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Book Review
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by: Jeff-D [ BOISEBLADE ]

The 108th book in Osprey Combat Aircraft series, This soft cover 96 page book is setup like most other books in the Osprey series and includes 5 chapters some containing multiple subsections:

The Contents
Authors Introduction

• Developing the A3D
• Into the fleet
• Air Pac and Whidbey Island
• High Tide

• Whale as a Bomber
• Passing Gas
• Losses
• Oriskany and VAH-4 Det. Golf
• Whale Tales

• Birth of the VAQ community
• Underway
• Change at Whidbey
• End Game
• Whales' for the reserves

Chapter 4 "VAP AND VQ"
• VQ-1
• Heavy Photo
• Bombardier/Navigator trainers


Appendix A Presents the A3 Skyhawk family what variations and designations and how many built
Appendix B Provides a listing of A-3 Squadrons that served in Viet Nam
Appendix C Provides the A3B, KA-3B and EKA-3B deployments to Viet Nam
Appendix D Provide a listing of the various bomb loads the Whale could carry in 1965

Color Plates
Notes and descriptions of the 30 color profile plates A3's of the Viet Nam war.

Rick Morgan is the author of this Osprey offering and as a former Navy electronic warfare officer and spending some time in the Skywarrior he brings an excellent knowledge on the subject. From the reading the A-3 spent a good portion of its service as an EW platform which is what Morgan did during his career. Mr. Morgan also amassed 440.5 carrier arrested landings (the 0.5 involved him ejecting from an aircraft that crashed on a carrier deck.

Although the title states that this is "A-3 units of the Viet Nam war" it is much more in my opinion. It provides a history of the A-3 Skywarrior's complete service career up to its last Naval use in 1991. It also incorporates an interesting history of the beginning of the Navy's electronic warfare community, and also that of the Heavy Photo (VAP) and VQ communities. The book is logically organized and follows the Skywarrior in pretty much a chronological order because of its varied iterations and missions . Although the aircraft started out originally in a nuclear attack role, the Skywarrior performed various roles in other conventional missions including in-flight refueling, reconnaissance and photography. During the Viet Nam war it was a crucial part of the carrier force especially in the area of "Passing Gas" to those in need. As one admiral is quoted in the book, “Tanker gas is the most expensive there is because you pay for it twice. But when you need it, you really need it!”

Most of the book centers on the A-3 SkyWarrior Carrier and Land operations and missions from the between 1965 and 1973. However the author adds a very concise and pretty clear beginning chapter on the origin of heavy attack and its desired goal as well as the A-3 development and incorporation into the fleet. He does an excellent job of detailing the A-3s long life in the US Navy fleet, with this aircraft's uninterrupted service spreading from 1956 to 1991!

For the Vietnam War he starts off with the A-3 operations, first bombing missions having the pilots ingenuity turn the Whale into a type of "Dive Bomber" for better accuracy. Then provides its mission as Tanker, ECM and finally photo recon. Providing insight and stories for each and every mission the Skywarrior conquered and surpassed.

The author uses Skywarrior aircrews "Been there, Done that" narratives in each chapter which makes for interesting antidotes and "Whale Tales" throughout the reading of this book. There are many descriptions and comments on the many times the Whales saved lives either Passing Gas or Jamming through the enemy’s radars. On such tale included is that of Lt Cdr Dick Schaffert who was flying an F-8 Crusader as BARCAP took over on-scene command of two A-4s that had went down. He remained over the area calling in support all the while dodging SA-2s and considerable amount of AAA that had already brought down the two A-4s. He did this all while watching his fuel gauge drop. Lt Cdr Tom Maxwell was flying Tanker missions in the Gulf off of the Oriskany with standing orders to stay over water only. After flying one Tanking mission he landed and "hot pump" (refueling with engines turning) and quickly launched again in support of the new evolving SAR effort. Listening to the SAR communications on the radio frequencies as more Helo's and Aircraft were brought on. Finally Schaffert was relieved over head and headed back towards the Gulf well knowing he may not make the Gulf let alone the carrier. He sent out a Mayday call of the pending ditch. Listening in, Maxwell in his Whale looked around at his crew who quickly gave the thumbs up and off he went to go feet dry. Maxwell flew hi AC between 30-40 miles inland and made a hard right turn in front of Schafferts' F-8C saving him and his aircraft. Stories like this and others make the reading more enjoyable I think.

42% of all A-3 production was lost in mishaps, and author carefully details these. I am glad the author did not mention of the old A3D "All 3 Dead" jokes which is highly appreciated. He instead observes as one NFO put it, "that the plane only lasted so long because it DIDN'T have ejection seats". That is correct, a carrier aircraft of the 60s, 70's and 80's with no ejection seats. Instead emergency egress was via belly or sliding overhead hatch while on deck. Bailing out involved pulling a handle that blew the inner and outer doors and the crew would then jump feet-first down a slide and out the AC.

I remember seeing one of these aircrafts on the tarmac at NAS Sigonella Sicily around '82 or '83 (After my reading probably from VQ-2 in Rota) and thinking to myself that is one large carrier bird. It made the Tomcats and Intruders look absolutely small. If you are looking for a book that fully details out all its specific operations in Viet Nam this is not that book. The book cannot cover everything in great depth, but the book efficiently provides all operational history while keeping the reader interested and making them aware of the aircraft being flown, where they were flown from, and the squadrons and detachments (Dets) flying them as well as the ongoing evolution of each of the organizations the aircraft in them. His narrative is very easy and enjoyable to follow. In my mind mixing just the right amount of specifics, details and stories to keep the pace moving smoothly. He provides clear information on airframes and the changes it went through like A-3Bs became KA-3Bs, and some of these became EKA-3Bs and later reverted back to simple KA-3Bs. I think for the prospective audience it provides enough information. I am not sure if some with limited military knowledge or experience will understand all the acronyms or jargon used but most is fairly easy to guestimate. The pictures and profiles help complete this short soft cover very nicely and most of them are clear although a few are fairly distant views of the subject.

Please tell vendors and retailers that you saw this book here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Whale tales
Lows: N/A
Verdict: Author Rick Morgan’s informative text, along with Gareth Hector’s cover and Jim Laurier’s beautiful profiles will make this a Military enthusiasts and historians excellent addition to their reference material. I myself found this book quite interesting
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978 1 4728 0564 5
  Suggested Retail: $22.95
  PUBLISHED: May 04, 2015
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About Jeff-D (BoiseBlade)

US Navy 79-87 / HP since -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Like quite a few people, started back in to modeling a few years ago after many years off from doing it in the 60's and 70's as a kid. My...

Copyright ©2021 text by Jeff-D [ BOISEBLADE ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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