Rolling Thunder is an historical novel about the decisive role politics played during the Vietnam War. Its characters range from men in the field to the Pentagon and the White House. Fighter pilots and Special Forces warriors try to do their best but are hampered by President Johnson, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and their staff members who despise the military. Only one aging USAF general, who fought in Korea and WWII, is on their side. His clashes with his Commander in Chief, Lyndon Johnson, are epic in proportion and startling in content.
In Rolling Thunder, the time is late 1965 and 1966 in war zone places such as Saigon, Hanoi, Bien Hoa, Da Nang, and Tahkli. While back in Washington, LBJ sits over lunch and personally picks bombing targets in an attempt to fight a limited war. In Vietnam the war knows no limits.
There, as the hostilities escalate, the fates of three men intertwine: USAF Captain Court Bannister, overshadowed by a famous movie star father who fought in WWII as a B-17 gunner, driven to confront missiles, MiGs, and nerve-grinding bombing raids in order to prove his worth to his comrades -- and to himself...Air Force First Lieutenant Toby Parker, fresh from the States, who hooks up with an intelligence unit for a lark, and quickly finds his innocence buried away by the lessons of war...and Special Forces Colonel Wolf Lochert, who ventures deep into the jungle to rescue a downed pilot -- only to discover a face of the enemy for which he is unprepared.
Four airline stewardesses, who fly the civilian MAC contract flights that bring American soldiers to and from the war zone in Vietnam, have difficult love affairs with G.I.s and fighter pilots. After one flight they come under attack while on an airbase in Vietnam.
Young American G.I.s are cursed and taunted as they return to the United States.
Through their eyes, and those of many others -- pilots, soldiers, lovers, enemy agents, commanders, politicians, profiteers -- Rolling Thunder shows us Vietnam as few other books have, or can. Berent captures all the intensity and drama of that searing war, and more, penetrates to the heart and soul of those who fought it. Rolling Thunder rings with authenticity
Berent is a decorated Air Force pilot who served three tours in Vietnam. His first novel is essentially a series of vignettes and anecdotes loosely structured around the yearlong tours of duty of Air Force Captain Court Bannister and First Lieutenant Toby Parker, with a ground-force counterpoint in Special Forces Major Wolf Lochert. Principal villains are the Washington policy-makers who send men to die in a war they are not allowed to win. Within this intellectually unsophisticated black-and-white framework, however, Berent's laconic, jargon-rich narrative evokes moods eclipsed by later and more spectacular events. Set in the mid-'60s--the last stages of the professionals' war, when career soldiers were still able to believe in what they were doing--the story focuses on ground-support operations over the south of Vietnam. This was a war the Air Force had been unprepared for and was uninterested in fighting, a war of obsolescent fighter-bombers flown by men who had dreamed of becoming astronauts, and of the Forward Air Controllers, the daring FACs, who called them in on almost-invisible targets. Yet as the novel ends, its protagonists intend to return for another tour of duty, which has come to overshadow survival in their minds. Fortunate is the country, Berent tells readers, where such men wear its uniforms; may they never again be so betrayed. The message is no less powerful for being predictable. Literary Guild and Military Book Club alternates; author tour.