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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Featured Author: Dave Richardson

I am excited and honored to host Dave Richardson author of Vietnam Air Rescues. His book recounts his experiences as an air force helicopter rescue pilot in Vietnam. In the following guest post he shares a glimpse of his very personal story and how his book evolved. If you are curious about some of the details and want to hear more from the man himself visit Dave Richardson's one hour interview hosted by Nikki Leigh on BlogTalkRadio.

How the Book Came to Be

I am, and always have been, an avid reader. In addition to spending a great amount of my time in reading, I constantly carry an 'emergency book' to fill in spare moments, so it probably was inevitable I should set down my experiences in writing. Reading was certainly a great diversion while I was in Vietnam.

This book has a somewhat convoluted history. I was a ‘Jolly Green’ combat rescue helicopter pilot in Vietnam in 1967-1968. When I finished my tour in Vietnam, I was assigned to Germany as a helicopter pilot flying VIP’s and light cargo.

While in Germany, our family participated in the Volksmarch program, which consisted of walks of varying length through the German countryside. Each participant who finished the route earned a souvenir medal. To pass the time while on these hikes I began relating my Vietnam experiences to my two older sons.

Thirty years after my last rescue, my second son, Craig, who was by then an Army helicopter pilot stationed in Korea, found an internet listing searching for me. With the connivance of my wife, he furnished my contact information to the requestors.

So it was that, on a Sunday afternoon, I received a call inquiring if I was ‘Jolly 09’. I was flabbergasted and asked who wanted to know. Turns out it was one of the ‘Sandy’ pilots (call sign of the fighters who provided armed escort for the helicopters), who said the Air Force had requested that the surviving participants of that rescue travel to Nellis AFB in Nevada to brief them on that mission.

I jumped at the chance and my wife and I traveled to Nellis. It was there that I met (under much more desirable circumstances!) many of the folks who had flown on my final mission. One of them was the survivor I had picked up. We began an on again/off again correspondence via email.

Having gotten the ball rolling, so to speak, Craig began pestering me to write down all those stories he and his brother had heard so many years earlier. I was reluctant to do this, however. It sounded like a lot of work. So, the project just faded away.

Shortly after this, I retired from my teaching job and my wife and I moved to Kansas where Craig and his family (with, at the time, our only grandchildren) resided. Craig began pestering me anew about writing a book, but I wasn’t interested.

Then, I received an email from the survivor of that last rescue. In it he jotted down the essentials of what had occurred; at least from his point of view. Intrigued, I wrote a counterpoint and found the task to be enjoyable.

I decided to attempt a written record of those events from so long ago. A key ingredient was my locating my old flak map and discovering that I had written down the dates and location of each rescue on the back. Then began a lengthy period wherein I would write down the particulars of each rescue, while Craig researched and produced maps from the grid coordinates I supplied. We were also able to scan and use the old pictures I had taken while over there.

We decided to produce our efforts on standard typing paper, bound with a ‘comb’ format. Since this would be a ‘legacy’ of sorts to my children, I was faced with the problem of what sort of format it would take. After much soul-searching, I decided to write my own (very unauthorized) history of the Vietnam War for their benefit.

My final format was as follows:

· An introductory letter to my (now 4) sons

· A Table of Contents

· The Unauthorized History

· A section, titled, ‘In the Beginning’, detailing day to day events in the life of a Jolly Green pilot not related to any specific rescue

· The Rescues, themselves

· A Section, titled, ‘Bits & Pieces’, relating non-rescue experiences I had

· A section, titled, ‘This Way to the Egress’, which closed out the narrative section

· A section, titled, ‘Jargon’, defining the military terms used

In January of 2003, we printed 10 copies under the title, ‘An Old Helicopter Pilot Remembers Vietnam’ on a laser printer and distributed them between the boys and myself. It had been fun, but I was glad it was over. This was the first edition.

Then, friends and other family members found out about this project and began requesting copies for themselves. Initially, I copied everything onto a CD and sent them to those who asked for one. I also added a few anecdotes which I had failed to include in the original version. This became the second edition.

The third edition came about when I discovered a method of producing your own paperback books. Determined to try it, I produced six copies, which included minor typographical changes. My experience was that, although producing your own paperback books is fun, it is also extremely time-consuming, so I once again resigned from the book writing business.

But that was not to be. After awhile, my eldest son, David, suggested that I produce the whole thing as an e-book. At first, I resisted this effort, but finally decided it was the way to get me out of the CD production business.

David insisted I change my ‘stogy’ title, so, after much thought, I renamed the book, ‘Vietnam Air Rescues’.

Producing the material in e-book form was a lot of work, but we finally got it ready. This became the fourth edition.

Once again, I ‘retired’ from the book business. Or, at least I thought I had. It wasn’t long before David came up with the idea of having an actual book printed and began bugging me to do just that.

As always, I was reluctant. I had heard horror stories about rejection notices and the general inability to get a private venture published. David countered these objections by locating several POD (Publish on Demand) companies.

So I embarked on yet another revision (#5) of my book. After looking at several POD publishers, I concluded that Amazon offered the best package through their CreateSpace program.

They offered exactly what I wanted, a no cost upfront, quality product with no minimum number of books required. They also provided a free, sales website.

I already had my own website ( ) which I had developed after relying heavily on both David and son #4, Mark.

I decided that, if I was going to have a commercially published book, I needed to ‘shape it up’, so to speak. The first thing to change was the cover. I had produced my own cover for the earlier editions. It was OK, but I felt a new, commercially produced cover, was called for.

Therefore, I initiated a search for a cover designer that in the end turned international. Out of 18 submissions, I eventually picked a fellow in England who worked well with me and produced what I consider to be an outstanding cover.

Oddly enough, it was not what I originally envisioned. I had stipulated quite stringent guidelines for what I wanted. He sent me some great renditions following my instructions, but also included some of his own, ‘just for comparisons sake’. I was literally ‘blown away’. His concept was so much better than mine!

While all this was going on, I did some reformatting to fit a 6x9 inch book and added yet a few more anecdotes that I wished I had remembered for the earlier editions. I also decided to hire an editor. It wasn’t that I was unhappy with my writing; I just felt that ‘pride of authorship’ should be set aside and a set of ‘fresh eyes’ turned on it. The woman I eventually hired, through the assistance of my 3rd son, Eric, was just what I wanted.

She managed to offer several ideas regarding formatting of paragraphs, etc. that have made the book what it is today. Best of all, she was careful to allow me to preserve my own style while making the changes. Perhaps her biggest contribution was to convince me that, if this was now to be a book for the general public, I just had to eliminate the references to ‘Mom’, ‘your brother’, the boy’s personal names, etc.

Since the book has appeared commercially, I have developed a 30-minute, multimedia program, which includes two snips of actual combat film of my rescues I had forgotten I had. I have presented this program to churches, civic groups and historical societies and remain available to do at request.

All in all, I have been the lucky recipient of advice from my wife and all 4 sons as I waded through the murky waters of authorship. People constantly ask me if remembering and committing to writing my combat experiences has been emotionally distasteful.

The answer is, “No”. I was fortunate in that my actions saved the lives of men who otherwise would have died or spent years in a prison camp as a POW. Thus, I feel I was spared the negative experiences of others who have had, perhaps, a much harder time coping with their memories.

In the book, I record an experience that occurred in 2004 when I was a speaker for the Vietnam Moving Wall display in Kansas. This type of emotional healing of others, including some who have told me they now can begin to understand what their husband, father, or brother went though is perhaps the true reason for this book. I don’t know. I didn’t plan it this way. It just happened.

Another plus for me while in Vietnam, and one I candidly feature in the book, is the fact that I am a Christian and I felt that God was assuring me that He would see me through. He certainly did.

Nikki Leigh Talks with Dave Richardson (Listen to the one hour interview on BlogTalkRadio)


  1. It's always interesting to me to read the paths authors take to publication. The world of publishing really has changed! As a writer, I always find it heartening to hear that writing a book is a journey, and sometimes an indirect one at that.

    Richardson's book sounds fascinating, too. Thanks for highlighting his work!

  2. Dear Fearless,

    Thanks for a fascinating glimpse into this timely book.


  3. Jennfer and Geoffrey--

    Thanks for visting and commenting on my book. Yes, the saga of how a book came about is sometimes worth making into a book itself.

    I have been heartened by the positive response I have received to date.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Dave Richardson

  4. Wow It sure was a lot of work. Imagine if the author had say yes at the bigining of the idea.It sounds like an exiting book to read. Plus, rescuing people is the kind of task that not everybody is good at.
    Geisa Gonzalez

  5. Mar, thank you so much for featuring Dave.

    And Dave it was really good for me to read about your journey to publication. Marlene knows some of my book's evolution and it is certainly a journey, and one that has enriched me life.

    I liked reading this honest account of your book's evolution. I recently read similar accounts by well known authors. It was heartening for me.

    I also am glad you published your story because people need to know about those times. Their are those who will read it and better understand what men went through over there. You were certainly very brave to do what you did. My heart is touched that you rescued others who were wounded and in great pain. I'm sure you must have saved many lives. Thank you for that.

    I also thank you for sharing not only the evolution of your book but some of your life.

  6. So interesting to learn how a book comes to be. So much involved in how the writer goes from idea, to writing, to revising, editing, and publishing. Everything that comes in between, the struggles, discoveries, putting the piece away, the do-overs - are the story pushing it's way forth. I'm encouraged by Richardson's pursuit. I'm also fond of the way he went about gathering "Bits & Pieces" for his work - the map, memories, pictures, conversations. Continued success Mr. Richardson!

  7. Today I learned that writing and publishing a book is a lot of work. I like reading about history and your book sounds exciting. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  8. To Geisa, Robin, Cassy and ???

    I appreciate your comments and am glad you enjoyed the article on my struggles while writing Vietnam Air Rescues.

    Maps, pictures and more can be found at


  9. I found this article to be very interesting and strange at the same time, because by the title a thought it was going to be about war but it wasn’t. It was really interesting.


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