Review -A Reluctant Warrior: The Military Draft, the Navy F4 Phantom, Vietnam, and Top Gun by Kenneth Volker


SOF Support
Sep 8, 2006
BLUF: Yet another memoir about naval aviation during Vietnam, this time at the end of the conflict.

Ken Volker was about to be drafted when he took his fate into his own hands and applied to be an Aviation Officer Candidate. Once upon a time (maybe still?) you could sign up for OCS that guaranteed you a slot at flight school. Volker was accepted and later became a F-4 pilot. The book breaks down what it took for his Wings of Gold, plus his thoughts during the process. It covered his marriage and how the deployments affected he and his wife from Vietnam and afterwards.

He made one cruise to Vietnam, right at the end but before Linebacker. He knew what it was like to be shot at, lose friends, and of course land on a carrier at night even with mechanical issues. His second cruise to Vietnam was right after the end of hostilities for the US; no combat, but a lot of alerts waiting for something to happen.

Post-war, he had two tours as an instructor including one at Top Gun. He elected to leave active duty, but remained in the Reserves, retiring as a Captain (O-6).

A very good book, especially showing the war from the perspective of a guy who wasn't keen to serve, but earned his way into a prestigious assignment. His personal thoughts on the process, war, his fears, highs, lows, etc. aren't unusual, but understated at times. The book is quite descriptive and pulls the reader in with its story telling.

I recommend it if the sort of niche subject matter appeals to you.