The Phantom Vietnam War Cover

The Phantom Vietnam War

An F-4 Pilot’s Combat over Laos

David R. “Buff” Honodel

University of North Texas Press, Denton, Texas, 2019, 330 pages

Book Review published on: July 5, 2019

The Phantom: An F-4 Pilot’s Combat over Laos is retired Lt. Col. David “Buff” Honodel’s memoir as an Air Force F-4 Phantom pilot in Thailand during the Vietnam War. He opens by describing his life in 1962 as a new student at Pennsylvania State University. As a student, he was given deferment from military draft until graduation. Receiving notification from the draft board that his draft status had changed following graduation, Honodel traveled to visit the nearby Army recruiter’s office to see what options were available. However, the office was closed for lunch. Walking back to the parking lot, he noticed a large street sign outside the Air Force recruiting office with a picture of an Air Force pilot and the message, ”You, too, can be an Air Force Pilot.” Honodel’s life was about to change.

The reader will experience the range of emotions reading The Phantom Vietnam War as Honodel describes the loss of friends, inane rules of engagement that placed aircrews at great danger and at disadvantage while engaging the enemy, sheer danger of flying night missions, and the unequaled experience of rescuing a downed pilot. His memoirs are interesting for several reasons. He captures the feel of flying one of the most interesting fighter planes in American history, the methods and techniques used to train pilots during the Cold War and the Vietnam War, his personal accounts of flying combat missions, and his frustration of fighting a war with one hand tied behind his back.

Honodel goes beyond the majority of memoirs to include personal photos, an operational area map of Southeast Asia, several technical diagrams of the F-4 Phantom and its cockpit, and narrative specifications. Honodel also includes a glossary of aviation terms and a list of suggested readings for readers desiring more information. The Phantom Vietnam War is a wonderful, fast-paced read and is highly recommended for any Vietnam War aviation or F-4 Phantom enthusiast.

Book Review written by: Jesse McIntyre III, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas