My Enemy My Friend
Author: Brigadier General Dan Cherry
With Fran Erickson
Reviewed by Fran Lewis
This is a true story of one man’s journey in life. This is more than just what happened in Vietnam and shooting down an enemy plane. It is more than just having family, friends and the support of loved ones to encourage him. It is about perseverance, determination, pride and understanding of others. It is about his life in Bowling, Green Kentucky and the people who impacted his life and the uniqueness of the town and the reasons why he never wants to leave. My Enemy, My Friend by Brigadier General Dan Cherry is truly a book that everyone should read.
Dreams and aspirations can lead someone to a career from a very early age. With a grandfather that drove a train and the times he recalls riding in the Pullman car, he knew from the start flying was in his blood and being a pilot was his ultimate career. The speed of the train and watching the world go back made him feel like he was flying.
Growing up he learned how to deal with many things that most kids would find difficult Divorce is not easy for a child to handle but our author was blessed at the age of ten when his mother remarried an aeronautical engineer named Henry Hardin Cherry Jr. who would become his father. Adopting him and giving him his last name was truly an honor and with this help molded him into the fine young man he would become. Goal oriented and always wanting to fly he entered aviation school and from there the sky was definitely not only the limit but where he wanted to be. The sound of planes and the engines roaring in the sky filled the air wherever he lived and stimulated his interest in becoming a pilot. Imagine flying a P-51 or F-80. The excitement of your first time flying and taking that plane up must have been exhilarating. For 29 years he relates to the reader that being in the Air Force was magical. The people he met, the experiences he encountered and the reasons why he created Aviation Heritage Park are invaluable. So many museums have artwork, pictures, and sculpture and recreate the history of many time periods. Aviation Heritage Park would be different. His love of his community and the people living there inspired him to create facility that would honor real pilots, tell their real stories and share them with those in his community, schools, aviation students, tourists and visitors.
I watched the Today Show last week and listened to Brigadier General Dan Cherry tell his story and the events surrounding his shooting down the MiG21 piloted by Hong My. I sat and listened to his description of the event, the thoughts that went through his mind before shooting down the plane and I realized that his story, their story needed to be told. Trying to find a way to contact him I came upon the site for Aviation Heritage and was honored when the Brigadier General agreed to send me his book to review. This review is a special one and I hope that I give it the honor and prestige it deserves as I continue my review of this outstanding book My Enemy My Friend
Beginning his day with a brisk walk is something I love doing. Walking with his friends in Bowling Green Walking Group, finding their way to McDonalds and solving the world’s problems is really inspiring. But, one trip and one walking tour would change many things for him and his friends and one memory would be permanently ignited. Told by the staff of the National Museum in Dayton, Ohio that one plane in a nearby field had a strong tie to his community, how could they resist and not see it. The plane would you believe was the F-4 Phantom that he flew in Vietnam. That was the day he shot down the MiG21. Imagine seeing that plane and reliving that moment at the same time. Finding the plane, hoping that the tail number read 66-7550 excited not only the author but his friends too. How could they leave without learning the truth and finding out if that plane was definitely his? Feel the energy, the excitement and the elation when he saw the plane for the first time in so many years and instantly knew it was his was priceless. The plane was in definite disrepair and need much work. Questions came at him from all sides and he readily answered them.
Let’s take a trip back in time and learn what happened that day: April 16, 1972 when Major Dan Cherry shot down the MiG 21 in a dogfight that he would never forget. Close your eyes and travel back in time with this reviewer and the author as the facts are related to you as they happened by the author as he retells the story in his own words. You can hear his voice if you listen and you might even hear the roar of the planes, the missiles shooting it down and much more.
