Sherman Baldwin


For authentic atmosphere and you-are-there feel, Sherman Baldwin really delivers the goods in his 1996 memoir Ironclaw.
Sherman ""Tank"" Baldwin, the author of Ironclaw, completed his 2-1/2 years of Navy pilot training in December 1990, just prior to the start of Desert Storm. He reported to the USS Midway as a nugget pilot of the EA-6B Prowler. Within a month of his arrival at the fleet, Tank was flying combat missions to suppress and jam Iraqi radar and SAM sites for Navy strike packages.
Although he had done well in training, when he joined the crew of the Midway, he had just six night carrier landings under his belt, and had very limited experience in aerial refueling, especially at night. He had to learn fast!
I really liked Baldwin's style in reporting his experiences. As a nugget, he was under constant scrutiny by other pilots, by the ECMOs (ECM Officers) who flew with him in the EA-6B, and by the LSO's who graded his landings.
Most nuggets report to the fleet between deployments, where their first assignment is really to complete their training under squadron conditions. But Desert Storm was about to start, and the Navy needed EA-6B pilots in the Gulf -- so his fleet training was under rather difficult conditions to say the least!
Something like going from the minor leagues to the majors and having your first game be in the World Series. Baldwin's first night trap on the Midway was a ""taxi one-wire,"" dangerously close to a ramp strike.
His first experiences in night aerial refueling from a USAF KC-135 were also rather scary. His landings and tanking ability improved rapidly, and he even began LSO training on the Midway.
"Tank" Baldwin doesn't claim to be a hero -- he was thrown in the deep end, applied his training well, admitted and learned from his mistakes, and did the job, in training and in combat against Iraq. He talks about how he feels about all of this -- including his feelings for Alice, the woman he was writing to daily and whom he would eventually marry
He tells you a lot about how things work on a carrier, what it's like to be a JO (junior officer), and about the many challenges -- but also of the camaraderie and of the satisfaction of doing a tough job, and doing it well.
Although the radar jamming and SEAD support provided by the Prowlers was only part of the picture, it was an important part. The Midway lost no air crew or aircraft in its many strikes against Iraq.
Ironclaw is a very good book -- one of the best things I've read on naval aviation.
- FlyingSinger
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