Book shows relationship between Vietnam War pilots
It's the story of reconciliation and forgiveness. A U.S. fighter pilot who shot down an enemy plane during the Vietnam War. The dogfight stuck with the pilot who went on a 36-year personal quest to learn more about the man he shot down. Dan Cherry made it home from Vietnam with the most amazing story.
It was April 16, 1972. Cherry was a pilot, flying a mission 30 miles southwest of Hanoi when he got into a dogfight with a Vietnamese plane.
"I launched a successful missile. It impacted his airplane right where the jet wing joins the fuselage, blew the wing off, smoke and flames. The airplane went into a snap roll, and the first time around, out popped the parachute," said Cherry.
Cherry flew back to base victorious, but he always wondered what happened to the other pilot. Thirty-six years later, his questions were answered. The pilot, Hong My, had survived and was willing to meet the man who shot him down. The reunion happened in 2008 on a television show in Vietnam.
"He said, 'Welcome to my country. I'm glad you're in good health and I hope we can be good friends'," said Cherry. The two men from different countries found common ground.
"We're both fighter pilots. We both went through the same type of training. We were both interested in each other's airplanes," said Cherry. "We compared notes a lot about how the MiG flew compared to the F-4. And, then we talked about our families."
The friendship continued with the Vietnamese pilot traveling to America in 2009 to see the actual plane that shot him down. Hong My climbed into the pilot's seat and his son sat in the backseat. The photo happened on April 16, 2009 in Bowling Green, Kentucky - the anniversary of the dogfight.
"For the first time in history, a fighter pilot that was shot down in combat returned to actually sit in the cockpit of the very plane that shot him down," said Cherry.
Connected by war and a fight in the sky, now, two pilots decide to live with a new mission.
"It's the power of friendship, forgiveness and reconciliation. These are all human needs that all of us can relate to," said Cherry. "As my intuition told me, we had more in common with these Vietnamese fighter pilots. I knew we'd have a lot more in common than we ever had differences."
The two men have visited each other's homes. Cherry even held Hong My's one-year-old grandson. They talk every year, mostly by email. Hong My recently retired from the Vietnam insurance industry. Cherry wrote a book called "My Enemy, My Friend" and restored his old plane at the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky.