The Blades Carry Me by VHPA Member James Weatherill with his wife Anne Weatherill is the story of James’ intense tour of duty with the 180th ASHC, call sign “Big Windy.” It is also Anne’s story of coping with separation, pregnancy, university studies, and living at his parent’s home in Riverside, California, while James was in Vietnam.
Arriving the day before Thanksgiving 1967 Weatherill stepped of the plane to the pungent odors Vietnam veterans remember all too well, to join the 180th ASHC, based on the coast at Phu Hiep, flying 16 CH-47 Chinooks. He soon finds himself getting the FNG treatment which was intense for WO1s in Chinook companies. On his first mission he gets the “don’t touch anything” routine from a short time AC. When the AC gets cold cocked by a round hitting his ballistic helmet, Weatherill saves their bacon, but learns good deeds are not good necessarily appreciated.
Anne sent Christmas presents, a decorated calendar, prepares for the baby’s arrival and did her best to cope with the growing anti-war sentiment, the fear of something happening to James, and the isolation of military families. News broadcasts of the war in Vietnam were watched with the hope and dread of seeing James.
Meanwhile for James and the 180th the war heated up quickly with the Tet Offensive. Chinooks are moved north to the rainy and fog shrouded Central Highlands. It was a dark and dangerous place to be flying the biggest target the NVA could hope for while hovering over firebases west of Dak To, Kontum, and Pleiku.
Closed 1969 - Opened 2012
It still fits, 1967-2015
Phu Hiep, RVN, 1968
Hawaii, July 1968
This book is not just another war story. It is an unveiling of a couple's lives and relationship while separated by the Vietnam war. The authors' unique perspectives and witty humor help to balance the heaviness of their reality. A personal and well written account about living to make history and honoring those who didn't make it. I recommend reading this book. - CM
Father and Son, 1967
This book captured my attention from cover to cover. It was insightful, well-written and from the heart. I liked hearing the point of view from a spouse back home taking a Tour of the Waiting Game. It brought back so many memories of the tour in Viet Nam, things I thought were forgotten but perhaps simply repressed.
I would recommend this book to any family who has sent their loved one into battle. It is full of heart-rendering, first hand experiences and feelings. This book is a very good read to be passed along to anyone interested in Patriotism. - HF
The Blades Carry Me by James V. Weatherill with Anne Weatherill is a moving and exciting memoir of a couple who live through the Vietnam War – a war that so many have remained silent about. Weatherill’s well-conceived book delivers on the promise of hope and inspiration wars often portray all the while allowing readers to glimpse into the world of a newly formed family. Based off James and his young bride, Anne, the story describes how while a husband is engaged in helicopter missions, his wife prepares for the arrival of their first child.
This book is well written and reads more like an action adventure novel. The authors use the first person narrative style and take turns telling their part of the story which is intertwined like dancers moving effortlessly together then apart then together again. Each voice has a different cadence, but they work so well together. It is so interesting to read James’s account of helicopters, war, and survival and see the contrast of Anne dealing with day-to-day life paying bills, going to doctor appointments, and having a baby. Reading the couple’s story told in this manner is fascinating and adds to the novel-like approach.
The book layout and design is excellent; the front matter, a photo of a young James as a soldier and a map of Vietnam, is a nice touch and the glossary was much appreciated given the unfamiliar subject matter. - Judge, 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
South bound, RVN, 1968
If you want the real story of flying Chinooks in Vietnam you have to read this book. Jim and Anne's story of surviving the deployment to Vietnam in 1968 is riveting. You will feel like you know this amazing couple after reading this book. Anne's perspective as an Army wife really moved me. As a Soldier I really never understood how hard it is on those left waiting on loved ones at home. Jim lived three lifetimes in his year as a 22 year old WO1 pilot in command in Vietnam. This book accounts what real bravery and patriotism really looks like. - TW
The Things They Carried, a collection of short stories about a platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam, was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. The Blades Carry Me, by Capt. Jim Weatherill (Continental, Ret.) and his wife, Anne, is as good.
Dedicated “To those who came home, those who didn’t, and those who waited,” the Weatherills crafted a joint memoir of his year (1968) as a U.S. Army Chinook heavy-lift helo pilot in Vietnam—and her wait for his safe return.
