Courtland Esclaremonde de Montesqur Bannister is the son of a popular movie star, an exceptional pilot, and a man driven to prove to himself and his peers that he is indeed capable of “taking care of business.” The business in question is to pilot an F-100D Super Saber for the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing (U.S. Air Force) in the Republic of Vietnam in 1965 and 1966. Captain Bannister’s particular job is to put various explosive devices in close proximity to those individuals who are in the process of attempting to kill those who would defend the Republic of Vietnam from enemies, foreign and domestic.
Toby G. Parker, on the other hand, is an ambitious lieutenant who is curious about life in a war zone. In consequence, he abandons a safe assignment in the United States for a tour in South Vietnam before leaving the Air Force for a secure position in the family business.
Major Wolfgang Xavier Lochert is no longer curious about war. As a member of the elite U.S. Army Special Forces, Wolf Lochert is accustomed to the reality of combat on a level that is “up close and personal.” Unlike either Bannister or Parker, Lochert has nothing to prove to himself or his peers--his only concern is to ensure that large numbers of his nation’s enemies die for their country.
In the course of their tour “in country,” these three men will experience the many facets of the American crusade in Southeast Asia. Bannister will engage the enemy flying a tactical fighter-bomber in the Republic of Vietnam as well as experience the frustration and exhilaration of penetrating deep into North Vietnam to “send a message” to the leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic. Parker will discover that the life of a forward air controller is, like that of the medieval peasant, nasty, brutal, and quite often short. Meanwhile, Lochert will not only experience the familiar war on the ground but also find himself face-to-face with the enemy in an unexpected form.
As a literary experience, ROLLING THUNDER is less than satisfactory in that the characters are rather one-dimensional and somewhat stereotypical. Nevertheless, the author paces the action quite effectively and provides the casual reader with an accurate and informative historical account of the air war in Vietnam in the mid-1960’s. Unfortunately, the jacket design detracts from this accuracy in that it depicts an aircraft which is not flown by any of the characters.