Read The Ravens by Christopher Robbins Online


"These are the heroes no one told you about" - Tom Clancy.Officially the war in Laos did not exist - both North Vietnam and the USA denied they had troops there. In fact, thousands of North Vietnamese were invading the country and pouring down the Ho Chi Minh Trail on their way to the south, and the Americans were fighting a vigorous war against them from the air.The Raven"These are the heroes no one told you about" - Tom Clancy.Officially the war in Laos did not exist - both North Vietnam and the USA denied they had troops there. In fact, thousands of North Vietnamese were invading the country and pouring down the Ho Chi Minh Trail on their way to the south, and the Americans were fighting a vigorous war against them from the air.The Ravens were the pilots, all volunteers, who flew through heavy groundfire to identify targets and call in air-strikes. Their mission was so secret that they were 'sold' their prop-driven planes for a dollar apiece so they could be struck from US Air Force records. They wore no uniform and carried no identification. Refugees from the bureaucracy of the war in Vietnam, they accepted the murderous casualty rates of what was known as the Steve Canyon Program in return for a life of unrestricted flying and fighting.Devoted to the hill tribesmen they fought alongside, the Ravens did their job with extraordinary skill and crazy courage and with a humour that was all of its own. This is the story, brilliantly told for the first time, of these extraordinary men. Based on extensive interviews with the survivors, it is a tale of undeniable heroism, blending real-life romance, adventure and tragedy....

Title : The Ravens
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 15810901
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 476 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Ravens Reviews

  • Craig
    2018-12-27 14:51

    As a naval aviator I was taught to look down upon Air Force pukes. But there ain't a ladder tall enough for me to look down upon these cats.

  • Sarah
    2019-01-14 16:49

    This was an excellent book. The stories of these brave men and the things they saw and accomplished, and the people they lost, is both inspiring and crushing. Having worked with fighter pilots, I can say that their courage, willingness to break the rules, and need to participate in crazy, alcohol fueled parties, has not changed since the 60s. Neither has the American government's or the American peoples unwillingness to finish what they start. I learned a lot about Laos itself, as well, and the Hmong people. Overall, well written, unique story, and one that will stay on my shelves to be re-read at a later date.

  • John Nevola
    2019-01-09 11:08

    The Ravens were to pilots as Delta Force is to infantrymen. Flying in a Top Secret campaign over neutral Laos to interdict supplies coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail, their saga is not very well known. Christopher Robbins tells this story in exquisite detail and with heart pounding drama.The Ravens were FACS (Forward Air Controllers) who flew slow, unarmed prop-driven spotter planes over enemy positions to discover and direct fighter-bombers onto North Vietnamese supply convoys heading south.Like any "black ops" secret operation, the Ravens attracted a variety of adventure-seeking young warriors. They broke all the rules of comportment while flying the wings off of their obsolete spotter planes and drove the rear-area command staff nuts. Wearing all manner of non-issue clothes like cowboy hats and shorts, they didn't carry any identification and for all practical purposes, didn't even exist. They were expected to commit suicide if captured.Along with the Laotian Hmongs, they waged an impressive battle against the North Vietnamese for years before finally being shut down and officially forgotten. Their exploits rank right up there with Merrill’s Marauders and The Flying Tigers of World War II along with the Long Range Penetration Groups (LRPs) in Vietnam.You won't hear their story told anywhere else!

  • Andy Robinson
    2019-01-21 15:55

    Cracking book about the hidden war during the Vietnam era. There are some truly brave men out there, many who never made it home. Great insight into SE Asia during a time of madness - recommended.

