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Journal of the Air Force Historical Foundation book review

Journal of the Air Force Historical Foundation book review

I’ve had lots of great reviews of Phantom to Warthog since it was published in October of 2020. I’m grateful for each and every one of them (except for a handful of trolls), but in January 2023 the Air Force Historical Society requested a copy to be reviewed in their Fall edition. I asked my publisher to provide a copy with compliments and waited……and waited…….and waited. A couple weeks ago, the Foundation notified me the review would be appearing this month and sent me a copy. The book had been reviewed by a retired Marine Corps Major General–a fighter pilot–and I was pretty much blown away. After all, the greatest feedback comes from those who have been there and done that and General Anderson’s review highlighted a number of experiences and attitudes we shared. I’m awfully proud of this review–no need for me to elaborate. If you’ve thought about reading Phantom to Warthog but haven’t gotten around to it, perhaps the General’s evaluation will give you a nudge.

Semper Fi, General


From F–4 Phantom to A–10 Warthog: Memoirs of a Cold War Fighter Pilot.

By Steve Ladd, Col, USAF (Ret).

Barnsley UK: Air World Books, 2020.

Maps. Tables. Diagrams. Illustrations. Notes. Appendices. Glossary. Index.

I approached this review with a jaundiced eye. I, too, went through USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training and conversion to F–4 fighter pilot within one year of Colonel Ladd. In fact, many of our anecdotes and experiences are similar. I have also read and listened to fighter pilots sharing their experiences on many occasions. Often “there I was. . .” could be replaced more accurately with “once upon a time . . .”

In his introduction, Ladd promises a look at the fighter pilot worldview and not an autobiographical look at his achievements. He couldn’t have done it an iota better. His recollections are thoughtful, extremely accurate (in my assessment), and self-deprecating. His writing is artful and compelling. He separates the wheat from the chaff. If a Leadership is weak or ineffective, he identifies what constitutes this judgment. If some fighter pilot antics are juvenile and thoughtless, he says so without making excuses. What Ladd does most effectively is describe the fears, joys, and values unique to the professional fighter pilot. All of this is accomplished in a most readable and interesting journey through his career and experiences. The reader is taken through the rigors of flight school, starting in a small prop aircraft and culminating in piloting the sleek “White Rocket” Talon jet. He explains the rationale for aircraft mission selection and brings Survival Escape Resistance and Evasion training into the reader’s mental image.

True to his promise, war exploits are treated in a matter-of-fact manner, but the squadron pilot’s exploits of “baby” bullfighting in Spain and the grand destruction of an Officer Club’s grand piano are sure to entertain any reader.

Ladd provides quite an excellent description of the challenges of being a flight instructor and then transitioning to a new aircraft, the A–10 Warthog. He is skilled and tenacious in his defense of this pointedly single-mission ground attack aircraft that is slower, uglier, and more basic than all of its predecessors.

Ladd’s biggest challenge might be his ground staff tour at a European NATO headquarters. His description of the personalities and idiosyncrasies of our allies is perceptive and entertaining. Needless to say, he was effective in this assignment and was rewarded with another opportunity for airborne leadership of his fighter-pilot brethren.

This book is informative, funny, entertaining, and a truly excellent read. On a personal level, I enjoyed most the evaluation of leadership opportunities both seized and squandered. Colonel Ladd not only provides their descriptions, but also thoughtfully analyzes their results.

My critical read of this book yields very high marks indeed for accuracy, readability, and humor. Upon completion of your reading of this book, I’m confident you will be able to answer Ladd’s question: Was he lucky?

Joseph T. Anderson, Maj. Gen., USMC (Ret)


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