“Turn and Burn: A Fighter Pilot’s Memories and Confessions” recounts Darrell Ahrens’ exploits as an Air Force fighter pilot. Darrell flew combat in Vietnam and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and 13 air medals.
His children had been asking him to write some notes of his time in the Air Force but he kept putting it off. While visiting his mother on the family farm, he picked up a book about the history of Platte County, Nebraska. The bio pages of one particular individual prominent in development of the County really impressed him. He asked his aunt if anyone knew anything about that man. She replied “Why Darrel, he was your great grandfather.” Darrell wished his great grandfather had left some documentation of HIS life and motivated him to finally write the account of his exploits for his children.
Darrell had dreamed of being a fighter pilot since he was a child, so he joined the Marines because he heard it was easier to get a pilot slot in that branch. When that didn’t pan out, he took an honorable discharge and joined the Air Force.
One of my favorite parts of Turn and Burn is Darrell’s description of his training and what a dangerous business it can be even when someone isn’t shooting at you. I also enjoyed the fact that many of his confessions are quite funny like the time he flew an unauthorized air show.
Darrell flew seven different aircraft during his career and while he says it is difficult to name his favorite, the F-105 was the most impressive and comfortable while the F-4 was the best all-around plane.
TAKEAWAY: Darrell shares the main quality of a good fighter pilot is aggressiveness and a willingness to push the boundaries. However, Turn and Burn is full of instances where this type of attitude nearly got Darrell in trouble or killed.