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Garry Cooper and Robert Hillier. Sock it to 'Em Baby: Forward Air Controller in Vietnam.

Garry Cooper and Robert Hillier. Sock it to 'em baby: forward air controller in Vietnam, Crows Nest, NSW, Allen & Unwin, 2006, xviii, 318 p., ill., ports., ISBN1741148499, index

I could not put Sock it to 'em baby down which I read at one reading. Born Gary Cooper he prefers Garry and was one of 36 Australian Forward Air Controllers (FACs) in Vietnam. He was allotted to 3rd Brigade of the 9th US Division and if you are after a day to day account of the work of FAC then this is the book for you.

The FAC was the lead actor in a very complex show. He briefed fighter pilots on all manner of vital information needed before they made their attacks. The briefing included wind direction and speed at both ground level and 2000 feet, whether any mountains were in the area, where friendly troops were placed and where was the closest emergency airstrip that the fighter could land at if hit. Cooper coordinated air strike in support of friendly troops often engaged in a fire fight with enemy forces. One third of his flying was at night and on no less that 68 occasions troops were in contact with the enemy.

Cooper was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross but in the 1970s it was alleged that he had been recommended for the United States Medal of Honor. For the same reason that the Victoria Cross is only awarded to Commonwealth servicemen the Medal of Honor is only awarded to the US military. So if Major General Julian Ewell, Commanding General of the 9th US Infantry Division was seriously considering recommending Cooper for the Medal of Honor I am sure that he was quickly disabused of the idea.

For me the highlight of this book is a 45 page appendix of original paperwork on the Medal of Honor issue. However, no Medal of Honor recommendation is included in the appendix since it is likely that whoever was tasked with raising the recommendation was more knowledgeable than General Ewell. The real puzzle is why Cooper was not awarded the US Distinguished Service Cross if he was being seriously considered for the Medal of Honor. Australians in both World Wars were awarded the US Distinguished Service Cross but Keith Payne was the only Australian to receive the US Distinguished Service Cross in Vietnam.
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Author:Staunton, Anthony
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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