This is a non-fiction book that reads like a gripping adventure novel. It tells the story, or perhaps a part of the story, of a British helicopter pilot who disappeared from the RAF and flew for the CIA in Africa. Like the story of another British helicopter pilot, Alan Bristow, this tale has inspired fictional work and covers a period of the Cold War where military pilots set up their own companies or worked for shadowy organizations in the Hot Wars that were the surrogate actions of the Cold War protagonists.
NAME: Renegade Hero
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: Michael Hingston
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: Hard back
SUBJECT: Cold War, helicopter pilot, ANC, FAC, CIA, Air Africa, T-6 Texan I, T-28 Trojan, B-26, Bell 47
DESCRIPTION: This is a non-fiction book that reads like a gripping adventure novel. It tells the story, or perhaps a part of the story, of a British helicopter pilot who disappeared from the RAF and flew for the CIA in Africa. Like the story of another British helicopter pilot, Alan Bristow, this tale has inspired fictional work and covers a period of the Cold War where military pilots set up their own companies or worked for shadowy organizations in the Hot Wars that were the surrogate actions of the Cold War protagonists. Many of the wars and actions of the 1960s and 1970s are still hidden in a fog of half-truth and fable. The full stories may not be known for many decades, if at all. Terry Peet was one of the pioneering helicopter pilots who developed the tactics and procedures, which we now take largely for granted. He enjoyed a distinguished career as an RAF pilot, taking part in campaigns in the Far East, only to disappear apparently on a scuba dive in British waters. Then he burst back into British life when he was court marshalled for desertion, the author covering his trial. Between his disappearance and trial, Peet had been flying in Africa, apparently recruited by the CIA, which was running its own air forces in the region. Air America may be the best know operation of the CIA, flying in Indo China during the Vietnam War, but this was only one of a number of major CIA air activities around the world. As a helicopter pilot, Peet was involved in a number of daring rescues of missionaries and European civilians caught up in the bloody civil wars of central and western Africa. In the Congo he eventually became the personal pilot of General Mobutu. Mobotu had been a senior NCO in the colonial Belgian Congo, becoming a General on independence, a virulent anti-white racist who ironically came to depend on while soldiers and airmen in his rise to the Presidency. It was a period when mercenaries fought for newly independent African countries and for rebel forces within those countries. How far some of the personnel were detached fighters “loaned” to operations run and funded by the CIA may never be entirely told. Peet was not the only serving soldier to disappear from a NATO armed service, to fight in the battles of the Middle East, Africa, South and Central America and the Far East. In at least some cases, soldiers and airmen were allowed to resign commissions, serve in these wars, and then resume their military careers as though they had never left. Some founded companies that continued to operate for decades in legitimate and clandestine activities and where Western Governments injected funds into their operations through very lucrative contracts and more covert ways. Where Peet really fits into those activities is still not entirely clear although the author has been diligent in attempting to tell the story fairly accurately and comprehensively. The reader has a choice of reading the book as Fact or as Fiction, either way it is a cracking read. Not much remains of the period of African wars. At an English museum, the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, there is what remains of a T-28 that entered first US Navy service and was then shipped to the Congo to serve the CIA funded airforce. The wings and undercarriage have been lost, and the aircraft is painted on one side in the US Navy colours and on the other side in Congolese markings that were uncovered during partial restoration, sporting the water buffalo graphic taken from a local beer logo with the legend “Strong” below it. At the same museum there is a Gloster Javelin that was intended for re-arming in Italy before being flown out to serve in the Nigerian civil war, the exporter being sentenced to death by Nigeria in his absence for his alleged arms running activities. A Bell 47 that served in the Congo, and may have been flown by Peet, was later flown in South Africa and returned to the US for a time as a civilian helicopter. Many of those who took part in the wars are now dead. Some have written autobiographies that may contain some truth, but also include many inaccuracies that may just be the result of dining out on the stories too long. This biography of Peet is one of the most complete and accurate to emerge. The book is highly recommended as a plain good read. It covers a period of war that has not been covered very well and if it does not include the full truth, then many military histories and accounts are guilty of that because truth is perception and records are sometimes deliberately suppressed.