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From F-4 Phantom to A-10 Warthog (Hardback)

Memoirs of a Cold War Fighter Pilot

Aviation Military > Memoirs Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Cold War

By Col Steven K Ladd
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 328
ISBN: 9781526761248
Published: 14th September 2020
Last Released: 25th January 2021


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Author Interviews

 The Fighter Pilot Podcast and Aircrew Interview, part 1 and part 2 

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Fighter pilots! Images of Baron Manfred von Richthofen and Eddie Rickenbacker in the Great War, Johnnie Johnson, Robert Stanford Tuck and Richard Bong in the Second World War, or Robin Olds in Vietnam, all spring to mind. Volumes have been written about them, past and present. Understandably, most of these revolve around the skill, cunning and bravery that characterizes this distinctive band of brothers, but there are other dimensions to those who take to the skies to do battle that have not been given the emphasis they deserve – until now.

You do not have to be an aviation aficionado to enjoy Colonel Steve Ladd’s fascinating personal tale, woven around his 28-year career as a fighter pilot. This extremely engaging account follows a young man from basic pilot training to senior command through the narratives that define a unique ethos. From the United States to Southeast Asia; Europe to the Middle East; linking the amusing and tongue-in-cheek to the deadly serious and poignant, this is the lifelong journey of a fighter pilot.

The anecdotes provided are absorbing, providing an insight into life as an Air Force pilot, but, in this book, as Colonel Ladd stresses, the focus is not on fireworks or stirring tales of derring-do. Instead, this is an articulate and absorbing account of what life is really like among a rare breed of arrogant, cocky, boisterous and fun-loving young men who readily transform into steely professionals at the controls of a fighter aircraft.

Phantom to Warthog is a terrific read: the legacy of a fighter pilot.

"AWESOME book from front to back!"

Paul Bigelow

"This book is informative, funny, entertaining, and a truly excellent read."

The Journal of the Air Force Historical Foundation

"This book is informative, funny, entertaining, and a truly excellent read."

Read the review here

Air Force Historical Foundation - Joseph T. Anderson, Maj. Gen., USMC (Ret)

As featured in

Western Daily Press

Featured in

Military Heritage

There is no doubt that Ladd's book is extremely varied and interesting due to its narrative capacity, his sympathy, his "allergy" to politically correctness, which makes him human and close much more than could possibly be actually a modern day pilot. He does not disdain the criticism towards those who often accompanied him but ultimately defines himself as a "lucky" pilot for what he managed to obtain from his career which took place both in the USA and in NATO, in Germany, Spain, Turkey and the UK. The war stories are few, as he joins the USAF towards the end of the Vietnam War and experiences a period of relative tranquility (albeit under Soviet threat). But the fact that he brings us to know how the USAF works, how it feels to be a fighter pilot, which above all transmits to us through his book the enthusiasm of an excellent soldier for his career, his life and his country, assisted in everything by a fantastic wife like his Elaine to whom he pays just tribute throughout the book, is a testament to the author's worth.

Read the full Italian review here

On The Old Barbed Wire

Click here to read the full interview with Steve Ladd as featured by

Air & Space Magazine, April/May 2021

Article: ‘Col Steven K Ladd (ret’d) flew F-4 Phantoms in combat over Vietnam and sat on nuclear alert in Europe. When his then unit transitioned to the A-10 Warthog, he reluctantly switched to the subsonic ‘tank buster’, but became one of its most enthusiastic proponents’ as featured by

Aviation News, February 2021

Review by Todd Shugart

This book will appeal to a variety of readers with its Vietnam War combat stories and accounts of flying the Warthog in Cold War Europe.

Fun, flying, international experiences – you won't want to put it down.

Aviation News

If you are a Phantom or Warthog fan, you will love this book, but you don’t even have to be an aviation enthusiast to enjoy it. It is a refreshing change from the usual pilot memoir (if you’ve read any of Dan Hampton’s books, this is the polar opposite!) and the author writes in such a humble and respectful way that it becomes a fitting tribute to fighter pilots the world over. A fantastic book because of this different approach to the subject matter.

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Flight Line Book Review

...an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, college, and university library Military Biography collections.

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Midwest Book Review

The book contains a wealth of anecdotes about the peacetime adventures of fighter pilots. Ladd primarily speaks from the heart, which makes recollections significant.

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The VVA Veteran

The thing about this is not just the story of a career, but it is written in a style which makes it so easy and enjoyable read. One of those books I didn't want to put down. A large part of his career was spent in the work of the Cold War (his description of a visit to Berlin with his wife is fascinating), but he was also fortunate enough to stay doing what he loved the most right through to the day of his retirement, flying combat aircraft. If you have an interest in aircraft such as the Phantom and the Warthog and the roles they carried out in war and peacetime preparations for war, I am confident you will like reading this one.