  • Mike
    2018-12-28 11:04

    The Ravens: The Men Who Flew In America's Secret War In Laos is one of the best books ever written about combat flying in general and about the war in Indochina in particular. The Ravens were a secret force of Forward Air Controllers operating in Laos in support of Royal Lao and indigenous Meo (aka Hmong which is a pejorative name) forces. The Ravens also flew armed reconnaissance, seeking out North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao forces along the Ho Chi Minh trail to attack. The secret war in Laos spans the administrations of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. You watch as “mission creep” becomes reality. The buildup of US clandestine forces is covered well by Robbins. How a pilot came to be a Raven is explained. Quite an intricate network of bases is developed throughout Laos, supposedly secret. Gen Vang Pao and his Meo army fight against the Vietnamese forms a major part of the story. This story is essentially a tragedy as we all know the ending; we leave the Lao people to the non-existent mercy of the communist forces. Before that happens, you will read about incredible bravery, feats of flying that will amaze, sacrifice, the brotherhood of war, the craziness of a secret war, the conflict between REMFs and the men on the pointy end of the spear.I give this book my highest recommendation, 5 Stars!If you ever meet a Raven, thank him for his service. His country didn’t thank him back when it counted (or any Vietnam vet for that matter).

  • Michael Burnam-Fink
    2018-12-31 14:10

    Every time I think I've reached the end of the fractal of fuckedupedness that is the Vietnam War, I find something new. The Ravens is an oral history of the Steve Canyon program, a secret program of Forward Air Controllers that flew missions in Laos in support of the CIA backed Hmong Army of General Vang Pao.What comes through first and foremost is the immense courage of The Ravens. These men flew Cessnas (literally, the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog) against a sophisticated air defense network of 14.5mm machine guns and 23mm cannons. In a 6 month tour, 90% of Ravens would be hit by ground fire, 60% forced to crash land, and 30% would be killed in action. Flying long hours under intense pressure, the Ravens went a little bit crazy, and Robbins does an wonderful job describing the hectic ground life at the secret airbase of Long Tieng, with drinking parties, Madame Lulu's brothel, and pet bears. Though the work was dangerous and exhausting, Ravens universally loved the ability to fight as a hard as they could, without the burden of REMF oversight.The on-the-ground story is put in a broader context, with overviews of Neutralist agreements in Laos, and high-level diplomacy with Kissinger and B-52 strikes. A great book on a lesser known aspect of the war.

  • Jamie
    2019-01-05 15:54

    The best non-fiction war book I've read. It's the story of the brave (slightly mad) US pilots who fought the North Vietnamese in Laos during Vietnam, flying suicidal missions in their own clothes and with their superiors back home denying they existed. A very engaging journalistic tribute to a bunch of characters who in the end were treated quite badly.

  • S.
    2019-01-01 13:09

    [image error]anyway, not to be too change-of-topic: (WP skeptical that Specktor is a Notable Writer, btw)okay quick story, since I've been selfishly spamming the site for a few days. sometimes somebody runs into you on the street and so you get all the gossip that has been stored up for a few years. the theme of this data d/load is "fate's arrow?" -->once upon a time there were two people arriving in japan around 2006 to take up a job teaching English.Alfa was a "texanette," a small but athletic girl who was proud of her home state and took pride in her combination of analytical talent and social popularity. She was the class president of her high school, a private school in the San Antonio region, and she played lacrosse well enough to get nationally ranked, if not very high. (like #583 of her age cohort in the country). her parents were lawyers, they had two Mercedes benzes, and from age seven to age twenty-five she had known nothing but success and being at the top of the social pyramid. so okay, texas is not connecticut, and an S500 is not a bentley; a mcmansion in san antonio is not a castle in yorkshire. but, by all measures, very high social elite.Charlie was Ting Rong Ding, the Malaysian who nobody understood got the visa to teach English in Tokyo. He speakee Inglish likee dis, yeah? He say Malaysian pidgin gud az British English you no can . iz not dialect but gud regional inglish wid own grammar. u thinkee u bettah 'cuz u english in book?now as you can imagine alpha and charlie lived in very different expat worlds. somebody organized a football tournament I don't think charlie even got the email. a beach blast was held in two or three summer weekends, and of course alpha had her pick of which to attend or not, making by her attendance the one she went to the "cool" one. charlie went around spikin' ching-chong changlish for sixd ord seben months, and I think mostly the foreigners in Tokyo avoided him--at least the aussies and brits and californians, though of course there is no exact demarcating line, it was just a matter of whether you felt more comfortable a fellow member of a developed country or you preferred charlie ting rong's unique experiences in the japan forward ten years.Alfa has completed her doctorate, gotten married (a socially high individual from a professional Minnnesota family), is doing clinical research and some patient care. she has a number of papers out and is board-certified, making a good living.... yet, strangely... she seems at times troubled or disappointed in some way. there is this faint air about her, not entirely having to do with her specialty (mental health), of things going well... but not exactly as dreamed about.well Charlie! mr. Charlie has dated and then married a japanese girl--not a Tokyo University graduate, but still a regional school; they have land outside osaka, a famous soba restaurant; charlie runs a number of town noodle night events, and he is integrated into japan, considered lucky, and he's loud and happy and boisterous.what happened!!!if you had met the two people, you would have instantly picked alfa as the person to hang out with. how could a person brought up in one of san antonio's top families, with a lineage extending to the bushes and the prescotts and the astors go anything but total success?and what value would there be in hanging out with two shoes charlie?but that's the thing, right. alfa was already born at the top. no matter what she did, she would only just maintain her position--although collapse was also possible had she pursued some unfortunate path-- working for enron, or deciding to go into development and being shot in the congo.for charlie, every day in tokyo was a success. getting the visa was a success. making a first world friend was a success. just talking to a japanese girl was a success. for charlie, starting as he did at the bottom of the heap, mere survival was an accomplishment. and of course, despite his greater happiness, of course he's still socially lower than alfa. if you met Dr. Alfa in her lab coat, of course you don't know about the bottle of vodka stashed in her file cabinet. you don't know about the affairs and drama hidden behind proud WASP faces in San Antonio's elite social scene. that is the story of alfa and charlie. now is this a book review, I dunno. maybe there is more than meets the eye. but it is a story i suppose.

