This week on SOFREP Radio we’re excited to welcome our guest, Col. Michael Leonard (ret.), US Air Force pilot and author of the new book An American Combat Bird Dog Pilot: From the Battlefield of Vietnam and Beyond.

In this exclusive interview with Leonard, we get a first-hand account of his adventures, from his days before the military right on through to his years as an executive working for companies like the Ford Aerospace and Communications Corporation and Lockheed-Martin.

Of note is Leonard’s recounting of close calls as an O-1 Bird Dog pilot in Vietnam. As a Forward Air Control, or FAC, Leonard was often the only link between ground forces and friendly artillery fire. In his little fixed-wing plane, Leonard had to circle over hot battlezones, dodging enemy anti-air and small arms fire while calling in coordinates on enemy locations.

Don’t miss this glimpse into the world of the Bird Dog pilots of Vietnam; a job that consisted of “long hours of sheer boredom, interspersed by moments of stark terror.”

About Col. Michael Leonard (Ret.)

Leonard is a retired Air Force officer and highly experienced global business executive. He was a USAF Command Pilot with a military career spanning 20 years, including 2 combat tours to Vietnam in 1965-1966, and 1969-1970. Mike spent 4 years flying the VC-140B Special Air Mission aircraft during his time with the 89th Military Airlift Wing, the “Home of Air Force One”.  His combat decorations include 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 9 Air Medals, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.  

About the Book

An American Combat Bird Dog Pilot is a compelling look at the life and times of a member of the Silent Generation. In it, Michael Leonard recounts flying a small, unarmed USAF spotter plane — called an O-1 Bird dog — near ground level risking life and limb just feet above the jungle canopy. Leonard and his Bird dog were the turkey in the proverbial turkey shoot.

The recollection of the life and death struggle on Thanksgiving Day in 1969 with North Vietnamese forces hell-bent on capturing or killing the crew of a downed chopper near the Cambodian border is about as hairy as it gets. Then the final straw — and the catalyst for the book — which took place more than 40 years later; Leonard made contact with one of the crewmembers from that chopper.

Surviving combat instilled a chameleon-like sense of innovation in Leonard and a kind of ‘challenge accepted’ attitude you might expect from someone used to taking risks and operating on a wing and a prayer.

An American Combat Bird Dog Pilot is now available in ebook and paperback versions. Don’t miss this thrilling tale of an untold side of the war in Vietnam and hair-raising stories from a life just feet above the treetops.

Are you a veteran with a book that you’d like to publish? We at SOFREP work directly with veterans to help them publish their stories. From non-fiction, biographies, and fiction, we want to help you share your tale with the world. Visit SOFREP Books to learn more.