1956 - 2021, Celebrating  over 65 Years of Service

Gunbird Driver: A Marine Huey Pilot’s War in Vietnam
by David A. Ballentine
Publisher: Naval Institute Press

200 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 31402

Web Site:
Binding:  Hardcover Height:




Pages:  276 No. Photos:
 30 B&W

The time was 1966-67 and the location was I Corps, the Northern-most military subdivision of South Vietnam. The author flew an armed UH-1E, the Marine Corps version of the Huey helicopter with VMO-6, Marine Observation Squadron Six, out of Ky Ha. That’s the setting for this story, but what the author does with it makes for an interesting read.

Klondike Six, the squadron’s call sign, was already based at Ky Ha when the author rotated into the squadron. During the next 13 months he transitioned from the new guy to a seasoned veteran who then passed the truncheon on to still other new guys when he rotated out. In so doing, the squadron successfully filled its mission day-in and day-out without missing a beat.

The author takes you on a variety of missions from hauling some of Bob Hope’s entourage to dangerous escort missions where the bad guys did their best to cause him and his bird great harm. Along the way he does a short stint on the USS Princeton and makes an unwanted trip as a patient to the hospital ship USS Repose. You will learn the realities of war as well as the humor.

When you finish reading this book you will have learned a great deal about Marine Corps helicopters and helicopter tactics in Vietnam, military jargon, and everyday life at Ky Ha as well as the Marine ground forces they supported. The facts are all there but the author presents it in such a way that the reader understands what he is sharing.

One peculiar aspect of the book is the author’s use of four-letter words in the dialog. He does this not in a crude way or for shock value but as he said, “As I traced the episodes and personalities, including my own, the more the individual characters became vivid, the more I remembered how we expressed ourselves, and the more hopeless it was to “clean it up.” I have simply allowed my mind to drift back, to lapse into the language of the Marines with whom I served.”

The author is an exceptional story-teller who informs and entertains the reader at the same time. He puts you in the cockpit of a Huey Gunship as he flies a variety of missions. This book is for anyone interested in VMO-6’s operations at Ky Ha, and for anyone looking for insight into the Vietnam War from a helicopter gunship pilot and his crew’s perspective. I highly recommend this book.

Larry Bledsoe


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