After BIG MOTHER 40 came out, it became obvious that there was a book to be written about Josh Haman’s first tour in Vietnam.  So I began noodling about a plot line and nothing excited me.  Then I had a conversation with a good friend of mine with whom I flew in Vietnam and something got us on the topic of what would the next book would be about.  He then reminded me of an incident in which he was flying as the co-pilot and they had an opportunity to go make a rescue but the aircraft commander said no, it was too risky.  The pilot was captured but never turned up on any PoW list.

On these types of ad-hoc rescue missions, you really don’t know how dangerous or difficult the pickup will be until you get close enough to evaluate the situation.  There is a risk that you’ll run into trouble before you get to the scene.  Even if you go in and get everybody out, there is a chance you’ll be second guessed.  If you go in and get everyone killed, then you’ve had a really bad day and while your actions maybe criticized, you aren’t around to hear it!  In the end, it is a judgment call.

What I realized from the discussion is there is an interesting continuum in combat.  At one end, there are the heroic acts and they’re easily recognizable.  In most cases, medals for valor are awarded.  At the other, there are the cowardly acts.  In a perverse way, one could say that they take a different kind of courage.  Someplace in between there are those which are overly cautious.  So where’s the line between being risk averse and cautious and being cowardly?  It is very, very gray fuzzy area with no definitions.

So out of that conversation popped the plot outline for CHERUBS 2 which is a prequel to BIG MOTHER 40.  The title comes from a term that Naval Aviators use to describe their altitude.  If you are at five thousand feet, if asked how high you were, the proper answer is Angels Five.  If you are at two hundred feet, the proper response is Cherubs 2.  I can’t tell you how many hours and it’s a lot, I spent flying a helicopter two hundred feet over the water or the land, night or day, good weather or bad.

Josh Haman, fresh out of the Naval Air Training Command and HS-10 which trained him in the H-3 reports to HC-7’s Detachment 1 at the Naval Air Station Cubi Point in the Philippines.  There’s he’s shipped off to jungle survival school and when he returns, he is told the squadron is short of co-pilots for the H-2.  Josh is given twenty hours in type which is ten less than he should have gotten and shipped off to an H-2 on a destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin.

After he’s flown a few missions, he senses something wrong because it is clear there is tension between the enlisted men and his aircraft commander who is also the detachment office –in-charge.  In this small detachment of two officers and twelve enlisted men.  So is his HAC a coward or is he overly cautious?  Or, is he just an asshole?  For a junior officer on his first assignment, it is difficult position to be in.  What should or could he do?

Its finished and I am about to dump it into the publishing pipeline as soon as RENDER HARMLESS comes out.

Marc Liebman

Decemeber, 2013