Rolling Thunder in Scottsdale

Rolling Thunder. The name Mary Bess on the air intake was in honor of my recently deceased wife. Photo courtesy of Mark Berent.

Rolling Thunder.  The name on the air intake is in honor of my recently deceased wife, Mary Bess. Photo courtesy of Mark Berent.

By Mark Berent

I came to Arizona in 1996 because there was hangar space at Deer Valley airport for my airplane, a WWII trainer named Rolling Thunder.

Rolling Thunder was the operational name for an ill-fated bombing campaign against North Vietnam that began in 1965 under President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Rolling Thunder is also the name of the first book in my five-book Wings of War series. (See )

Wings of War are historical fiction novels about the disastrous 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, Whitey Whisenand, who fought in WWII and Korea, 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 early 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 fighter pilot 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 Major 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 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 enemy attack while on an airbase.

“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 knows planes and men and battle, and he whirls them around in a story of uncommon strength.” — W.E.B. Griffin

“A taut, exciting tale of good men in a bad war. Berent is the real thing.” — Tom Clancy


Dark Side. There is the dark side of why I am a military writer. The dark side that surfaces in untoward moments when bad memories spring unbidden from a well I try to keep capped. Moments when others, not of the sky, hear my harsh laughter and see the frost in my eyes. It is the side that bears extreme malice and near-consuming rage toward those who wasted the lives of my fellow airmen on missions that accomplished little except strengthen the enemy’s resolve. Missions that gratified only the arrogant civilian Caesars who, at White House luncheons, picked not only the targets but the bomb loads and the ingress and egress routes as well. It is the side that detests those members of the media who trivialized and scorned our efforts: it is the side that despises that wretched movie female who made broadcasts from Hanoi and called our tortured POWs liars: it is the side that bears hard anger toward some of our own men in uniform who saw war only as a career enhancing program. It is also of these contemptible people I am compelled to write.

Terravita. I have lived in Terravita 15 years and frequent the Desert Foothills and the Appaloosa libraries and have participated in Scottsdale Scenic Drive cleanups. Three years ago I was honored by being inducted into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame.


Rolling Thunder and most articles are free.

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Author: The Peak

Published on behalf of the Greater Pinnacle Peak Association by the editorial staff.

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