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Only The Light Moves (Hardback)

Flying Covert Reconnaissance Missions in the Vietnam War

Aviation > Pilots Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Vietnam

By Francis A Doherty
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781399057011
Published: 4th September 2023


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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 following the Army Air Forces' separation from it in 1947, the single-engine Bird Dog was a liaison and observation aircraft. And for this role, it was completely unarmed.

It was from the cockpit of a Bird Dog that Captain Doherty observed this illusive war, perhaps searching out enemy troop movements or calling down waiting F-4 Phantoms to strike a new target. It was a war in which he followed his father’s footsteps in his dream to become a pilot, and where he learned a compassion that extended both to his comrades and the civilians caught in the middle of that terrible war.

In Only the Light Moves Captain Doherty not only reveals the highs and lows of his year at war in Vietnam but expands beyond his time in the conflict. He explores the emotional struggle he and his comrades faced after they returned home, reconciliations with lost faith, and the incredible impact of war on families.

We are also given an insight into Francis’ subsequent journey to becoming a commercial airline pilot. His story makes no effort to glorify the violence that took the lives of so many. There are no broad stroke proclamations about the war, only a very personal, sensitive account of a terrible conflict seen through the eyes of a then young pilot in the air, illuminating the reality and the cost of when one's country decides to go to war.

As featured

Cocardes International, March - May 2024 - No30

As featured

Air Fan - June - July 2024, No492

"Doherty writes from the heart. The descriptions of his missions are nothing less than hair-raising. He describes his struggles with coming to grips with the war and the senseless death of so many young men."

The Journal of the Air Force Historical Foundation

5 out of 5

A book about a lifetime of loving flying - well worth a read.

Read the Full Review Here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

"I found your book to be a wonderful read and while I had tours in SE Asia, I cannot even begin to say I can feel your pain...I can't. My missions were totally different from the horribly dangerous mission you volunteered for and survived. All I can say is, "Welcome Home" and I'm glad you made it back to your family. Thank you for sharing these deepest wounds with all of us."

Minard Thompson - President of the International Bird Dog Association

"Only the Light Moves has a lot of pluses, including photographs of good-looking Doherty family members, humor, sincerity, and honesty."

Read the full review here.

The VVA Veteran

About Francis A Doherty

Francis Doherty, a former U.S. Army captain, piloted a small, unarmed, airplane over sections of the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the war in Vietnam. Captain Doherty spent ten months flying in support of a covert unit of the Army’s Fifth Special Forces, which waged a clandestine war against the North Vietnamese Army, interdicting their supply line through Laos and Cambodia. Only the Light Moves is his first book. After leaving the military Captain Doherty spent thirty-two years as a commercial airline pilot. His essays have appeared in The Journal of Creative NonfictionAfterwords, the Veterans Writing Workshop Journal, 0-Dark-Thirty, the publication of the Veteran’s Writing Project, and several essays for The Bark, a monthly publication by the International Bird Dog Association. Additionally, the essay published in the Journal of Creative Nonfiction has been nominated for the Pushcart prize.

Perfect Partner

From F-4 Phantom to A-10 Warthog Memoirs of a Cold War Fighter Pilot (Hardback)

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…

By Col Steven K Ladd

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