SOMETIMES WEATHERILL’S WRITING IS TERSE: “The briefing is short and sweet. Hold American positions. Save American lives. We leave Holloway at 11 p.m., loaded externally with 6,000 pounds of ammo and half a pallet of C-rations for the troops at Kontum. Three Chinooks in and out, we make two trips from the logistics pad at Pleiku City and return so riddled with holes we’re sent back to Holloway for repairs. Precious sleep, too, if we can keep our eyes closed.”
OTHER TIMES THE WRITING IS RICH WITH DETAIL: For example, to unload troops on a tiny LZ, Weatherill’s aircraft commander lands the Chinook’s rear wheels and hovers the nose over a canyon. A strong gust rocks the helo; the pilot overcontrols:
“Instantly, the helicopter jumps like a prodded animal. The violence of the buck locks my shoulder harness and pins me to the back of my seat. In three to five bounces the Chinook will self-destruct.
“We only talk about ground resonance. We never do it in training because of the terminal consequences—flying machine to hundreds of pieces of aluminum in four to eight seconds. At bounce three, a bang fires through the aircraft like a rifle report…
“Horton is unresponsive to our eminent destruction.
“A grinding noise floods the ship.
“I pull the thrust up, and we leap into the sky. We are back in flight. The bucking stops and the rain begins.”
Despite Weatherill’s rescuing the Chinook from certain destruction, a major chewed him out for being “aggressively insubordinate.”
Weatherill recalled, “In the cockpit I’m home in the job I have long dreamed of…it’s the bullets and the bullshit I don’t like.”
I still have butterflies in my stomach after completing this autobiography in three sittings. James Weatherill's painstakingly detailed memory had me hovering with him in the cockpit of his helicopters between the thunderclouds and the Vietnamese landscape.
Punctuated by Anne's own domestic vignettes of life back home in America, juggling university and the birth of her daughter, the point-and-counterpoint flow of this highlight provided the right amount of adventure and relief, respectively. And James' aerial recollections occasionally read like poetry with descriptions such as "I feel like witness to murder, fleeing in disbelief, looking for an amnesia cloud."
THE BLADES CARRY ME is a unique contribution to the great body of Vietnam War literature. I especially recommend it to anyone curious about the human beings who fought the war, because in this book one experiences the entire spectrum of human personality. - Robbie Grayson III, Traitmarker Founder/CEO
He would field lots of both.
Shot down near a besieged firebase, Weatherill and his crew (copilot, crew chief, two gunners) plus 10 soldiers take cover in the jungle:
“…Tualang trees reach more than 200 feet overhead. Huge roots jut out like barricades…We settle among the massive roots…
“The snap of breaking twigs…broadcast the approach of the NVA soldiers…Then, we hear men at a run…
“The enemy sounds stop. My ears strain to hear.
“Suddenly, an NVA soldier appears around the root I’m trying to graft myself to and steps on my left boot. I shoot three rounds into his chest. He falls lifeless beside me. A second enemy soldier scrambles over my root and spots his dead comrade. I shoot him, too.”
The Blades Carry Me includes much combat; officers ranging from superb to despicable; fear, tears, and nightmares; honor, courage, and heroism. The dialogue is crisp, raw, credible; the men with whom Weatherill served, so utterly human.
A FAVORITE SECTION BY ANNE:
“Every night [Jim’s younger sister] Janie burns a votive candle in the bathroom…The flame seems to give assurance that all is well.
“The candle also serves as a night light for the times our growing baby uses my bladder as a springboard. Tonight, I get up and grope my way down the hall. As I touch the bathroom door, it swings inward. The draft blows out the candle. The darkness grabs my heart.
Reviewed by Jan W. Steenblik, Technical Editor, and reprinted by permission of Air Line Pilot, Air Line Pilots Association, International.
