Laguna Beach Combat Veterans Reunite During Book Launch

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By LB Indy Staff

Captain Eric Jensen (left) with Vietnam to Western Airlines author Bruce Cowee. Submitted photo. 

Two Laguna Beach combat veterans attended a special featured event sponsored by the Palm Springs Air Museum this past weekend. Colonel Charlie Quilter, USMC, his wife, Ann, and Captain Eric Jensen, USN, along with his wife, Jo, attended the public presentation of the author of a four-volume set of books Vietnam to Western Airlines. The author, Bruce Cowee, just concluded a twenty-year project to collect the personal stories of pilots who were hired and worked for Western Airlines following their service during the Vietnam War. Cowee says he was motivated to collect the stories of pilots he flew with “to preserve their part in history and to pay tribute to their service.” 

“My peer group at Western Airlines volunteered to serve their country at a very difficult time in our history and then came home to an ungrateful and often hostile home front,” Cowee said at the presentation. 

In all, the effort grew to a four-volume series. Vietnam to Western Airlines has become the most comprehensive oral history of the air war in Vietnam in print. It includes all of the aircraft types and different missions flown in the war, and the stories cover the entire time frame that American troops and airmen served in Vietnam and Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Colonel Quilter and Captain Jensen have flown over three hundred combat missions combined during the Vietnam War. Their stories appear among the one-hundred and thirty-seven stories collected in the four volumes.

The get-together began with a Friday night meet and greet, followed by Cowee’s Saturday presentation at the Palm Springs Air Museum. It concluded with a catered dinner at the museum on Saturday night. Over fifty combat pilots and their wives attended the event and many acquaintances and were renewed and a lot of memories shared. Pilots renewed old friendships as a band of brothers who shared this time in our history.

More information about the book can be found at VietnamtoWesternAirlines.com.

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