In his words…”Why My Wings of War Series”
“I received my pilot’s wings in September 1953 then flew the F-86 SabreJet and the F-100 Super Sabre in Germany, France, and the U.S. In the early ‘60s, the USAF sent me to Arizona State University to get an engineering degree. While there, the Vietnam War became more intense. Upon graduation from ASU in August 1965, the Air Force assigned me to the Ballistic Missile Division.
Nothing doing, I said to myself. I am a fighter pilot and there is a war on. After much chasing around to get reassigned to a fighter outfit bound for Vietnam, I found out my former squadron Officers School Commander, BG Herb Bench, was the Tactical Air Command’s (TAC) Director for Personnel (DP). I wrote him a letter in an attempt to snivel a fighter reassignment. In a matter of days, I got a telegram reassigning me to an F-100 squadron at England Air Force Base, Alexandria Louisiana.
And so it was that in mid-December 1965 I arrived at Bien Hoa Air Base in South Vietnam as a pilot in the 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) in the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW). We had a python named Ramrod as our squadron mascot. (See my article, Ramrod the Combat Snake.) I flew over 250 missions and was reassigned back in the States to a desk job at the Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO) in El Segundo, California.
Though I was able to fly the T-39 Sabreliner, I was not happy. The war tempo had increased. Every day I’d pick up a copy of the Stars & Stripes and read were another buddy had been shot down and either killed or captured. I had a pretty nice pad on Venice Beach overlooking the Pacific. (I hung out at Donkin’s in Marina del Rey.) But I knew I couldn’t stay on the beach, so once again I chased around to get reassigned to a fighter squadron. As it was previously, I found I had served under the new TAC DP, BG Jack Barnes, in France years before. I made contact and soon found myself at George Air Force Base, Victorville, California, upgrading into the F-4 Phantom.
Thus, on the 1st of November, 1968, I signed in to the 497th TFS at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in upcountry Thailand. There I flew over 240 missions both as a Night Owl and as a Wolf Forward Air Controller (FAC). (See my articles Night Mission on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and Trolling for Guns on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.)
At the end of my tour in November 1969, I was again assigned to SAMSO and, once more very unhappy as the war was still going on. (The Air Force Systems Command, who sponsored my degree at ASU, was bound and determined to get its pound of flesh.) I immediately applied for a third fighter tour but was turned down. The reason being, at that particular time, one could not serve three tours in a fighter cockpit.
I heard the State Department had opened up a new embassy in Phnom Penh Cambodia. I applied for and was accepted into the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) with duty in the embassy as an Assistant Air Attaché. I spent two years there running around with the Khmer Air Force and flying the venerable C-47 Gooney Bird and the U-10 Helio Courier. (See my article To War in Style.)”
- Pilot training, pilot training, Columbus AFB, MS/Laredo AFB, TX (T-6, T-28, T-33)
- F-86 Training, Nellis AFB, NV (F-86)
- Clovis & Etain (F-86)
- Etain, England AFB, Bien Hoa (F-100 – 452 combat sorties)
- Ubon Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand (F-4, U-10)
- Ubon (F-4, U-10)
- Cambodia (C-47 )
- SAMSO/LAX (T-39)
- Air Attaché to the United States Embassy, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Chief of Test Control Branch, Air Development and Test Center, Eglin Air Force Base, FL
Awards & Decorations
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster
Air Medal with 24 Oak Leaf Clusters
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Cambodian Divisional Medal
Cambodian Paratrooper Wings
Cambodian Pilot Wings
Military & Civilian Education
- Nellis AFB, NV
- Maxwell AFB, AL
- Cretin High School, St. Paul, MN
- St. Thomas College
- BS/Mechanical Engineering, Arizona State University (Air Force Institute of Technology program)
Over the years [Mark Berent has] published numerous articles for such publications as Air Force Magazine and the Washington Times, and for 18 years wrote a monthly pilot/reporter column for the Asian Defense Journal. Under the name Berent Sandberg, he and Peter Sandberg collaborated on three novels. He now has five Vietnam air war historical fiction novels in print, Rolling Thunder, Steel Tiger, Phantom Leader, Eagle Station, and Storm Flight. (The Wings of War series.)
Berent states it is never too late for any endeavor: he published the first of his five-book Wings of War series at age 58, ran his first Marathon at 59, bought a T-6 warbird and flew in airshows at 64, and rode in his first cattle roundup in Montana at 74. He was inducted into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame in 2012.
Berent says: “There is the dark side of why I am a military writer. The dark side that surfaces in untoward moments when bad memories spring unbidden from a well I try to keep capped. Moments when others, not of the sky, hear my harsh laughter and see the frost in my eyes. It is the side that bears extreme malice and near-consuming rage toward those who wasted the lives of my fellow airmen on missions that accomplished little except strengthen the enemy’s resolve. Missions that gratified only the arrogant civilian Caesars who, at White House luncheons, picked not only the targets but the bomb loads and the ingress and egress routes as well. It is the side that detests those members of the media who trivialized and scorned our efforts; it is the side that despises that wretched movie female who sat at an enemy antiaircraft gun, made broadcasts from Hanoi, and called our tortured POWs liars; it is the side that bears hard anger toward some of our own men in uniform who saw war only as a career-enhancing program. It is also of these contemptible people I am compelled to write.”
He currently resides in Beavercreek, Ohio.
Source: Author page Amazon.com to see his other work go to https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Berent/e/B000APP91A/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1