A book that pulls you in and doesn't let go until the last page. Weatherill brings you with him back to Vietnam with his recollections of his tour of duty. A must read for anyone interested in the Vietnam war. Thank you for your service Mr. Weatherill, from one veteran to another. - S
This is a wonderful story of someone in the thick of it. Sad at times but also uplifting and inspirational. The story flows effortlessly and conversations between the men at times were LOL. Thank you to all who served during this war and all others after it. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the human side of those servicemen in Vietnam and those who waited at home for them to return. -Anon
James and Anne Weatherill have written a book that is unique when it comes to memoirs of the Vietnam War. James’ narrative details finding his way from a FNG to an experienced AC other pilots and crewmen volunteered to fly with during their many intense and dangerous missions. Anne’s narrative presents a military wife’s viewpoint, including a multitude of daily challenges as well as their hopes and fears for the men who went to war. This is a well written and engaging reading experience and I highly recommend it. Reviewed by John Penny for the VHPA Aviator, Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association.
The book is loaded with emotion-provoking and breath-taking events. That includes the tension and even insubordination during briefings before missions such as a tactical emergency with a fifty percent survival estimate. Then there is the enmity between old-timers and new guys. On Jim’s first in-country flight as a co-pilot, the pilot climbed in next to him, said, “Don’t touch anything,” and then ignored him. After the pilot nearly destroyed their helicopter, he wanted to forget it. Jim, however, refused to cooperate and got tagged with an “authority problem.” By the way, the vivid description of the problem gave me goosebumps.
Jim eventually became a WO1 Chinook instructor pilot in Vietnam.
The book follows Jim and his best friends—two of whom bordered on sex-crazed—through many life-threatening as well as humorous encounters. During the Tet Offensive in the Central Highlands where Jim’s squadron operated, the entire landscape became a hot fire zone shrouded in ugly weather. Jim’s life evolved into a constant test of skill and daring delivering support and rescuing people in jeopardy. As a result, his crew repeatedly performed feats far above the call of duty. At one point, after flying more than thirty-three hours in three days, he said, “We feel nothing, remember nothing. My youth is drowning in the flood of bloody missions. I can’t be so ancient at twenty-two.”
Annie’s life at home is equally well described, particularly her giving birth to their daughter. “I’m a walking blues song,” she writes. “Thanks to post-pregnancy hormones, I’m euphoric and terrified and despondent—sometimes all at once.”Yet Annie persevered in meeting every obligation of infant care and schoolwork. Her devotion to her tasks and to a future with her husband exemplifies the dependability of the many of the women whose men were at war a half century ago.
After leaving the Army, Jim continued piloting as a career, eventually retiring as a Boeing 737 captain for a commercial airline.
Each book I read about the Vietnam War offers something new. In this one it was the Worry Line: “The Worry Line—the crossing point into battle—draws itself across a person’s path,” Jim Weatherill writes. “Sometimes it’s at the hooch door, sometimes at the operation briefing and sometimes its attached to bullets coming up from the jungle. It’s a soldier’s early warning system.”
Based on this, I figure that my own Worry Line began at an April 1968 briefing when our crew was designated as the first C-130 to drop CDS bundles in the A Shau Valley. The previous afternoon a C-130 had been shot down there with the loss of an entire crew from our squadron. Sad to say, in our haste to get in and out, we dropped short of the DZ.
Thanks for the memory, Jim. - Henry Zeybel www.vvabooks.wordpress.com
A footlocker filled with letters and tapes served as the impetus for Jim and Annie Weatherill to recreate 1968 as they lived it in The Blades Carry Me: Inside the Helicopter War in Vietnam....
From November 1967 to November 1968, Army Warrant Officer Jim Weatherill piloted CH-47 Chinook helicopters out of Phu Hiep in Vietnam. Annie Weatherill attended the University of California at Riverside as a senior. She was pregnant. They had been married for a year before Jim went to war.
Their book reads like a novel—a good novel.. Jim and Annie are the protagonists, but as Jim explains: “People are composites. Conversations are re-created and represented the way we spoke. Names and identifying characteristics are changed to protect each person’s privacy and right to tell his own story.”
Written forty-five years after the events took place, the book’s tone has a maturity beyond Jim’s age. He was twenty-two back in the day. Yet the tone retains the spirit of spontaneity, confidence, competitiveness, and humor inherent in youth. Jim’s ability to blend the two moods is enviable. The scenes in Vietnam present a tight and convincing package of what it was like to fly the Chinook in combat. Jim Weatherill best describes that role when he writes, “War for Chinook pilots is mostly resupply and waiting to get shot.”