Thorsen endured the tough Platoon Leaders Course at Quantico and barely earned a commission. He underwent aviation and intercept training while suffering airsickness issues—and still earned his wings. Thorsen joined the oldest and most decorated squadron in the Marine Corps, the VMFA-232 Red Devils in southern California, as it prepared for deployment to Vietnam.
In combat, Thorsen felt angst when he saw the sky darken around him from anti-aircraft artillery explosions high above the Ho Chi Minh Trail. On his first close air support mission in support of ground troops (the majority of his Marine aviation missions), he witnessed tracers whiz by his canopy. On one harrowing sortie, he and his pilot purposely became the target to save an Army unit battling an enemy just a hundred feet away.
On secret missions with secret weapons, they dove at anti-aircraft artillery muzzle flashes and flew as a low as fifty feet off the deck during close air support sorties, “scraping” the napalm off their plane. For one mission a friend survived a crash landing, but a training instructor vanished without a trace.
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Published by University of North Texas Press