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Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

"This isn’t just a book about flying fighters, it’s a book that gives the reader the all around experience of being a USAF officer and fighter pilot during the Cold War. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Cold War, the F-4 Phantom, the A-10 Warthog, and anyone who wants a good laugh. This is a book you won’t be able to put down!"

Todd Shugart

Rating: 5 stars

This was a very entertaining read indeed.
I laughed, I cried and I learned a few things as well.
Because the author is my big brother, I was aware of a lot of these stories (the funny ones anyway) but the ones I was unaware of were touching, irreverent and some were downright scary.
This book encapsulates the life and times of fighter pilot, a leader, a loving husband and an American hero (to me anyway)
Great read big brother.
Thanks for filling in the gaps of a story that I always envied from afar.
By the way, you will love this book if you like anything having to do with military life and the sense of humor that you need to live it.

Read the full review here

Amazon Customer, Kim

Rating: 5 stars

This is an informative, entertaining and humorous book. You don’t have to be an aviation fan to enjoy this. I literally could not put it down. I enjoyed it so much I plan to give as a gift to several family members that I know would really like reading it.

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Amazon Customer, Danny Stanley

Rating: 5 stars

I first met Steve when we were both assigned to the 92 Tactical Fighter Squadron at RAF Bentwaters. I remember him as a no nonsense fighter pilot who demanded perfection in the air at all times. I also remember him as an F-4 dude who finally got religion and transitioned to single seat, and would raze him about that at the O’Club. (Good natured of course. He did outrank me.) Steve’s book made me remember all of my past times of learning how to fly the USAF way, the great times in various squadrons, the loss of fellow pilots due to accidents, and the very tangled ways careers are made. But the very essence of being a fighter pilot is captured in these pages and I recommend this book to anyone who has a love of aviation. I will admit I drove my wife nuts with my combined laughter, tears of joy, and some somber moments. Well done Steve and Elaine. Thanks for spending the time crafting one of the best books I have read in years. From one OFP to another - well done. First round is on you.

Read the full review here

Amazon Customer, Thomas E Lunney

Rating: 5 stars

First, full disclosure: I have known Steve Ladd for a long time. In fact, he rode around in the back seat of my F-4 for a couple of years and then, as an instructor pilot during his upgrade to the front seat, I rode around in his. I have long been aware of Steve’s (sometimes somewhat self-deprecating) sense of humor (which underlies this entire book), but what I was never aware of is his absolute mastery of the written word. From one who has been there and done that, this book is a masterpiece! If you are a fighter pilot, you will exult in the fact that someone was able to so vividly describe your world and your ethos. If you are not a fighter pilot (my sympathies) you will enjoy having an insight into a group of arrogant, skillful, and most of all patriotic group. Congratulations to my old friend, Steve.

Read the full review here

Amazon Customer, Robert Mac Staples

Rating: 5 stars

As an OFP, this is one of the best flying books I have ever had the pleasure of reading! This gives a wonderful glimpse of what real fighter pilots are and why. It brought back many memories of times past and made me cry with laughter on more than one occasion. Steve had a fantastic career and one that many would be envious to have had.

Amazon, Gary L. Retterbush

Rating: 5 stars

Great stories of the Cold War , some tragic, some comic , what it means to be a jet jockey and how he got there . Really enjoyable book for more than just Phantom or Hog fans . Highly recommended!

Read the full review here

Amazon Customer, Ap Guntripp

Rating: 5 stars

Its often said, there is a book in all of us and this could not be more true for Steve Ladd. A well written,often humorous account of his live in aviation, the USAF and his obvious love for his wife Elaine. I have thoroughly enjoyed this read and I have to say this...when are you starting the next one? Congratulations...brilliant!

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Amazon Customer, John Scofield

Rating: 5 stars

The author gives an insight into the precision and constant educational training required by his former profession, as well as showing the loyalty of colleagues and just good fun they had along the way. He describes the life in the USAF for him and his wife of nearly 50 yrs, Elaine. The couple have travelled the world, uprooting every three years or so, and their love, loyalty and support for each other shines through, as well as the love and respect for the good friends made along the way. It has technical detail, but framed in a way which is understandable to the uninitiated, and has anecdotal and funny stories which make it a good read for anyone who enjoys an adventure story with laughs. It is not just about aeroplanes, fabulous as it must be to fly them, but also the life lived along the way.

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Amazon Customer, K. Wright

Rating: 5 stars

This was difficult to put down. Not a gung-ho "500kts with nothing on the clock" type of memoir but a thoughtful, well crafted and humorous account of a fighter pilot's career that puts you in the cockpit / briefing room / bar with the author and his fellow aviators during Vietnam and the Cold War. 5 stars from me!