  • Cringe
    2018-12-24 15:04

    I think my only complaint, if you can even call it a complaint, is that large portions of the book are not exactly about the Ravens. You should stop reading right here if you don't want any spoilers.These large portions I mention are a history/bio of Laos and the Hmong people sprinkled in numerous places. While it does provide some background about the people and country, as well as some of the motivations behind the people in the story, it did take me out of the story since I had to wade through these bits. I am sure the author had their reasons, and I attribute this to the year it was written. Times have changed, as have FOIA requests, I actually wouldn't mind seeing this revisited and revised. Definitely a fascinating subject.

  • Don Soapes
    2018-12-30 14:57

    If you love flying,you will love this book!!Just when you think you have read and know all there is to know about our involvement in Vietnam you find a book like this one that tells a story of a whole other war most of us didn't even know was going on. The history of the Ravens,or forward air controllers,over Laos and Cambodia is a amazing read.

  • Brett Gasswint
    2018-12-27 10:44

    Outstanding narrative of a secret war that even now most people don't know about. Robbins really gets into the actions and thoughts of all the pilots involved as well as the history of Laos and the secret war that was waged there.

  • Derek Baker
    2018-12-31 16:07

    These are stories about gutsy pilots flying for the CIA in America's secret war in Laos. But the book is as much or more about the Hmong people who we used and discarded in the War in Vietnam. It's probably worth reading for that story alone. Because of the background on the Hmong, Ravens added meaning to the movie Gran Torino for me. It was also fascinating to read details of what went on in the secret base, Long Tieng, in Laos. This is the mysterious hidden base where Halliday (Flying Through Midnight) makes his miraculous blacked-out emergency landing, and is surprised to find himself alive and in the hands of the CIA.There's a fairly long Vietnam War background section in the middle of the book. It's important, but I bogged down reading it as it was so many names and dates that I found it very difficult to retain sequences of events. I took a break and it was well worth returning to read the end of the story of the Hmong.

