Friday, December 30, 2011

THE BAT IN MY POCKET: A Memorable Friendship by Amanda Lollar

This delightful little book is one of my all-time favorites. That’s why I’ve chosen to write a review about it. Although it appears to be out of print, there are copies available from

I first discovered The Bat in My Pocket in the gift shop at the Newport Aquarium in Newport, Oregon. That may have been the year it was published, 1992, or not long after. It was revised and republished in 1996. Since then, I’ve bought several more copies to give to friends and grandchildren.

I knew very little to nothing about bats except that they kept down the mosquito population and came out at night. The Bat In My Pocket broadened my perspective immensely. If you’ve ever feared bats, or simply thought of them as repulsive, then you should read The Bat In My Pocket. These little creatures are amazing and can be every bit as affectionate as any other household pet.

There are differences, however. This book will open your eyes to the positives and negatives of keeping a bat. For instance, how do you housebreak a bat? Actually, it’s remarkably easy. As Amanda Lollar’s unexpected friend, Sunshine, begins to ride around in her pocket, Sunshine is able to let Amanda know when she has to go. She walks down Amanda’s arm to a tissue in Amanda’s hand. She neatly goes on the tissue which is then discarded. How smart a bat is that?

This is only one small insight into the book’s wonderful stories. Amanda Lollar begins to care for many other bats that she grows to love. Some of her tales are happy, some sad, but all poignant and touching.

Little did she realize that finding a distressed bat on a hot Texas sidewalk would ultimately lead her to establish the Bat World Sanctuary.

This is a wonderful book for children and adults. Of the 12 reviews currently on every one of them gave it five stars. We do too.
  —Gail Lewis

Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Capra Press; Revised edition (April 1996)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0884964094
ISBN-13: 978-0884964094

Friday, December 23, 2011


In 1954, Malcolm Taylor, a noted foreign-affairs journalist, kissed his daughter at the front door, said goodbye, and promised to come back. He didn't.
In 1967, Kristin Taylor, a budding novice journalist, followed her father's trail to find out why.
In Saigon, Kristin meets up − or rather, is forced into reluctant collaboration − with Luke Maddox, a photojournalist who irks Kristin in just about every way imaginable. And she reciprocates. Little do either of them know that Kristin's determination to follow through on a story her father had begun the previous decade, and Luke's hidden past are intertwined. Finally, her self-imposed assignment, an exposé on a secret war within a war, threatens to explode both of their worlds, which have now become one.

Professionally, Kristin excels in her honest portrayal of a conflict gone so wrong, endearing herself to the men she has come to respect and love. Personally, she doesn't do so well in shielding her emotions from the horror engulfing a nation she has also come to love. From the trauma of a blood-spattered field hospital, to the heat of battle at a forward fire base, to the precious and precarious existence of a Saigon orphanage, Kristin learns the hard way how to survive physically, mentally and emotionally in an environment man was never meant to endure.

Her love-hate relationship with Luke comes to a head, then Kristin is forced to return to the States. Like most veterans of that conflict, part of her she leaves in Vietnam, part of Vietnam she brings home with her. And life is never again the same.

Ms. West delivers an honest, compelling, and very well-written tale of war and the aftermath of war. But it's not a mere blood-and-guts story. It's one of hope. She shows us how love and faith have curious and unexpected ways of sprouting even in the most barren soil. Yesterday's Tomorrow will leave you very satisfied at its conclusion, but don't expect the path to be strewn with rose petals. Few paths to meaningful destinations are.
—Bruce Judisch

Product Details:
Publisher: OakTara
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 336
ISBN-13: 978-1-6029027-8-7

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Truth & Dare by Ann-Margaret Hovsepian, subtitled One Year of Dynamic Devotions for Girls, is a multi-faceted, Bible-based plan for the preteen girl. Its format combines Bible readings, journaling and suggestions for putting her faith into action.

Broken into weekly segments, it opens each week with a short inspirational thought, prayer, or Bible verse to set the tone. From there it moves into a specific segment for every day of the week. Each day opens with a suggested Bible reading and a short thought, such as: “Just reading the Bible isn’t enough.” Following that is the TRUTH, a three or four paragraph commentary on the reading and its implications.

Following the TRUTH, as its name implies, is a DARE. Like the Truth it begins with a short thought such as: “Don’t admire the riches of others,” followed by three comments and/or practices to deepen a youngster’s faith. Completing the page is a section for journaling, which encourages this use to look inside themselves and track their progress.