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Amazon Customer, M D Mold

This book is the memoirs of Colonel Steve Ladd from the USAF, who served 28 years as a fighter pilot, flying as the book says specifically the F-4 Phantom and the A-10 Warthog with a number in between around the world. The book discusses a number life events such as the stresses and strains flying fast jets, family, working as part of a team and quite often all the technical dramas and skills endured by a lifelong pilot. An excellent book about the everyday life and dramas of an everyday pilot.

I must admit to approaching this book and having a pre-conceived idea of what the book was going to be like. I must admit to thinking this would be about a loud, brash, gung-ho, American fighter pilot. Now having read the book, I can say that I was wrong, what comes across in this book is a highly qualified and intelligent man who knew how to work hard and play hard. As someone whose father served in the RAF, what really struck me was the stories and tales of a group of young men forced to work together and work as a well-oiled team. Some of the book sounded familiar such as being a part of a community and having to move around the world every few years with no real choice. This book is very well written, funny along the way and I enjoyed the more personal side of the book. It made a really good change from reading about WW2 aviation, and anyone into reading about Cold War aviation will enjoy this. Highly recommended.

5 stars

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UK Historian

The book is a delight to read as he goes back through his life as a fighter pilot it takes many different twists and turns as he explains all the different things that he had to go through before he became a pilot. Some of the chapters nearly had me crying with laughter as he explains certain situations that he had got into I found it extremely difficult to put down when I started reading it he takes me almost on the same journey in my imagination, such is his ability through writing to get over his days as a Cold War fighter pilot. For anyone who is interested in the cold war, I am sure that you would certainly learn a lot about the Phantom and the warthog I highly recommend this book.

Read the full review here


Absolutely brilliant!!! As a retired USAF F4 Phantom and A-10 avionics technician the author (let's call him Steve) brought the humour and the trials and tribulations of USAF existence to life.

Steve leads us from being a student pilot (and USAF officer) through assignments in combat zones, Cold War bases and 'peace dividend' experiences, all the while weaving his story with humorous antadotes, seat of the pants flying and respect (kind of) for authority.

We get to meet Elaine, his wife/partner/spouse (you choose) and the positive influences (restraining voice) she had upon the author and his career.

Steve tells his story through his eyes with reflection of his progression through the ranks and jobs/functions he held during his career.

He had me in fits of giggles and/or fondly remembering my own experiences of the USAF life as we both knew it, and sadness it will never be that way again.

He was a combat flier, and was never happy behind a BGD (you have to read it!). This lends to Steve telling us of exploits and 'dream sheets' to avoid the BGD as much as possible. We in maintenance had similar constraints on career progression, so it was nice to see we all suffered under 'a common enemy'!

I could ramble on, but IMHO (read the book) he has done justice to his task as it says in the title, and the result is a most enjoyable read for both military and civilian audiences.

I would recommend it to one and all.

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GoodReads, Bob Hale

I have to say this is an extremely good reading, very engaging, very personal and comes highly recommended... I was absorbed from start to finish!

Watch the full video review here

Scale Modelling Now

So, in conclusion I’ve decided it would be wrong to even try to categorise Steve Ladd’s memoirs. Rather I’d just like to summarise them. They are an insight into the life of someone who did a job I could never imagine doing, written by “one of the good guys” - a man of wit, compassion, courage, loyalty, sense of duty and patriotism that it would be lovely, but brave, to aspire to. Please do try and get hold of a copy of this book for yourself or anyone you know - reading it is a joyful education in so many ways.

Read the full review here

Andy Fraser

About Col Steven K Ladd

Colonel STEVE LADD, DFC, MSc, BSc was a career USAF officer fighter pilot and commander for 28 years. During his career, he amassed over 4,400 hours’ flying time, equally split between the F-4 Phantom and the A-10 Warthog. His Phantom credential includes over 400 hours (204 missions) of combat experience over North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Since retirement from the USAF he has been employed as a CAA Aerodrome Inspector, Operations Director of Cardiff International Airport, Fast Jet Curriculum Development Lead for Ascent Flight Training, Ltd., and adjunct Professor of Aviation Science and Management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Perfect Partner

Only The Light Moves Flying Covert Reconnaissance Missions in the Vietnam War (Hardback)

Only the Light Moves tells the story of a twenty-four-year-old US Army pilot who volunteered to fly covert S.O.G., or Studies and Observations Group, reconnaissance missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a region that came to represent not only the United States’ war with Vietnam, but also the “secret war” with Laos and Cambodia. But this is not simply a war story; it is a love story about flying. Captain Francis A. Doherty spent every day for ten months above the jungle battlefield in a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog. The first all-metal fixed-wing aircraft ordered for and by the United States Army…

By Francis A Doherty

Click here to buy both titles for £36.35
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