Surprised at Being Alive
From flying with the Screaming Eagles in Vietnam to serving with the Marines and the Royal Navy, this memoir recounts the life of a career military pilot.
Sometimes it just isn’t your day. Whether your helicopter comes apart in flight due to equipment failure, or another aircraft runs into you in midair, or an enemy gunner lands his rounds in exactly the right spot to take you out of the sky. That’s why, after twenty-four years and more than five thousand flight hours with four armed services, Maj. Robert Curtis was surprised to still be alive when he passed his retirement physical.
His flying career began in the thick of the war, flying Chinooks over Vietnam with the 101st Airborne. From there, Curtis continued to serve with the National Guard while attending college. By then, flying had become an addiction for Curtis, so he continued on with the Marine Corps and Royal Navy. Over the next seventeen years, he would fly off US and British ships from Egypt to Norway and all points in between.
Curtis flew eight different helicopters—the wooden-bladed OH-13E, through the Chinook, SeaKnight, and SeaKing—in war and peace around the world. During that time, many of his friends died in crashes, both in combat and in accidents. But some combination of skill, luck, and superstition saw him through.