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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, read by Christopher Ragland.

The 'Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club' was the tongue-in-cheek nickname of the US Seventh Fleet that was stationed off the coast of Vietnam, and this book tells the full story of the US Naval air campaign in the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1975.

On August 2, 1964, the USS Maddox became embroiled in the infamous Gulf of Tonkin incident that led directly to America’s increased involvement in the Vietnam War. Supporting the Maddox that day were four F-8E Crusaders from the USS Ticonderoga, and this was the very start of the US Navy’s commitment to the air war over Vietnam.

The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club is titled after the nickname for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet which was stationed off the coast of Vietnam, and it tells the full story of the US Navy’s war in the air. It details all the operations from the USS Maddox onwards through to the eventual withdrawal of the fleet following the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975.

The Seventh Fleet’s Task Force 77, which at points during the war had as many as six carriers on station at any one time with 70-100 aircraft on each, provided vital air support for combat troops on the ground, while at the same time taking part in the major operations against North Vietnam itself such as Rolling Thunder, Linebacker I and II. All of these operations took place in a hostile environment of flak, missiles and MiGs.

The story is told through the dramatic first-hand accounts of those that took part in the fighting, with many of the interviews carried out by the author himself. The Vietnamese perspective is also given, with the author having had access to the official Vietnamese account of the war in the air. The author also has a personal interest in the story, as at the age of 20 he served with the US Seventh Fleet off the coast of Vietnam and was personally involved in the dramatic history of The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club.

©2021 Thomas McKelvey Cleaver (P)2021 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"The Vietnam War was my war, by which I mean I fought in it, and I can say that Thomas Cleaver in his Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club examines the war in an unparalleled way through the lens of aviation and its aviators. He illustrates the inevitable agony and sacrifice, thrill and triumph of the young men immersed in that saga. It all makes for a riveting read." (Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, US Army (Ret.), soldier, diplomat and late professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary)

"Tom Cleaver has captured the dramatic history of naval aviation’s combat record in Vietnam in a manner worthy of the classic historical novel. From the first shot fired in the Tonkin Gulf in August 1964 to the final salvo in January 1973, Tom weaves an accurate tale, full of the color and fury of battle, courage, suspense and thrill of victory - as experienced and portrayed on both sides of the conflict." (Captain Roy Cash, Jr., USN (Ret.), former CO, Top Gun)

"Tom Cleaver’s book is a superb study of naval aviation's experiences during the Vietnam War. Tom’s in-depth focus and analysis of personal inputs from aircrews on both sides of the conflict coupled with the ever-changing political environment make it a high-powered book that is difficult to put down." (Rear-Admiral James A. 'Jim' Lair, USN (Ret.), former commanding officer, USS America)

What listeners say about The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club

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Tired drivel

What a load of insufferable drivel. I Stopped before the end of the third chapter where the author posses the rhetorical question, after saying subliminal racism whatever that is exactly was behind the bombings in Asia, “Would we have undertaken our bombing policy if the enemy were white?” The answer is yes we would have. Does the author not remember how many Germans burned to death in multi thousand ship bombings raids in Europe? The difference is the Germans surrendered. Dehumanization of the enemy is something everyone does. The Vietnamese called the Americans apes. So what? It’s not the basic cause of policy, “subliminal” “unconscious” or otherwise.

The author asserts the reason North Korea won’t come to terms with the West is because we killed so many north Korean citizens. That’s it, apparently.

The author states that Kennedy was a victim of McCarthy and red baiting and implies that he was powerless to not act against North Viet Nam. I think he’s read too much Halberstam.

Book looked promising and I suspect there’s good technical content but I couldn’t stand the nonsensical assertions any longer.



6 people found this helpful

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Excellent but exhausting

I wish I could give the book 5 stars for the section after chapter 4, three stars in the section before, and four stars for the narration. The first four chapters are an exhaustingly detailed narrative about the development of aircraft, engines, and some politics. It does go into the original golf of Tonkin incident and explains the complexity of what happened then. The first four chapters go into such detail about designations of each engine iteration and identification that it should’ve just all been a gigantic appendix. You have to listen through interminable levels of minutia, which you could skim in a printed version, but you don’t know how far to jump ahead in the audio version. After that the book gets quite interesting, at least for me because I was interested more in the flying and the carrier war than in the development of each jet engine and letter by letter development of airframes in the Korean War.

The rest of the book goes into great detail about the flying, the aircraft, the politics and the overall course of the naval aviation war in Vietnam. This was all quite fascinating, and again intensely detailed but compelling.

The narration drove me crazy in the first four chapters because the narrator down speaks at the end of most sentences. This narration became tedious to listento because it sounded so repetitive, although this was in part due to the content. When the narrator got into these chapters after chapter 4 his narration changed and became more dynamic which changed listening to the book for the better.

Overall I recommend it, and I have read other books by Cleaver about WWII carrier aviation which were first rare.

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amazing research

this book covers all the fixed wing operations in Vietnam. he did amazing research.

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Facinating Account of the Air War in Vietnam

I couldn't put it down. This is a very well written and comprehensively researched history of the US involvement in the Vietnam "Conflict".
EXCELLENT!

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