Launch the Intruders

A Naval Attack Squadron in the Vietnam War, 1972

Carol Reardon

Each pilot and bombardier/navigator sat side by side in an all-weather jet built for low-level bombing runs, precision targeting, and night strikes. Their success—and their very lives—depended on teamwork in flying their versatile A-6 Intruders. And when the North Vietnamese mounted a major offensive in 1972, they answered the call.

Carol Reardon chronicles the operations of Attack Squadron 75, the Sunday Punchers, and their high-risk bombing runs launched off the U.S.S. Saratoga during the famous LINEBACKER campaigns. Based on unparalleled access to crew members and their families, her book blends military and social history to offer a unique look at the air war in Southeast Asia, as well as a moving testament to the close-knit world of naval aviators.

“A remarkable achievement. This engaging book will be of significant interest to anyone interested in the Vietnam air war.”

Proceedings, U.S. Naval Institute

“Reardon has written a model unit history and, through this lens, a most revealing study of the closing stages of the Vietnam war.

—Journal of Military History
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Theirs was one of the toughest jobs in the military: launching off the carrier in rough seas as well as calm, flying solo and in formation, dodging dense flak and surface-to-air missiles, delivering ordnance on target, and recovering aboard safely. Celebrating the men who climbed into the cockpits as well as those who kept them flying, Reardon takes readers inside the squadrons ready room and onto the flight decks to await the call, Launch the Intruders! Readers share the adrenaline-pumping excitement of each mission—as well as those heart-stopping moments when a downed aircraft brought home to all, in flight and on board, that every aspect of their lives was constantly shadowed by danger and potential death.

More than a mere combat narrative, Launch the Intruders interweaves human drama with familial concerns, domestic politics, and international diplomacy. Fliers share personal feelings about killing strangers from a distance while navy wives tell what its like to feel like a stranger at home. And as the war rages on, headlines like Jane Fondas visit to Hanoi and the Paris Peace Accords are all viewed through the lens of this heavily tasked, hard-hitting attack squadron.

A rousing tale of men and machines, of stoic determination in the face of daunting odds, Reardons tale shines a much-deserved light on group of men whose daring exploits richly deserve to be much better known.

About the Author

Carol Reardon is associate professor of history at Penn State University and the author of Soldiers and Scholars and Pickett's Charge in History and Memory.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series