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Snake Pilot


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About the Author

Randy R. Zahn is the chief pilot, Alaska Rotor Wing Division, for Era Helicopters in Anchorage, Alaska. He learned to fly helicopters while serving in the U.S. Army from 1968-71. He served a tour of duty in Vietnam (1970-71), earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star, two Air Medals for valor, and two Army Commendation Medals for valor. He lives in Eagle River, Alaska.


"[Zahn] writes with authority . . . he captures the intensity of moments long since buried in the memories of those who lived them. . . . He has produced a book that is not so much a memoir of events past as a freshly discovered live report from the past. . . . It has lessons to teach the 'battle captains' of today. . . . The glimpse it offers of leaders-as-seen-by-the-led should be of value to anyone who leads the smart, aggressive, competent, self-asured young Mr. Zauns of today."
"Zahn reconstructed his year of combat in Vietnam with surprising detail, capturing the cockiness, angst, and attitude of the naive nineteen-year-old 1st Cavalry Division attack helicopter pilot of 1970 and 1971. . . . I recommend it to those interested in Army aviation, the Vietnam War, and leadership of aviation units."
"Zahn has shared the ups, downs, and horrors of a year in the life of a nineteen-year-old Cobra gunship pilot with the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry in Vietnam. "Snake Pilot" is a real keeper. I couldn't put it down."
"'You're just a kid, ' the flight surgeon said. And he was right. Randy Zahn was just nineteen years old when he served as an AH-1 pilot in 1/9 Cav in 1970-71. Low and slow, up close and personal, he saw war from the steamy cockpit of a Cobra gunship. Through the sweat, blood, and tears of far too many missions, he learned that war is about men and what it does to them. 'We've established bonds that are stronger than blood, ' he wrote. Exactly right, and Randy tells it well. Cleared hot."
""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."

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