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Book Review: MiGs over North Vietnam-The Vietnamese People's Air Force in Combat, 1965-1975

By Floyd S. Werner Jr.

Title: MiGs over North Vietnam-The Vietnamese People's Air Force in Combat, 1965-1975
Author: Roger Boniface
Cost: $54.95

The other side of the air war in Vietnam has never been really covered before. The American side has been the predominantly viewed as the perspective that is correct. Right or wrong the American side has been the only side told, until now. The Vietnamese side is finally being explored.

This hardbound 176 page book is filled with over 150 photos and color profiles. Some of the color profiles are quite unique. The paint schemes varying from colored stripes to splotches of color. There are plenty of color photos, as well as, lots of black and white photos. The photos are large and unique in what they show. To say that most have not been published before would be an understatement. Some of the photos show you what the equipment and locations and how they look today.

Flying aircraft like the MiG-17, Shenyang J6 (Chinese MiG-19) and MiG-21, the Vietnamese People's Air Force (VPAF) took on the US military might and accorded themselves very well. The author was given previously unheard of access to the pilots, archives and museums of Vietnam. I will say that as I read the book I detected that the author had a pro-Vietnamese slant, however, the text still holds up.

The text is really quite well written, except for this peculiar and sometimes annoying spelling of some of the city names, as Hanoi being spelled Ha Noi. This could be possible be a way to ensure you read the name properly.

The book is written on a day by day basis covering all the pilots. Some of the more unique missions include night ramming of a B-52 by a MiG-21 and the supposed shoot down of three attack helicopters, the sinking of a US ship, and the shoot down of two An-2 Colts by a UH-1 from Air America. Needless to say most of the information has not been covered before.

One thing that you will notice while reading is the ground control of the aircraft. This meant included telling the pilot how many passes to make. This type of control was based on the pilot's ability and their initiative or lack thereof. Speaking of the pilots, they were selected based on having a junior high school equivalency, strong national loyalty, good physical conditioning and the killer instinct. That is in total contrast to western air forces which requires a college degree. Seems politics would not stand in the way of proficient flying.

There are plenty of large photos for the modeler and historian to look over. Some of the aircraft sport some great markings. The camouflage of stripes seems limited to special missions but they are really unique looking. There are photos of the actual aircraft used in the war that have been stored in museums right off the flight line. These add a lot to understanding the camouflage. The VPAF had the policy of painting kill markings on the aircraft regardless of which pilot achieved the kill. This lends itself to aircraft with lots of kill markings on them.

Reading the text the reader is given the impression that the VPAF were an even match for the USAF and USN. There are a lot of kills that the both sides claimed, but weren't substantiated. While there were certainly pilots with good scores, actually the VPAF had more aces than the USAF or USN combined. This was probably due to the limited amount of pilots that were available. At the most the VPAF had 55 MiGs in 1972 and 129 pilots in 1975. Meaning a few pilots flew more missions. More missions meant more action and more potential for victories.

One of the "pilots" that had so much written about at the time of the war was the infamous Col. Toon. It appears that Col. Toon was a figment of the propaganda ministry, there was no "Col. Toon".

Overall, this book is a very detailed compilation of the ten years that the Vietnam People's Air Force fought against the US forces. It is well researched and well documented. Are there some flaws? Sure, however this is a great place to further research that until this publication had been overlooked. If you are like me and want to know what happens on the other side, then this book is just what you need.

Highly recommended.

Thanks to Aeroplane Books for the review copy. To obtain your copy contact them at Let them know you heard about it here and check out the other great books on the site, including many out of print volumes.

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