Every weekend there’s a two-page wrap-up on a single subject with more journaling space. Truth & Dare is designed to encourage tween girls to discover how exciting God’s word can be. Not only does it encourage regular Bible reading, in makes it real and helps them learn how to apply it to daily life. With 52 weeks of good advice, Truth & Dare can inspire a young girl to boldly live out her faith.

New Year’s is coming up and it is the traditional time of resolutions and new starts. Truth & Dare in a girl’s Christmas stocking would mean she could start the New Year with a plan to build her faith. 

Parental Note: I noticed when I searched for “Truth & Dare” on it brought up "Truth or Dare" instead, along with four pages of spicy romances and erotic novels. Many had racy covers, inappropriate for teens. If searching for this book, be sure to use the author’s name to get you where you want to go.

We thank Audra Jennings at B&B Media for supplying us with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
—E. G. Lewis

Reading level: Ages 9 and up
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1434702081

Monday, December 12, 2011


As Little Cub and Grampa Bear’s fishing adventure is interrupted by mischievous otters, the young polar bear begins to question why we must love others… even the seemingly unlovable.

In answering her questions, Grampa Bear gives tender explanations that teach Little Cub about the different kinds of love that is shared between families, friends, and mamas and papas. Grampa explains that all these kinds of love come from God and that it is important to love others because…

“Any time we show love, Little Cub, we’re sharing a bit of his love.”

This sweet tale will warm the hearts of young children as they learn about all the different sorts of love, while the gentle explanations of each provide a valuable opportunity to encourage children to share with others a “God-sized love.” Now in a sturdy format, ideal for the littlest hands at storytime, bedtime, or anytime. Would make a great Christmas gift!

About the Author:
Lisa Bergren is the best-selling, award-winning author of more than thirty books, with more than two million copies sold. A former publishing executive, she now splits her time working as a freelance editor and writer while parenting three children with her husband, Tim, and dreaming of the family’s next visit to Taos.
 Visit Lisa's Website HERE

Product Details: List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 0 and up
Board book: 22 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Brdbk edition (December 20, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307730271
ISBN-13: 978-0307730275

And Now Our Review:
God Gave Us Love is one of a series of board books for pre-schoolers whose titles all begin God Gave Us… Written in simple language, in each one Little Bear learns about the world and the gifts God has bestowed on all his creatures. They’re sturdy, delightfully illustrated, and ideal for use as a bedtime story that sends a child off to dreamland with happy and holy thoughts. Earlier this year, we featured another volume in this series, God gave us Love. You can read about it HERE. With Christmas so close, now is an ideal time to pick up several of these books for the young people in your life. They make excellent stocking-stuffers and are a gift that a little person will treasure.
—E G Lewis

Thursday, December 8, 2011

THE CAT LOVER'S DEVOTIONAL by M.R, Wells, Connie Fleishauer & Dottie P Adams

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Susan Otis, publicist, Creative Resources, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


M. R. Wells is the co-author of Four Paws from Heaven, Purr-ables from Heaven, and Paws for Reflection. She has written extensively for children’s animated television and video programs, including several Disney shows, Adventures from the Book of Virtues and Bibleman. She shares her Southern California home with her cats and dogs Muffin, Bo, Munchie, Becca and Marley.

Connie Fleishauer is a retired teacher and writer, and is the co-author of Four Paws from Heaven, Purr-ables from Heaven, and Paws for Reflection. The wife of a Bakersfield, California farmer, she is a mother of three and grandmother of one. While many cats have warmed her home, currently, she has two dogs.

Dottie P. Adams is a teaching director for Community Bible Study in the Los Angeles area where she has taught a Bible class for twenty years. Co-author of Purr-ables from Heaven, she is the wife of a retired physicist, the mother of three children, grandmother of five, and currently has cats Midnight and Mooch.

Visit the authors' website.


A new devotional for cat lovers will delight and impart truth about God’s ways, workings in our lives and our relationship with Him. Entertaining true accounts of the antics and personalities of cats are interwoven with anecdotes from the lives of the people who love them and timeless biblical truth. Suitable for adults, youth or children, the stories are filled with gripping moments that reveal God’s love and would lend themselves well to family or personal devotions.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736928812
ISBN-13: 978-0736928816


Midnight’s Not-So-Rapid Transit

Relationships Take Time

We always have time enough, if we will but use it aright.


