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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
Hamfist at DaNang by G.E. Nolly is a story about LT Hancock Hamilton. “Ham” wanted to be a fighter pilot since he was a kid. As result, he dedicated himself at the Academy and graduated top of his class. However, after graduation, Hamilton is greatly disappointed when he is informed that no “fighter” slots are available. Instead, he would be a FAC (Forward Air Controller), flying a 0-2A out of DaNang, Vietnam. The mission of the FAC was to be eyes and ears of the fighter pilot, to observe and control fighters in an airstrike. Prior to leaving for duty, LT Hamilton saves a man’s life in a dark alley in San Francisco. Unaware of the future chain of events that would result from his heroic deed, he leaves for Vietnam, Christmas Day, 1968. Upon his arrival at DaNang, he is issued his call sign - Covey 218, and given his military nickname - “Hamfist.” Face to face with the enemy, he remembers his training, “Never give up. Make them earn you.” In one terrifying moment, alone, and in danger, “Hamfist” discovers what really is important.
G.E. Nolly writes Hamfist at DaNang in first person narrative. In doing so, the reader sees through the eyes and feels the emotions of “Hamfist” Hamilton. Nolly’s word choices, especially the use of military vernacular, brought realism to the story. He gave detailed explanations regarding aircraft avionics and military terminology. He even alluded to pilot superstitions regarding luck - good and bad. Readers who love military stories will embrace this novel wholeheartedly. The author did not use much figurative language, but one line really stuck with me: “The day Dad was killed was the watershed moment of my life story. It was the yardstick I used to mark events in my life.” I really felt that this was the demarcation line for Hamilton’s character growth, the line that divided the child from the man. Mr. Nolly wrote with intensity, he shared experiences, emotions and feelings, making you feel as if you were there as an observer. All the while, the author maintained a good pace and rhythm. Long sentences were minimal and the exchanges in the dialogues made the conversations engaging and easy to follow. The author’s references to Thomas Jefferson, Patton, Clausewitz, Kathryn Lee Bates, Thomas Hardy and especially, the American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct authenticated the work. Hamfist at DaNang depicts the life of an air force pilot with realism, displaying the devotion of the character’s love for country and military code of conduct.