Flying from the Black Hole

The B-52 Navigator-Bombardiers of Vietnam
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Published:March 15, 2013
By Robert O. Harder (Author)

U.S. Air Force navigators and bombardiers have long labored under the shadow of pilots—their contributions undervalued, misunderstood, or simply unknown to the general public. Air Force navigators and bombardiers have long labored under the shadow of pilots—their contributions undervalued, misunderstood, or simply unknown to the general public. This was especially the case with the non-pilot officer aircrew in the Vietnam and Cold War-era B-52 Stratofortress. Of the six people who operated the bomber, three wore navigator wings—two of those men were also bombardiers, the other an electronic warfare officer. Without the navigator-bombardiers in particular, executing the nuclear war strike plan or flying Southeast Asian conventional bombing sorties would have been impossible. This book reveals who these men were and what they did down in the “Black Hole,” a story told by one of their own.

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Product Details
  • Subject: Aviation, Vietnam War
  • Paperback : 320 pages
  • Illustrations: 29 b/w photos
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (March 15, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1591143861
  • ISBN-13: 9781591143864
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 0 lb
  • “Combining his technical savvy with a brand of humor that is distinctively Air Force, Harder gives the layman a good primer on the navigator’s role before showing how he and his colleagues put it to wartime practice. As such, Flying from the Black Hole earns a place in any Vietnam or U.S. Air Force scholar’s library.” —HistoryNet review and originally published in the February 2010 issue of Vietnam Magazine

Robert O. Harder was an Air Force ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate and Strategic Air Command “Cold War” B-52D aircrewman with 145 combat missions during the Vietnam War. A rated navigator and radar bombardier, he also flew nuclear training sorties and stood Pad Alert. A former business executive, he is an FAA-certificated flight instructor and writer. His previous book, Flying from the Black Hole: The B-52 Navigator-Bombardiers of Vietnam was first published by the Naval Institute Press in 2009. Visit the author's website.

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Customer Reviews

4 Reviews
Average Customer Reviews
4.75 Stars
From a non-flyer perspective
Thursday, July 2, 2009
By: Darrell Turnock
This book is well written and the information/history of SAC was very interesting and informative. The perspective from the author provides a whole new viewpoint of the life of a non-pilot air crewman. I knew the B-52 was an extremely versitale plane and this book certainly reinforces that. The details regarding his personnal experiences from his basic schools up to and including some of his own missions make this book well worth the time it took to read. I recommend it to all, especially those like me that have been only passengers.
It's tough to drop bombs! Incredible Read.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
By: Ed Sullivan
B-52 navigator-bombardiers were hard working officers working below the flight deck to get their plane over target. They told the pilots where to fly the plane and then they would drop the bombs! This book is a must read to understand the complexities and skill required to navigate and drop bombs over enemy targets. Having just visited the Air Force Academy and standing under their B-52 Bomber display, my spine tingled recalling Bob Harder's description of how that aircraft was flown and operated for so many years. Splendid research and artfully told stories will keep you turning the pages through the night. This book must be in every veteran's library and certainly for anyone who spent any time in Vietnam and experienced the impact of this big bomber. It brought the North Vietnamese to the Peace Table.
inside view of the B52's impact
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By: Heather Miller
Required reading for non-military and non-technical types, an exceptional read for those who were there. If you ever wondered how did those guys actually fly those awesome birds this book is for you. Fascinating historical background on the art and science of aerial bombing takes the reader from dirigibles to the digital age. Harder makes the exacting science of navigation understandable to the lay reader, then makes the actual mission-sights, sounds, fears, outcomes-come alive. Especially enlightening is his analysis of military mindsets, bureaucracy, and the impact of personality on how we wage war-issues that persist into current conflicts. Harder gives a lively analysis of the role of the B-52 in the context of conflicts in which it flew, helping readers understand the complexity of modern warfare. This brat also found his discussion of the impact of repeated deployments on aircrews' families bracing and honest.
Flying from the Black Hole
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
By: David Fadness
This is an excellent history of the B52's role in the Vietnam War from the viewpoint of the navigator-bombardier. It is told from the author's first hand experience but is also well researched and draws from many people's experiences. It is told with reverence but also with humor. I thought the details of the 1972 Christmas bombing of North Vietnam were especially well done. I had no idea we almost lost this battle in Omaha! I found it a very interesting and enjoyable read.


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