Writing Sample

Leading with Honor

Lee Ellis, Author
Michael Dowling, Ghostwriter

Chapter 1: “Know Yourself”

November 7, 1967, 4:00 p.m.  Captain Ken Fisher and I rolled into a dive-bomb pass in our F-4C Phantom jet. As we swooped downward, our bird with turned-up wingtips, elevated tail, and deafening roar must have resembled a high-tech version of a prehistoric pterodactyl.

Tracers from the North Vietnamese antiaircraft artillery flashed by our canopy like giant Roman candles, their explosions encircling us with ominous puffs of gray and black smoke. Each represented hundreds of shards of shrapnel designed to mortally wound our beautiful beast. It was combat as it has been for thousands of years, just updated with the latest technology.

Our mission was to destroy the guns that protected the Quang Khe ferry near Route 1A, the main thoroughfare for transporting war materials to the Ho Chi Minh Trail. As our jet plunged toward the artillery positions at five hundred miles an hour, the earth enlarged in our windscreen as if we were adjusting the zoom of a telephoto lens. It was an eyeball-to-eyeball stare-down with the enemy, with each side expecting the other to die.

When you face enemy fire, you are at the point of the sword. Ken and I had been around long enough to know that the sword of combat cuts both ways; we had lost three close friends in similar situations in the prior two months.

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