I love sitting at the dining room table on spring mornings, watching the stark darkness turn into a misty dawn as the birds sing to announce the new day. It’s a great time to be alone with the Lord. The house is quiet because I’m the only “early bird” up besides the real ones chirping outside.

As I sat praying one particular morning I heard a loud thump on the window behind me. It was Midnight, asking to come in for breakfast. She always bangs her head against the windowpane to get my attention. Then she rubs her nose against the window frame and meows softly, knowing I will come outside to fetch her. I call this her “rapid transit,” even though she could come in much more quickly through the cat door. But it’s not the quickness she desires—it’s the contact.

As Midnight softly meowed and rubbed that morning I pulled on a jacket and headed outdoors to perform the rite we both love. I cozy up to the air conditioner, which is exactly the height of my shoulders. She steps from the machine to my shoulder as I guide her. She drapes herself around me with her front paws on my left shoulder, her belly nestling the back of my neck, and her back paws hanging down over my right shoulder. As her face presses against me, she purrs into my left ear. I understand that this is her ride to her food bowl—but it’s so much more. Not only do I get a smell of the morning air, I have precious moments of special closeness with my “living fur shawl.” It’s a joy to have this relationship with one of God’s little four-foots—a joy I treasure!

Like my cat, my youngest grandchild also loves to cuddle. He and his brother and their parents live with us right now. I often spend part of the morning upstairs working on lectures for the Bible study class I teach. Eli and Jayden are awake by the time I come downstairs. Jayden (age two and a half) is content to smile, call to me, and continue his play. But Eli (18 months) wants more. He rushes over to me, crying “Maw-Maw!” Then he tugs at my clothes till I pick him up so he can snuggle. As soon as he’s in my arms, he lays his head tightly against me, his ear pressed against my chest. He stays that way for what is a long time for a toddler. It’s a joy to have this special time with him, and I treasure it too!

I also treasure the special relationship time I spend with God. Most mornings I go to Him in prayer, even if it’s just to ask His blessing on my family. I spend a few moments reading the Bible, even if it’s just one verse to connect my mind to Him. I call this “having coffee with Jesus.”

I get my coffee and intentionally ask Jesus to sit with me as if He were here in the flesh. I picture Him sitting right across the table. I talk about the previous day or the day to come. I weep with Him over hardships I’m facing or the suffering of others. I laugh and rejoice with Him over answered prayer. I share my needs and thank Him for being my friend. Sometimes I imagine Him smiling back at me, and other times I believe He brings a verse of Scripture into my mind to correct me or give me hope or courage.

Building close relationships takes time. It must be intentional. It can’t only happen when it’s convenient. Jesus lived this out when He walked the earth. He called each of His disciples and poured His life into them for three years. And He always took time to pray and be with His Father in heaven.

Midnight intentionally bumps the window to begin our special time together. I intentionally respond, even if she’s interrupting something pressing. When Eli wants to snuggle, I take time to enjoy his toddler love, even if I’m in a hurry. I have coffee with Jesus in the same way. Whether it’s convenient or not, I take the necessary time not just to go through my prayers, but to be with my Lord. I believe He delights to hear me purring in His ear as I start the day with Him!

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly (Psalm 5:3).
Consider This:

Do you set aside time to be with God each day? If so, how does it enhance your relationship? If not, would you be willing to try?

Perry’s Good Shepherd

Be a Shepherd for God

The King of love my Shepherd is,

Whose goodness faileth never;

I nothing lack if I am His,

And He is mine forever.


Perry is a very special kitty, the first to live indoors with my in-laws, Harold and Doris. They got him from relatives who could no longer keep him. He is totally enjoying his new life as he chooses where to sleep and whose lap to jump on for some pampering. This gorgeous fluffy orange cat with bright peridot eyes knows just what he wants and how to get it. He loves Harold and Doris, but like all ornery kids he knows how to work them.

On one particular evening when I’d been visiting with them, Perry decided to be a bit more playful than anyone desired. When we walked out the back door, Perry slipped out behind us and followed. He darted under my car to hide. I saw him first and began to call him, but there was no way he was going to obey me. This was playtime. He raced to the back of the vehicle and sprinted down the long driveway.

Harold and Doris live in the country, but their home is near a popular road where cars drive fast. Perry could have been in great danger. He would have had little chance of survival on this road in the dark of night. Fortunately, his faithful master took care of him. As I started to go after the truant, Harold stopped me. He said, “Cover me with the flashlight and I’ll go get him.”