Before meeting the man whose plane he shot down he and his friends decided on restoring his original plane, moving it, refinishing it and then putting it on display. But, before we learn more about Aviation Heritage Park let’s take that journey back in time to April 16, 1972 and join our Major Dan Cherry at that time in the briefing room at 0430 where it all began. Looking at the briefing board and seeing his squadron and his calling name Basco on the board sent a wave of excitement through him. The team assembled was outstanding and the flight leader would prove to more than just a great leader but a great fighter too. Imagine going up in the air and coming face to face with not one but two MiG 21’s and then having a third one come at you. The trap was set and now he had to do something about it. Getting this third MiG 21 on his radar and setting up the shot he pulled the trigger and it misfired. Allowing the other pilot to take the lead he too misfired and Dan immediately took control and took out the pilot and the MiG21. Strategy proved to be everything as he shot his missiles and this time they did not misfire. But, in on brief moment after the explosion and the wing came off he saw the pilot eject from the plane, his white parachute open and had a glimpse of the man that would some day become his friend.
In December of 2005, 33 years later the this flight the original plane he flew was brought to Bowling Green, Kentucky and the road to bringing it back to life began. But, there was so much more that he and his friends wanted to accomplish for the people of this great town. What better way besides putting the plane on temporary display for everyone to see and school children to learn about the war and the history behind it then to create something to honor the pilots of that create town.
In order to bring this groundbreaking idea to light many thought it would be great if he could actually meet the man whose plane he shot down that day and speak to him in person. With the help of one man named Ed Faye and his friends in Vietnam he was able to connect with the show called, “The Separation Never Seems to Have Existed.” The rest is amazing as he was invited to fly to Vietnam to be on this show and actually meet Hong My. Skeptical and unsure of what to do and whether he should venture to this country, he researched the show and decided to take a chance on meeting him. There are times in your life that you have to trust your instincts and gut feeling. Imagine how he felt on April 5, 2008, the emotions; the tension on both parts his and Hong My as they met on life television for the first time. On page 54 you see the actual picture, their expressions and you can tell just by looking at both men that a lifelong friendship was born even without hearing the interview. The emotions ran high as the broadcast began with their family histories related by commentator followed by a quiet dinner where they learned more about each other. Hong My related to Dan Cherry who gave him his pilot wings, what happened to him as a result of the missiles hitting his plane and his life in Hanoi. Meeting his family, getting to know how he lived and understanding his life brought them closer and enlisted a trust and bond that would never be broken. On page 59 you see them both on Hong My motorcycle and then he describes his tour of Hanoi, visit to Hoa Lo Prison and many other sites. Knowing that his own friends, Americans were housed there as POW brought the war back but the barrier between them never formed and their friendship was cemented at that one brief moment. My Enemy My Friend: Imagine becoming close with someone that you tried to kill yet fortunately did not.
Then, Hong My asked him to do him a favor to find out exactly what Dan did about the pilot that he shot down on January 19th, 1972. To learn what happened to that pilot and the rest of the story you will have to read that for yourself. Why Nguyen Hong My wanted to find this pilot and learn his fate you will understand after you read Dan’s story and then Nguyen Hong My’s request will become clearer. There is much more to this story as Nguyen Hong My comes to America and what happens during that meeting will really endear you to not only this man from Vietnam but restore you faith in forgiveness, trust and understanding between two countries that should really be friends. These two great men took flew the skies together for the first time, spent two weeks in America together and reflected on all those that lost their lives on both sides. There is much more to his visit in America where another friendship is made, more visits to landmarks and the end result: This outstanding book to honor both men. Read his story, feel the excitement, the tension and elation as they meet for the first time, fly together and relive a moment in time they will never forget and neither will you after reading it.
My Enemy: My Friend: Just Soldiers doing their jobs. Author Dan Cherry with the help of Fran Erickson presents a story so heartfelt you cannot put it down until you learn the final outcome of their many days together and the truth behind their stories. Thank you Brigadier General Dan Cherry, USAF, (RET), for the honor of reviewing your book and for sharing your story with everyone.
THIS BOOK GETS FIVE GOLD WINGS
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
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