  • The Maverick
    2019-01-14 18:49

    Recommended, with reservations.First, a general criticism. This book was painful to read. Not painful in the claustrophobic, nerve wracking, "impaled on a bamboo spear" way that The Tunnels of Cu Chi was -- no, just a bit slow and plodding and, well, not very well written or organized in some parts. In fact, this book was often the opposite of a "could not put it down" title -- it kept convincing me to put it down and move on to other books. Although I am used to reading several books at once, it was in the middle of part three that I put The Ravens on the back burner for about six months.Recently I picked the book back up and I'm glad I did. I originally rated The Ravens three stars, in mid-stream, but having now finished the book I am bumping my rating up to four stars. This is primarily founded on the compelling factual material, as opposed to the quality of the writing and presentation. There is some great stuff in The Ravens, it just takes a little persistent patience to make it all the way through.So now you know what you are getting into. But I am not trying to scare you off -- you will be missing some of the best parts of the book if you don't make it all the way to the end!If you are interested the general subject matter (the air war in Southeast Asia), or have enjoyed other books on the experiences of Vietnam-era FAC's (Forward Air Controllers), then you will definitely want to make the effort to get through this book. The achievements and escapades of the Ravens represent a noteworthy part of the war in Laos, and this book serves to document their service and heroism.

  • Les
    2019-01-11 15:49

    This book is a fairly gritty account of the fighting in Laos alongside the war across the border in Vietnam. I had no idea of the true scale of this conflict until I opened this book. I had previously thought it to be merely a fight against relatively small communist insurgent groups who were aiding the North Vietnamese. And, yes whilst this was happening, there was SO much more to the story and this book is one of the places where you'll find some of the facts.The Ravens were a group of forward air control pilots drawn from the regular forces in Vietnam who signed up for a secret 'not really happening' operation staging out of the top secret Long Tieng base in the Laotian mountains. These guys flew missions to guide air strikes and rescues among other things in their small single-engined Cessna aircraft.The story is very interesting and full of facts and figures about the war along with some great accounts of the action and the horrors of war. I found it a little fragmented in some places and found that I would occasionally lose my way and had to retrace my steps to get back on track again. That is my only niggle with what is essentially an excellent factual war history story.A good read and essential if you're into war and military history.

  • Jim Mullin
    2018-12-25 16:03

    An excellent historical assessment of the AF/CIA secret air warfare in Cambodia and Laos. What comes to mind for me is the utter corruption of the United States bureaucracy that allowed the Viet Nam war to come about. I cannot understand how seemingly good men can be elected/appointed to Presidency, Congress, Senate, and Civil Departments, then become evil and corrupt which in this case caused 54,000 young Americans and millions of Vietnimeses, Cambodians, Laotians, Meo tribesmen to die for nothing.As I view current happenings the same prevails.

  • karl levy
    2018-12-27 17:54

    This is a fine book written for the US pilots and their close Hmong friends who flew in the Secret War in Laos and for those who like the adventure of war told by those who took part. It is an oral history of the moods and feelings, their trails and tribulations , rather than a collection of facts about the amount of bombs dropped and the leaders who ran the war. The criticism in other reviews probably comes from some aspects that seem to have been written unexpectedly in the passive voice that creates sudden contrast with the main active voice used in the story telling. This comes about when the writer refers to the presents and the get togethers of the pilots as though he is removed from the action. The story is told direct in the action and so keeps a pace throughout. the two styles of writing are so different it is as though a different author has written them. For the great story telling excusing the add on's, 5 stars for those who want a rollicking ride and an insight into the BirdDog Pilots of the Secret War in Laos

  • Nikki
    2019-01-03 13:43

    This book tells the story of the U.S. "Secret war" in Laos, focusing on the involvement and perspective of the Ravens. It also highlights the challenges - and damages - from Washington to truly support the Royal Laos Army, as well as the promised the Ravens had to break to the country and especially the Hmong indigenous people.This book is very well written and researched; it also challenged how I think about both this war and the Vietnam War. It's a must read for any student of American history, or international/Cold War politics, and for any one thinking about traveling to Laos. I started reading it before my first trip to Laos and am finishing it from the Plain of Jars in Phonsavan. I will be reading "Air America" next.

  • Paul Cornelius
    2018-12-23 13:42

    This book is every bit as good as Robbins' other work, Air America. Just as with the latter, The Ravens reads almost as an adventure story. But it's history. And Robbins enjoyed unparalleled access to many of the men who were Ravens, forward air controllers in Laos during the "Secret War." Today, this group of veterans is quickly disappearing from the scene. Most are in the late 70s and early 80s. Fortunately, Robbins was there to cover the story of Air America and The Ravens from the 70s to the 2000s. Alas, Robbins himself passed away almost two years ago. An invaluable resource for the history of the neglected part of the war in Southeast Asia is no longer with us.