Although Perry was ornery, perhaps this cat had some “horse sense.” He got close to the road but turned aside. He darted into the pasture at the east end of the farm. Perry slunk down in the high grass while Harold, age 82, tried to sneak up on the mischievous feline in his stocking feet in the dark. I felt bad that Harold would not let me join him in the pursuit, but this was his cat, his “child,” his responsibility. He was Perry’s “good shepherd,” and he was acting as any good shepherd would. Giving up or giving in was never an option.

Finally, Perry seemed to realize that Harold was in charge (or he chose to let Harold think he was). Perry hunkered down and let his human grab him. I could tell that even though Harold was tired and his stocking feet were muddy, he was pleased to have Perry back safely in his arms.

Harold probably just thought of this as another one of many chases he had with Perry. But to me, it was more. It was a reenactment of the Parable of the Lost Sheep. In Matthew 18:12-14, Jesus talks about the shepherd who left the rest of his flock to search for the one little lost sheep that had wandered off.

Many years ago, I was just such a lost sheep. Just before entering high school, I had been making some very poor choices. I had accepted Jesus as my personal Savior when I was six years old, and I had gone to church all my life. But at this time, I decided to explore my small world in ways I didn’t need to. I had chosen to be with some “friends” who weren’t true friends, and we had done some things we needed to confess.

My older brother talked to me about what I was doing. He asked if I really wanted to go to high school with that baggage. He stayed with me until I prayed and promised that I would try to obey God and behave like His child. Darrell was my shepherd at that point, and many other times through my teenage years. When I was lost, he went looking for me till he found me. He’d bring me home and nurture me the way a brother or a shepherd would.

The story of the lost sheep had great meaning to me as I was growing up. I loved thinking about the caring shepherd picking up the scared, tired little lamb in his strong arms and carrying it home. I still take comfort in this parable today. It is a way of telling us that we will never be left alone. No matter what our age, if we choose to run off by ourselves, like Perry did that night, our Good Shepherd will always go after us and bring us home in His loving arms, if we allow Him to.

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent (Luke 15:4-7).

Consider This:

Have you ever strayed from God? What lured you away? How did your Good Shepherd pursue you? Did you let Him carry you home? If not, would you like to do that right now? Is there someone God might want you to shepherd for Him?

Undying Love

Be “Otherly”

True happiness is found in unselfish Love, a Love which increases in proportion as it is shared.


Tigret was my dear friend Patty’s treasured four-footed kitty soul mate for 17 wonderful years. He was her first real pet and best buddy. They lived together in New York, and when Patty moved to California, Tigret made the cross-country journey with her.

When Patty watched TV, Tigret would curl up beside her. He slept on her bed at night. When she gave parties, he sat on his very own chair. But he was more than a faithful companion. Patty once heard someone say that God gives us each a pet to teach us something special. She feels Tigret was given to her to teach her to be “otherly”—to love others and God with an unselfish love.

Tigret knew Patty’s moods. He sensed when she was sad or happy. He would put his paw on her lap or hand in a gesture of kitty comfort. He also seemed to know when she was sick—sometimes even before she did. He would stay close by his beloved human until he sensed she was better.

Tigret’s ultimate expression of unselfish love was to care for Patty even when he was dying. He was 17 and had developed kidney problems. He couldn’t drink enough water to stay healthy, and giving him fluids subcutaneously didn’t work well. He would yelp when the needle was inserted. Patty decided not to force this on him. Tigret got sicker and sicker until it took all his strength just to go upstairs. Clearly Tigret’s time on this earth was ending. Patty made him as comfortable as she could…even as her own heart was breaking.

One day, as Patty tended Tigret in tears, he reached out his paw and placed it on her arm. It was as if he was saying, “You’ll be okay.” When Tigret died, Patty wasn’t with him. She believes he knew it would be easier for her that way.

Someone else in Patty’s life also tried to care for her while dying. Patty’s mother passed away just one month after Tigret. She had battled cancer before—but no one knew it had come back.

Patty’s mom was a pediatric cardiologist. In her later years she semiretired from private practice and became involved in teaching and mentoring medical interns and residents. She kept this up even when the cancer returned, and Patty would not have realized that something was wrong except for God’s intervention.

It was a Sunday after church, and Patty had gone up front for prayer on a completely unrelated matter. The gentleman who prayed with her asked Patty how her mother was. “As far as I know, okay,” Patty answered. The man suggested Patty ask her mom about her health. When Patty did, her mom admitted her cancer had come back.

