I have the privilege of knowing veterans who have been kind enough to read and review my work over the years. Among them is a gentleman named Larry Huggins.
Larry is the real deal. Two tours in Vietnam, flying the F-105D Thunderchief, and the F-105F “Wild Weasel.”
About the Weasels. There’s an old adage among fighter pilots regarding ground-attack missions: “One pass, haul ass.” In other words, don’t stick around to duel with the flak guns or, in more modern times, SAMs. Yet that was the mission of the Wild Weasels, to seek out and destroy SAM sites in North Vietnam. For courage and dedication to duty, the Weasels were among the very best. For sheer skill, also among the very best.
Larry survived combat in one of the most heavily-defended pieces of airspace in the world, and ended up a brigadier general, having flown in his career everything from J-3 Cubs to the F-16.
Now, when someone like Larry has kind words for an aviation story you’ve written, that’s pretty damned special to the writer. I know it is for me. Here, quoted with his permission, is what Larry had to say about Boxcar Red Leader:
Picked up your latest book at HAM on the way to Seabrooke Island, SC for our family reunion on Wednesday. Read it straight through Thur night. I can not for the life of me know how you can write like you are in the cockpit and at the controls of real airplanes. For someone that has not been in real dogfights, you sure as heck know as much about them as many combat ready fighter pilots do! Tom, you are simply amazing! Keep these books coming.
I wrote Everything We Had, A Snowball’s Chance, and Boxcar Red Leader for a lot of reasons, some of which I’ve mentioned in this blog. But one major reason I wrote those books was to remember those guys, holding the line against the Japanese, in a time and a place where it was by no means certain that we’d be able to win. I think it important that we, as Americans, remember what we, as Americans, can do, when in Kipling’s words, fate lays upon us our task.
Thanks, Larry. Praise like this helps a writer keep going. And I’m hard at work on that next book!