Once everything is set up, I roll in. Control stick hard left into a sharp left turn and let the nose drop quickly but smoothly to 40° down. Down. My heart is pumping hard. I'm in a sharp dive. I have to do it right and fast. Line up the target in the sight. It's getting bigger as I get closer to the ground. Airspeed is increasing! Quick! Right there! Pickle at 8,000 feet, only 2,000 feet from roll-in altitude. Not much time. NOW! Pull out! Pull hard, but don't over G! All the remaining ordnance is trying to pull the airplane toward the ground. Smoothly pull to four Gs. Watch the artiﬁcial horizon. It's the only visual reference I can count on. Pull! Get the nose up! Don't go below 7,000 feet because rocks can be anywhere below seven. There's level. Bring it on up. Twenty-ﬁve degrees nose high. I have plenty of speed, so keep the nose up. Here comes 8,000 feet. Then 9,000. I can let the nose down a little now and look around to see if anyone is shooting.
It is 1969 and Dick Diller is on his way to flying warplanes in the Vietnam
conflict. He is commissioned to fly A-1 Skyraiders in sometimes harrowing nighttime missions over Laos-surviving not only the danger of the missions he flew, but also the bureaucracy of the air force, from fitness testing to additional duties assigned, to attacking impossible-to-find targets in the dead of night-with minimal fuel supplies.
At once entertaining and riveting, as well as thought-provoking, Firefly is the
story of one man's journey in a world at war, and a day-to-day description of the fighting force that was flying A-1 Skyraiders in combat. Firefly contains actual transcriptions of dialogue of pilots locating a target and making a strike in northern Laos.
Dick Diller was born and raised in Princeton, Illinois. He graduated from the
University of Oklahoma with a degree in finance and received an officer's commission in the United States Air Force through ROTC. He went to pilot training at Laughlin AFB, Texas, where he flew T-37s and T-38s and received an F-102 assignment upon graduation. That assignment changed to F-106s while in F-102 training. When the air force needed pilots for the Vietnam War, Diller was assigned to fly A-1 Skyraiders at Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, Thailand, where he flew 203 missions, mostly at night, over Laos.
After his air force service, Diller flew 29 years for Delta Air Lines, where he was a line check airman and served as captain representative to the Air Line Pilots Association for the Chicago based Delta pilots. He and his wife live in northern Illinois. They have three adult children, and five grandchildren.