Just like Tigret, Patty’s mom was concerned for the needs of others, even as her own health was failing. She tried to keep teaching. She talked to Patty about taking care of her dad. When Patty finally persuaded her to go to the doctor, he said she had six to nine months to live. They could try chemotherapy, but there was no guarantee.

Patty’s mom took her first dose of chemo—and passed away a week later.

Patty recalls a moment in her mother’s hospital room. Her mom was on a ventilator. Patty saw two angels in a corner by the bed. Patty knew her mom loved Jesus and would go to be with Him. She died soon after. That experience feels to Patty like a special gift from God.

Our loving Lord Jesus was also “otherly” when it was time for Him to die. As His betrayal and crucifixion approached, His focus was to teach and prepare His disciples. In John 16:5-7, He told them, “Now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Even as He hung on the cross, Jesus asked His disciple John to care for His mother.

But Jesus’ sacrificial love went far deeper. He willingly took upon Himself the penalty for our sins. By doing so, He conquered sin and death so that all who put their trust in Him could enjoy eternal life. Patty has given her life to her Savior, and she knows that when she leaves this earth she will go to her loving Lord, who will wipe away all her tears, including the ones she shed for Tigret and her mother. And she’ll be reunited with her mom again.

Being “otherly” isn’t something that starts when we are dying. It’s a way of life. It’s what Jesus calls us to do. If you live and love with an “otherly” focus, as Tigret and Patty’s mom did, you will show that you are Jesus’ disciple!

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:10-11).

Consider This:

Is there someone in your life who loves you unselfishly? How do they do that and how does it make you feel? How could you focus more on others and be more sensitive to their needs? What could you do to show them “otherly” love?


This book sounded like a cheerful read, but my expectation for it wasn’t high. I was pleasantly surprised. The Cat Lover’s Devotional is full of heartfelt cat tales that weave in similarities to human experiences. Stories, quotes and bible verses tie together into delightful inspirational chapters. It’s ideal for a quick, encouraging read when you’re in hurry … maybe before leaving for work, or off to run an errand.

If you love cats and you like being encouraged, then this book is for you. Any time you want a quick pick-me-up, this devotional is likely to do it for you. Give it a try, you’ll like it.
−Gail Lewis

Monday, December 5, 2011

LEFT ALIVE TO DIE: The Story of Blue Angels Leader Capt. Harley Hall by Susan Keen

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Left Alive to Die: The Story of Blue Angels Leader CAPT Harley Hall

Hannibal Books (August 15, 2011)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson of Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***


Susan Keen is a mother of two, teacher, reader, and world traveler. A native of Mississippi, she holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Mississippi College, Clinton, MS. She has written and published two cookbooks, was an interior designer, is a graduate of several French cooking schools, and is a gourmet cook. She and her husband, Jack Keen, M.D., live in Fort Worth and are active members of Travis Avenue Baptist Church.


The Vietnam War, though an uncomfortable part of America's conscience, is past history. Military personnel are home. Missing are found. Bodies are buried. Relations are normalized with Vietnam. Four decades later, we're over it. Right?

Not for Mary Lou Hall and her children, Heather and Harley Stephen. Their husband and dad, accomplished and decorated U.S. aviator Harley Hall, who unflinchingly signed on for last-gasp missions over Vietnam even in the war's waning seconds in 1973, disappeared after his shootdown—his whereabouts never pinpointed. For his loved ones and for all who still miss him urgently, the question lingers: where is Harley? how could he so utterly vanish? why did the U.S. not charge in and demand an accounting for this one who had such a brilliant future ahead as a military star? why was he left alive to die?

Susan Keen, whose physician husband once served alongside Harley as Hall commanded the celebrated Navy's Blue Angels flight-demonstration team, masterfully and heartwrenchingly profiles Harley, last American pilot shot down before the cease fire; chronicles jarring evidence indicating that Hall remained alive for years after his capture; and outlines our government's humiliating response to his wife's and others' pleas to garner attention for this compelling case.

No American can read Keen's shocking book without being moved to impassioned prayer for those such as Mary Lou who have no closure and whose lives forever are devastated by a war that many would like to believe never happened.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (August 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1613150105
ISBN-13: 978-1613150108


“Eject! Eject!”

