, 116 pp.


In The Spirit of Attack, author Bruce Gordon, a former US Air Force major with 4,249 total hours of flying, takes the reader into the cockpit with him during gripping night-bombing runs over South Vietnam, tense scrambles to meet Soviet bombers penetrating American airspace during the Cold War, and many more exciting missions. This entertaining book collects more than 40 fighter pilot stories written by Gordon and a few fellow pilots who detail their aerial adventures from World War II through the Cold War. Also included are more than 90 photos that illustrate many of the aircraft they flew and fought against.

Gordon has a superb storytelling style, making the reader feel as if he or she is sitting next to him as he vividly recalls his vast collection of Air Force memories. The stories can be a bit disjointed and sometimes appear to lack a clear narrative, but they do follow a gradual progression through Gordon's early life and career, from experiencing the Pearl Harbor attack on Hawaii as a child, to basic pilot and jet training, Cold War assignments in Alaska and Michigan, and combat missions over Vietnam. Since all of the stories are only a few paragraphs long, they hold the reader's interest and allow for experiencing a wide variety of accounts in one sitting. Near the end of the book are a few stories from fellow pilots, including notable contributions from Philip Payne detailing his aerial observation of a nuclear detonation in the Nevada desert and Ray James describing a visual reconnaissance mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam.

The title of the book comes from the former 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron motto, adopted in turn from a quotation by Adolf Galland, the Luftwaffe's General of Fighters during World War II: "Only the spirit of attack borne in a brave heart will bring success to any fighter aircraft, no matter how highly developed the aircraft may be" (p. 15). Many of Gordon's stories refer to this "spirit of attack," a fighter pilot's innate, aggressive desire to seek out and destroy the enemy. Gordon's fighter pilot bravado shines through when he discusses the spirit of attack; nevertheless, such confidence is not excessively displayed and is quite understandable (and perhaps necessary) given the deadly and dangerous business of being a fighter pilot.

The Spirit of Attack will appeal to readers interested in hearing firsthand what it was like to fly training and combat missions in Vietnam and at the height of the Cold War. The personal nature of these stories offers a unique individual perspective to complement the more typical operational- and strategic-level histories of the Vietnam and Cold Wars. In that sense, herein lies the real strength of the book. As the Vietnam and Cold War era passes further into history (this year marks 40 years since the fall of South Vietnam), The Spirit of Attack preserves the proud heritage of these fighter pilots and is a welcome read for any military aviation enthusiast.

1st Lt Keegan S. McCoy, USAF
Vandenberg AFB, California

"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."