Joseph R. Finch
A Year In The Skies Of Vietnam
Elephant’s Ear. Dog’s Head. Angel’s Wing. These names evoke the image of children playing a whimsical game, identifying objects in the clouds.
But for Joe Finch and his fellow helicopter pilots of 25th Aviation Battalion, they meant something vastly different: They were the shapes created by map coordinates that defined their location within the “area of operation.”
Angel’s Wing is Joe Finch’s account of the year he spent with A Company, the “Little Bears” during the Vietnam War. His story is raw and authentic, unflinching in its honesty. Sometimes his tale is humorous. Sometimes it’s tragic. Whether he writes of a preposterous moment or of brutality and death, his personal account is powerful. If you weren’t there, at times his experiences in Vietnam are hard to imagine: the blood, the noise, the smells. At other times, you will open your eyes in wonder at the dedication that the young men fighting there demonstrated.
Finch arrived in Vietnam in 1969 as a young, naive lieutenant. His flying skills were untested. The task before him was unknown. But almost from the moment of his arrival at the forward base at Cu Chi, Finch began to learn what would be required of him.
He would learn to fly under the most difficult of conditions, straining the limits of both the pilots and their machines. He learned to support ground troops, inserting and extracting men into and out of the most dangerous of situations.
And he learned the importance of medical evacuation of the wounded – the Medevac -in saving soldier’s lives. He made it his personal mission and his most significant achievement. It is in this task that Joseph Finch exhibited the compassion and courage that make Americans proud of his service to our nation. Joe Finch’s unforgettable story is very personal, yet reveals something larger: a glimpse into the character of many who flew in the skies of Vietnam.
Joseph R. Finch was born the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He spent formative years in Tucson, Morocco, Greece and Spain before returning to Tucson in 1961 to attend college. Drafted as a Private in 1966, Finch rose through the ranks to Lieutenant Colonel earning numerous combat and peacetime awards including the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Medically retired in 1990, he joined General Dynamics in 1996 as an Environmental Engineer and has helped lead the amphibious systems team to nine national awards for environmental protection. Finch lives in Centreville, VA with his wife and family where he attends Centreville Baptist church and enjoys singing with the choir.