CDR Harley Hall, handsome former commander of the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Team, walked across the flight deck of the gigantic carrier USS Enterprise and over to his F-4 Phantom. The time was around noon, January 27, 1973. Hall, the Executive Officer of VF-143, was preparing to fly his last mission over Vietnam before the ceasefire. On the flight deck he saw LCDR Ernie Christensen and waved. Christensen wandered over near Hall’s aircraft.
“Boss, I guess this is it; neither of us will ever get our MiG!” Christensen, who had been a pilot on Hall’s Blue Angels Team, reverted to the familiar term of respect for his former commander.1 Christensen, the Operations Officer of Harley’s sister squadron VF-142, had flown Blue Angels No. 4 on Hall’s 1970 team but in 1971 returned to combat on the Enterprise.

“Yes, looks like we missed our chance,” Hall answered. The MiG, the supersonic jet-fighter aircraft developed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau for the USSR and flown by the enemy during the Vietnam War, posed serious threats for American aircraft and ground troops. American crews that successfully shot down a MiG had a red star painted on the fuselage of their aircraft—one red star for each MiG. These pilots were highly revered.
Hall and Christensen talked for a few seconds more. Christensen headed back to his plane. That afternoon a quiet and growing elation of the “last real” combat mission over Vietnam underscored actions and thought. If one had been bold enough to stick his head up and look around for hope, he almost could see the end of this high-risk life—that of being a naval fighter pilot stationed on a carrier flying missions over Vietnam.
Hall climbed into his F-4 and joined his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), LCDR Al Kientzler, who sat behind him. Kientzler was replacing Hall’s regular RIO, LCDR Gary Hughes, who was Squadron Duty Officer (SDO) that day. Hall strapped in, scanned his instruments, and completed his pre-flight check.
Streaking off the deck of the USS Enterprise, the powerful General Electric J79 engines threw rocket-like plumes behind as the catapult in two-and-a-half seconds hurled the big Mc-Donnell Douglas jet 300 feet through the sky at 165 mph and pinned Hall and Kientzler against the backs of their seats. For about two seconds Hall’s vision, affected by the G-forces, saw a blur rather than the buttons and dials of the instrument panel. “Catapult shots feel like being shot from a cannon!” he commented over the loud engines.2

Hall’s plane, still in afterburner, continued climbing to top speed and correct altitude to hook up with the overhead tanker and take on fuel. Over his left shoulder Hall saw his wingman, LT Terry Heath, with his RIO, LT Phil Boughton, also flying an F-4. “Taproom 113 to 114. Let’s go get ’em!” Hall said over the flight frequency designated for the two-aircraft formation.

“Let’s do it!” Heath, Taproom 114, answered.

After checking in with Hillsborough (the U.S. Air Force controller working northern South Vietnam) they were assigned to the Forward Air Controller (FAC) Covey 115 and directed to their target area. They reached their target at the Cua Viet River just south of the Demilitarized Zone. Then Covey 115 assigned them their mission—enemy trucks moving south from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). On this last day of war, communist

Vietnamese troops rushed south to occupy as much land in non-communist South Vietnam as possible, while United States bombers did everything they could to stop the aggressive Viet Cong troops. Heath made his bomb run to the north, while Hall went one mile south to work a different group of trucks. Finding his target quickly Hall called in to his FAC and released his bombs.

Climbing out after his last bomb run Hall heard the dull thud of bullets or shrapnel hitting his plane. Instantly his master caution light flashed red; this indicated serious danger.

“Taproom 113 to 114. Mayday! Mayday! I’m hit!” Hall reported calmly.
“Mayday! This is Taproom 113! I’m hit! Lost PC-1 and utilities, heading feet wet!” Hall repeated.

Hall’s warning light continued flashing red. His jet became a flying boulder with no maneuverability. With the tail section hit and hydraulics lost, this meant no flight control, with all hope of flying the aircraft gone. Somehow though, through sheer guts, Herculean and adrenalin-fueled body strength, and technical skill, Hall managed the jet into an almost-level position and turned east.

“Give us your position! Give us a flare—anything to tell us where you are!” Heath’s backseater RIO Boughton called. Heath spotted Hall’s plane two or three miles to the southeast, about 4,000 feet below. Hall’s plane blazed fire from the tail section but remained flying and aloft.
“Taproom 113, I’ve got you! You’re on fire!” Heath shouted over the radio. “Get feet wet!”