  • Calzean
    2019-01-08 14:42

    This is a good book in telling the story of the men who were Forward Air Controllers in the secret war waged in Laos. These guys were brave, were great pilots and had incredible camaraderie. The stories of their adventures were unbelievable but true.The book is critical of the US policies of the time but it does not provide much on the Laos politics or the men who were the Hmong backseaters. Still it shows what the US did do, and you wonder what they are still doing somewhere in the world.

  • Hairystool
    2019-01-06 16:46

    Good book about a group of very brave and unorthodox US Air Force pilots operating alongside CIA pilots in a war that wasn't officially happening!Their exploits are interwoven with the political chicanery being practised by the North Vietnamese; the Laotian government; and the US administration. A very fitting tribute, not only to The Ravens but also to the Hmong people of the Laotian Uplands, who are STILL fighting this war.

  • Alan
    2019-01-17 14:07

    The story of the secret war in Laos. In the beginnings a bigger war than that in Vietnam. This aspect of the war in greater Southeast Asia touched me later as I helped Lao, Meo (Hmong) refugees coming to the US. Teaching English and navigating the array of paperwork. My time was at the end of the Vietnam War, but we carried on being part of Nixon's and Kissinger's secret Cambodian War. This war brought more refugees needing help with forms and learning English.

  • Bartman231
    2019-01-07 12:54

    Having known one of the Ravens, I enjoyed reading about the war they fought. There is quite a bit of the story missing. This is more of a biographical, sanitized account of the war. Their war had quite a bit of blood and grit. I have the same complaint about "Fighter Pilot" by Robin Olds--a black and white account of a colorful life. Please visit the Edgar Allen Poe Literary Society website and donate for Wounded Warriors and their Hmong Scholarship Fund.

  • ian porter
    2019-01-21 14:53

    "Thankfully found"I've been reading a lot about Vietnam recently, an special forces that youse fac controllers in the air above them. These books where so interesting I wanted to read more about them. Then I was lucky to come across this book about the ravens. Thank you to the author for sharing al he new in this book it's truly amazing to read what these pilots done with the help of the MEO an Lao people. Really worth reading......

  • Yong Lee
    2019-01-08 18:03

    A riveting account of an unknown theater of conflict during a well known war. The Raven is the story of a group of Air Force pilots supporting a secret war inside Laos during the Vietnam war. Fascinating military story combined with the tragic tale of loss for the Hmong people who fought alongside the US.

  • Chava
    2019-01-12 12:52

    Very informative book, especially as I travelled through Laos and visited the Plain of Jars. The writing was choppy and jumpy and hard to follow, as it went back and forth to different stories. But beyond that it's an honest look at the war and its aftermath. Amazing to see what the Ravens have done to help the Hmong people since the war.

  • Jeffrey Larsen
    2019-01-16 17:08

    According to my insides sources this is an accurate book as can be published. Dad knew the names, places and dates of the events. Dad was not a Raven, but a Navy liaison who spent a lot time with them and coordinating strikes from the carriers at Yankee Station. I found the epilogue to be very revealing. I have seen all of the emotions lived out as a pilot of a secret war.

  • Robert Bennett
    2019-01-07 16:54

    Gives excellent insight into the secret civilian military operations, overseen by the CIA and funded by the USA! As twisted as war gets! The Ravens are a lesson for doing more with less in war stratedgy!

  • Frank Smith
    2019-01-14 15:12

    Outstanding tails of outstanding American heroes.I have a neighbor and friend who spent a lot of time with Air America and it is enjoyable to converse with him on the details and stories found in this book. Thank you.

  • Troy Cook
    2019-01-22 11:58

    A good read about an unknown side of the Vietnam war.Very interesting insight into the hidden fight.Many crazy characters and funny moments interspersed with very touching sad moments.A gripping tale of bravery and sacrifice.

  • Leah
    2018-12-27 15:49

    Fantastic book. The author writes so well and in such an engaging way that you feel as if it's written by someone who was there, rather than a journalist. Great account of an important subject matter.