A story of reconciliation from the Vietnam War. This is a war story for sure with graphic description of a life and death air battle. However, its real message is one of the power of friendship and our common human need for reconciliation.
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Dan Cherry is Executive Vice President of Aviation Heritage Park, an educational facility in Bowling Green, KY dedicated to inspiring the youth of today by exhibiting aviation artifacts that represent the real stories and careers of distinguished aviators from south central Kentucky. Dan developed his administrative and leadership skills during his 29 year career as a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force. His military credentials include flying 295 combat missions during the Vietnam War and shooting down a North Vietnamese MiG-21. He held the positions of Commander and Flight Leader of the USAF Thunderbirds, Commander of Moody AFB, GA, Inspector General of the Pacific Air Forces, Commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing and Commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service. He earned several military awards and decorations including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star with 1 oak leaf cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross with 9 oak leaf clusters, the Legion of Merit with 2 oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal with 34 oak leaf clusters. He completed his service in the Air Force with the rank of Brigadier General and was inducted into the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame in October 2000.Review:
Anyone who has studied the air war over Vietnam in detail, or who may have caught the series Dogfights on the History Channel may recall an action on April 16, 1972, in which F-4D Phantom pilot Major E. Daniel Cherry engaged in a difficult, often frustrating four-minute pursuit of an elusive MiG-21 before finally blowing off its right wing with an AIM-7 Sparrow missile. For Dan Cherry, the most memorable postscript to the engagement was narrowly passing the enemy pilot, hanging beneath his parachute. Two things Cherry could not have foreseen at the time was that someday he would rediscover the Phantom in which he scored his victory, and that he would have it restored to its original 1972 markings as the first of a series of warplanes flown by Kentuckians to be displayed at the newly established Aviation Heritage Park in his hometown of Bowling Green. Even less likely would he have been able to foresee being invited in 2008 to appear on television in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where he met Nguyen Hong My, the North Vietnamese pilot he had shot down. Perhaps more plausible than either of those developments was the fact that the two former adversaries ended up becoming good friends that seems to have been a flyboy thing since World War I! My Enemy, My Friend tells the story of Cherry s and Nguyen s encounters, in battle in 1972, and under more amiable circumstances in 2008. It is a fascinating tale of two men s unique way of putting a war behind them, and Nguyen s story somewhat fills in some blanks regarding that dogfight. A portion of the proceeds from this small but unusual book go to preserving and maintaining historic aviation artifacts at the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green, KY. The only criticism one can level at its First Edition unavoidable though that was is that it ends with Cherry s visit to Nguyen s family in Hanoi and his preparations to return the hospitality. However, the Second Edition takes care of that and includes the "rest of the story." Since it was first published, Nguyen has indeed come to the United States for some further memorable events in April 2009. Among other things, he met and befriended the Weapons System Officer of an RF-4C he had claimed in January 1972, lectured alongside his former adversary at the National Air and Space Museum, and while visiting Bowling Green he became the first combat pilot in history to sit in the cockpit of the very plane that had shot him down. Jon Guttman------------------------------- I always associated Dan Cherry with the F-105, but after reading this wonderful book, I will always think of him aan F-4 guy too. Dan Cherry was an inspiration to me to become an Air Force pilot along with many of his contemporaries, men like Leo Thorsness and Jack Broughton. I knew that he had a MiG to his credit in 1972, but really didn't know much about the engagement. When I bought this book, I expected to be most interested in the dogfight on April 16, 1972. While I found his account of that encounter fascinating, I was absolutely blown away by the reunion he had with Hong My, the Vietnamese pilot he shot down that day. Not only does BGen Cherry come across as a genuinely patriotic and honorable man, but his essential compassion and humanity in his meetings with Hong My made me appreciate him and respect him even more. Hong My proved to be the perfect Yin to Cherry's Yang; an honorable and admirable man, and an old enemy who became a new and genuine friend. I was impressed with Hong My's desire to locate the crew of an RF-4C he shot down and BGen Cherry's assistance in that matter. I was also impressed with the restoration of Phantom 550, and am looking forward to seeing it myself someday. This is a short book, but in this case size definitely doesn't matter: this is a stunning book and I recommend it highly. --Jon Guttman and Robert Hedges
Darcel Desnerck McLane - See all my reviews This review is from: My Enemy My Friend (Hardcover) General Dan Cherry's work, "My Enemy, My Friend" will have a special place on my bookshelf. There is nothing else quite like it. In fact this is more a story of reconciliation and growth than it is about aircraft, tactics, or aerial combat. To be sure, the combat narrative is riveting but it is General Cherry's humanity that comes through louder than the roar of his F-4 Phantom, "Old 550". General Cherry puts you in the cockpit with him as he experiences the life defining engagement in which he downed a North Vietnamese MIG-21 in a savage dogfight. In an understated testament to the depth of human spirit, General Cherry goes from wanting to ram the enemy aircraft in the middle of the fight, to joy that his adversary has survived the ejection at the end of the battle. But more interestingly, he takes you with him through the years as he sets out to meet and reconcile with the man he once shot down. Proving that professional soldiers have more in common than non-combatants can imagine, the two meet over twenty years later and not only speak without malice, but strike up a deep friendship. The most moving facet of the story, and what sets it apart from standard aviation fare, is the friendship the two former adversaries forge and the bond they are able to form with each others' families. The title says it all; they go from enemies to friends. Chock full of beautiful color photographs of both pilots, their aircraft, their families, and graced with spare but fitting prose, the book is short in length but long on heart. If two men once locked in deadly combat can meet, forgive one another, and forge a friendship, maybe the rest of us can overcome our own prejudices and petty dislikes. --Darcel Desnerck McLane
Here's a great American story recounting one life's journey beginning in the WW II era to this day -- Dan Cherry's life has been one of challenges and successes ... one after another. Beginning with a hero-like Grandfather -- a locomotive engineer -- to the days of USAF Flight School and a COMBAT TOUR in the great F-105 Thunderchief -- it could well have been the highpoint -- flying the "Thud" ... however, Cherry went on to higher accomplishment -- he came back for another COMBAT TOUR in the awesome F-4 Phantom and on April 16, 1972, he flew it into mortal aerial combat with the deadly enemy MIG-21. For a split second, he eyed his opponent pilot -- hanging in the 'chute -- Major Cherry was the aerial victor. Yet Cherry's career was just picking up speed. Thunderbird Lead ... Commander of the 8th Tactical Fight Wing, the "Wolf Pack" and more -- this is a genuine American success story. Now comes this book -- an easy read -- easy to envision in your mind's eye ... a story of success that should inspire young readers, aviation lovers and one that will trigger memories in many minds. Yet, while fighter pilots are known to be a proud, confident and cocky group, there is a sensitive side when Gen Cherry recounts his hunt for his former enemy. It reveals a very patriotic guy with a gentle nature ... an understanding man ... able to understand greater relationships and appreciate them. General Cherry's neat little book is a wonderful piece of history in the annals of the USAF. The cover is unique too -- that jutting jaw of Thunderbird Lead Dan Cherry; the sharp, red flight coverall and cocked blue flight cap tucked just above the brow ... and confident "media savvy" grin ... contrast that with the fighter pilot Dan Cherry; combat hardened ... confident, courageous, brave... "don't screw with me" sneer -- sweaty brow, disheveled hair, hardcore mustache, trademark red bandanna -- and backed by the bright red star marking his aerial victory -- topped off by bringing his jet, F-4D #550 back to life and a static display in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the ultimate rendezvous with his opponent, Hong My. What a story ... what a life ... a must read for young and old ...Thanks Dan Cherry. --Stuart W. Maas
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