Hall needed to maneuver the plane over the water to eject so a rescue team more easily could find them. The dense jungles of the area in which Hall and his wingman were working made them vulnerable to being captured by waiting enemy ground troops. The vegetation of the jungles also prohibited clear sighting by airborne rescue operations. Landing in water also meant enemy ground troops could not capture them as easily. Thus, feet wet gave Hall and Kientzler more advantages than feet dry.
“We’re trying, Terry!” Hall replied calmly.

But by the second the jet became heavier and continued to fall.

“Al, eject! Eject!” Hall told his backseater.

Al Kientzler yanked the face curtain, an action which set in motion the ejection sequence. This instantly fired the canopy away and ejected Kientzler through the sky. Three-fourths of a second later the rocket under Hall’s seat fired. Both flyers shot clear of the plane and over water.
Heath watched as Hall and Kientzler ejected. Their plane suddenly did a roll, went into a spin, and pitched vertically— straight down to the ground.
Strong winds blew the downed crewmen away from the water; Hall’s parachute was higher than that of Kientzler’s. Unfortunately both men were blown west back over land to feet dry. Feet dry put them into a critical situation, since they were trying to stay over water to be rescued.
“Mayday!” Boughton called over the universal guard frequency. “Attack and radio, two F-4 crewmen are in the air!”

“Roger, I’ve got them,” FAC Nail 89, who along with LCDR Christensen’s division of aircraft had watched the ejection and crash, answered. He immediately called people to help with the rescue. Hall’s plane had gone down in the target area of Christensen, whose Dakota section of F4-J aircraft was working against VC headquarters area south of the Cua Viet River. During their runs moments earlier they had received SA- 7 and 37 fire. A USSR-made portable, shoulder-fired, low-altitude, surface-to-air missile, the SA-7 Grail presented threats to low-flying aircraft. Antiaircraft Artillery 37-millimeter guns posed additional threats. Christensen, who had just finished his final bombing run when he saw Hall’s F-4 pass in front of him, immediately sent the remainder of his division into high holding and remained at 5,000 feet of altitude for support.
Within moments another SA-7 raced through the air. It fired straight at Heath and Boughton and went just under their plane’s nose.

“Wow! That was real close!” Boughton said.

Heath descended to 3,000 feet, near the spot in which Hall and Kientzler hung from their parachutes. Heath could see that the two men looked OK, with no arms or legs missing. They still hung in normal positions from their parachutes.
“Taproom 114 Bravo, how do you read?” Kientzler called. However, trying over and over, he raised no response. Heath continued to descend to 1,000 feet, at which he saw the two chutes land about a half-mile apart. Kientzler landed first. Heath saw Hall, as soon as he landed, instantly get up and run. His parachute drifted off in the opposite direction from that of Kientzler’s. Kientzler was hit in the thigh; a bullet tore through his leg and passed out the other side. This left him semiconscious and unable to run. Heath and Boughton saw that Hall and Kientzler’s landing area was barren sand and dirt with few trees on an island in the Cua Viet River at the point the river empties into the Gulf of Tonkin. Visible from the air and unfortunately too visible from the ground, the two men had few chances of hiding. The area was covered with North Vietnamese troops. Heath and Boughton knew for certain Hall did get up and run; therefore, he was alive, but they weren’t sure about Kientzler.
“SA-7! SA-7!” FAC Covey 115 shouted on guard; this alerted Taproom 114.
“Break right! Break right,” Boughton ordered. As the backseater, part of his duties were to scan the sky forward and aft, right and left, above and below for possible enemy aircraft or missiles.

Heath quickly turned the plane right. The F-4 barely missed the SA-7 missile as it shot past their canopy. “Well, that was the second SA-7, just like they are plenty cheap!” Boughton replied.

Meanwhile Hillsborough, monitoring the guard frequency and in control of multiple aircraft ready to be assigned to bombing missions, began to vector aircraft into a holding area above the search and rescue (SAR) position. Each reported ordnance on board and time available before fuel exhaustion.
Since the shootdown was in his target area, Nail 89 was assigned SAR On-Scene Commander. “Roger, I’m on-scene commander,” FAC Nail 89 answered.
Almost immediately Nail 89 radioed Covey 115, “We can’t see them moving. I’m going down for a low pass to get a better fix on the situation. Cover me high; I’ll be low. Stack all the other planes on top. Keep ordnance [bombs] overhead. Give me a report of any SA-7s.”

“Watch your six! Been SA-7 fire here,” Covey 115 warned.

