Books in Review II
Posted on May 31, 2011
Welcome to “Books in Review II,” the online-only column that complements “Books in Review,” which runs in The VVA Veteran, the bimonthly print magazine published by Vietnam Veterans of America.
That column and this site contain book reviews by writers who specialize in the Vietnam War and Vietnam War veterans. Our regular Books in Review II reviewers are John Cirafici, Dan Hart, Bill McCloud, Bob Wartman, Tom Werzyn, and Henry Zeybel. The late David Willson wrote hundreds of reviews for Books in Review II from its inception in 2011 through the spring of 2021.
Once We Flew, Volume I, by Joseph Michael Sepesy
Posted in Nonfiction on May 17, 2022
Once We Flew Volume I: The Memoir of a U.S. Army Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam and a Life with PTSD, (, 674 pp. $49.95, hardcover; $39.95, paper; $10, Kindle), Joseph Sepesy’s memoir, is his sixth book. His first five were a series called Word Dances, that dealt with ballroom dancing. His next book will be titled Once We Flew Volume II: Aftermath.

Once We Flew is a different kind of memoir. The book’s main body is broken into six main parts. Combined, they contain 160 very short, chronologically ordered, sections. Each section tells a complete story. Many are riveting, bone-chilling tales of Vietnam War combat flying.
This is a long book—and I wish it were longer. While I had to put it down from time to time, I did so only reluctantly. It is a fascinating read.
From an early age, Joe Sepesy, a member of Vietnam Veterans of America, wanted to fly helicopters. The U.S. Army presented him the opportunity to fulfill that desire. He was not a natural, though, and had to work long and hard to conquer the basics of flying. After a while, he learned to fly and became a master at combat flying.
During his first year in the Vietnam War with the First Cav’s 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion and the 1st Aviation Brigade and during two subsequent, voluntary six-month tours of duty, Sepesy accumulated a staggering total of 2,200 combat flight hours. While he displayed great amounts of skill and selfless courage, Sepesy never considered himself a combat hero—simply a man doing his job.
Being a very visible, high-value target and being shot at nearly every day, Sepesy did not dwell on death while in Vietnam, but was well aware of its nearness. Always keeping in mind, that, as he puts it, “complacency kills,” he became very methodical in addressing the dangers of flying in the warzone.
A man with Sepesy’s experiences is a prime candidate for developing post-traumatic disorder, and he writes a lot about it this book. I found that to be a distraction. If PTSD is what you want to read about, I recommend Once We Flew Volume II: Aftermath.
I experienced a lot of suspenseful moments while reading Volume I. I liked Joe Sepesy’s honesty, his grit, and his writing style. After completing the book, I doubled back and reread much of the front matter.
I highly recommend Once We Flew: Volume I, which tells the life and times of a heroic American combat aviator.
Sepesy’s website is
–The VVA Veteran, “Books in Review II,” by Bob Wartman, 17 May 2022

Rated 3rd in the “11 Best New Helicopter eBooks to Read in 2022,” with 4.14 stars. –Book Authority.ORG
You numba one GI. Thanks, Masher 2-4, for signing Volumes 1 and 2 of Once We Flew. It means so much to me. Absolutely outstanding books. Candid, with humility, keeping it real, and full of action and, for me, a real page turner. —Donald, 2022

5.0 out of 5 stars The real story. Reviewed in the United States on April 21, 2022, Amazon, Books, Once We Flew
The author and I served in the same unit. My tour ended just as his first tour began. As I read the book many times I was saying to myself, “That happened to me ..”, “I did that..”. His description of our AO and our missions was spot on. This book is different from others I have read in that he gives you a nuts and bolts description of what it was like doing our job. I cannot vouch for his description of his later tours because I was not there, but his description of flying with The Mashers (B/227) in III Corps is accurate. —Masher 13 ‘69/70

I am reading Joe’s book, and am halfway through Once We Flew, Vol. I. Please tell him he did a wonderful thing for those of us who love a Vietnam helicopter pilot. There is so much in there I did not know. I am awed by what I have read and able to get a glimpse of what these guys endured. Thanks, Joe. —Anita, 2022

5.0 out of 5 stars, Welcome Home, Sir! Reviewed in the United States on May 13, 2022, Verified Purchase
Extremely interesting and well written account of the making of a Combat Huey pilot. As a 1st Cav Grunt, we were often supported by Mr. Sepesy’s unit. I was very interested to learn of their training, tactics and operations. Thank you, Sir! —A 1st Cav Vietnam Grunt

I finished Volume II of Once We Flew and I want to say I learned a lot and am grateful that he [Joe] shared those thoughts and experiences with those who love and live with Vets who have PTSD. —The wife of a Bravo/227 helicopter pilot, April 2022

It is a great book! Rotorheads, it will make you relive your time at Ft. Wolters as well as RVN. —Jim, 16 May 2022

I am blown away by Once We Flew! It is excellent! I love all your books, but that one is my favorite. —Sandy, March 2022

I have read four of Joe’s books and recommend them all, I’m not into dancing so will skip those but you won’t be disappointed in the others. —Jim, 2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Captcha loading...