Contact: Bill Petrie
The Book Hootch
Throughout the War in Southeast Asia, Communist forces from North Vietnam infiltrated the isolated, neutral state of Laos. Men and supplies crossed the mountain passes and traveled along an intricate web of roads and jungle paths known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the Viet Cong insurgents in South Vietnam. American involvement in Laos began with photo-reconnaissance missions and, as the war in Vietnam intensified, expanded to a series of air-ground operations from bases in Vietnam and Thailand against fixed targets and infiltration routes in Laos.
U.S. Air Force aircrews flying interdiction missions over Laotian and North Vietnamese territory faced a unique set of challenges. Their efforts were plagued by political controversies, daunting weather, rugged terrain, and above all a tenacious foe.
The Shadow Spirit is a collection of true stories, blending fact and fiction to tell the story of Air Force pilot, Paul Knight who flies Special Operations Attack C-119 Stinger gunships and Strategic Air Command B-52 bombers against Communist aggression in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.
Possessing a fighting spirit from flying AC-119 Shadow gunships during a one-year tour of duty at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon and reeling from the death of his fiance, Knight extends his tour to fly the AC-119 Stinger gunship at Nahkon Phanom Air Base, Thailand. More heavily armed than the Shadow, Stinger gunships prowl the highways, byways, and waterways of the Barrel Roll, Steel Tiger, and Ho Chi Minh Trail, hunting the enemy at night.
Historical and technical details abound in The Shadow Spirit which upholds the legacy of the 18th Special Operations Squadron and the Stinger motto, “Vengeance by Night” while reconfirming the irrefutable display of dedication and valor of high flying B-52 aircrews over Hanoi and their motto, “Bombs On Target – It Takes Us All.”
Former United States Air Force Captain, Dr. Larry E. Fletcher flew 177 combat missions as a pilot in AC-119 Shadow gunships during his tour of duty in Southeast Asia. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Air Medal with eight Clusters. Nominated for Pacific Air Forces Outstanding Junior Officer of the Year, Fletcher was assigned to Fighting C Flight of the 17th Special Operations Squadron at Tan Son Nhut Air Base; Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. After five years of military service, he returned to the teaching profession, eventually entering school administration as Principal and Superintendent of Schools. He retired in 1997 to pursue a writing career. His first novel Shadows of Saigon was published in 2001. He and his wife Sue reside at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.
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