“Rog, 115,” Nail 89 acknowledged the warning.

“SA-7! SA-7!” Covey 115 shouted on guard.

Directly overhead of Nail 89, his FAC, Christensen, on guard frequency with Covey 115 saw an SA-7 lift and knock the tail off SA-7 Nail 89’s plane—an OV-10, a two-seater spotter aircraft. End over end the plane began to tumble.

“I can’t get out! I can’t get out!” Nail 89 Bravo screamed into the radio.
Seconds before impact, both Nail 89 A, Lt. Mark Peterson, in the front seat, and Capt. George W. Morris, Nail 89 B in the back seat, managed to escape the aircraft. Because they were at less than 500-feet altitude, they landed almost immediately. Overhead, Christensen watched.
Peterson and Morris hit the ground. Nail 89 yelled on his PRC survival radio, “This is Nail 89 Bravo. Looks like I’m going to be captured! Yeah, I’m going to be captured! Out!” Immediately his transmission continued, “Oh, my God! I’m getting hit! I’m getting hit! Oh, my God!”
Heath and Boughton were farther away and couldn’t hear the radio transmission, because they weren’t on the same radio frequency. But they did see Nail 89’s plane impact. In total amazement Heath and Boughton saw Nail 89 pilots eject from their plane, their parachutes sailing above the ball of fire, but the two crew members drew heavy fire from the ground as they landed. Heath saw about 30 Viet Cong soldiers in the area looking for downed pilots and firing at Peterson and Morris as they parachuted to the ground. Nail 89’s plane crashed south of the Cua Viet River, near the site on which Hall and Kientzler’s parachutes landed, but not on the island. Heath and Boughton continued circling. They searched for Hall and Kientzler and the downed FAC pilots and broadcast the landing site to Covey 115. AAA and SA-7 missile fire was intense and incessant. Although flying too low to the ground was suicide, they kept looking.
Shortly after the first shootdown, USS Enterprise officers in the Carrier Intelligence Center (CVIC) listened as Heath and other crews scrambled to find the downed pilots. An A-6, an E-2, and six A-1E Skyraiders (Sandys) arrived; they hoped that from the downed pilots they would hear a beeper or radio or see a flare. Several times Heath and Boughton, with the Sandys, went through the clouds. They dodged AAA and SA-7 fire and pointed out the site on which Hall and Kientzler landed but saw no sign of the downed pilots. Heavily burdened in heart, Heath and Boughton returned to the USS Enterprise.

Recently Christensen commented, “Returning to the carrier was horrible after the terrible combat day—having seen and heard what occurred and realizing there was nothing I could do to influence their survival. I had released my ordnance and didn’t have an absolute spot on the survivors. Watching people walk around in their clean, starched khakis—people who had nothing more on their minds than what the movie of the evening was going to be or when the next big mail call would take place—was surreal.”
Officers on the USS Enterprise later debriefed Heath that South Vietnamese Bright Light Soldiers, trained by the U.S. to rescue downed pilots, reported finding Nail 89 pilots Morris and Peterson tied to a tree and decapitated. The officers received no word about Hall or Kientzler.

What happened to Hall? Herein lies the story of Harley Hall, husband and father, U.S. Navy pilot, Blue Angels Commander, Prisoner of War.
1 & 2Christensen and Heath furnished much of the material for chapter 1. This includes tapes of flights and debriefings.

Left Alive to Die is one of those riveting books that, once you open it, you can’t put it aside. I sat down to read one evening and didn’t get up again until I finished it about 1:30 AM the following morning. I should have been more than ready for bed by then, but the tragic story of Harley Hall weighed so heavily on my mind that I found it impossible to sleep.

This is the story of a true American hero. A Vietnam era military pilot who did everything right, only to be wronged by his government in the name of political expediency. It meticulously documents the struggle waged by his wife, and other wives like her, for the truth of what happened to their husbands. The callous attitude of bureaucrats and politicians, both Democrat and Republican, toward our MIA’s frankly amazed me.

The book is a real eye-opener. If, like me, you think you’ve heard it all, you haven’t. The truths this book exposes are shocking beyond belief. It is a must read. Get it, read it, and pray for the families and the men like Harley Hall who have been Left Alive to Die.
—E G Lewis

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Congratulations to our Book Winner!

Congratulations to Michelle Vasquez who has won a new copy of Susan Meissner's A Sound Among The Trees.  The book is on its way from Oregon to Texas. Mailed USPS on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011.