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Alum David Ballentine details Vietnam experience in ‘Gunbird’ memoir

David Ballentine has many titles: PhD, DU alum, college instructor, Marine. But the one whose significance he finds increases with age is the designation Vietnam combat veteran.

Ballentine (PhD philosophy ’79) recently put his Vietnam experiences into a memoir, Gunbird Driver: A Marine Huey Pilot’s War in Vietnam (Naval Institute Press, 2008). The book was an outgrowth of Ballentine’s original intention: to document his experiences to share with future generations of his family.

Gunbird Driver details Ballentine’s time piloting an armed UH-1E helicopter, or Huey, which was equipped with rocket pods and machine guns. As Ballentine puts it, anyone who has seen a Vietnam movie is likely familiar with the Huey.

The memoir outlines Ballentine’s tour as a Huey pilot from 1966–67, one year before the Tet Offensive. During his time stationed at Ky Ha, he performed duties from supply drops and evacuating the wounded to trading fire with the Viet Cong and transporting Miss World to a Bob Hope Christmas show.

The book’s tone ranges from deadly serious to darkly comic, as Ballentine recalls his encounters with rats, makeshift bathrooms and the lingo of young soldiers. He provides information about missions, operations and living conditions, as well as reflections about those he served alongside.

Ballentine currently teaches part time at Johnson County Community College in Kansas. Most recently, he taught a Western civilization class that focused on theologians and philosophers.

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