Left Alive To Die by Susan Keen | Books in Review

Susan Keen’s Left Alone to Die: The Story of Blue Angel Leader CAPT Harley Hall (Hannibal Books, 192 pp., $14.95, paper) is a tribute to the last American pilot who was shot down over Vietnam. Harley Hall, a Navy F-4 Phantom pilot on his third Vietnam War tour of duty, had been a member of the famed Navy Blue Angels  flying aerobatic flight team.

Keen presents evidence that Hall was captured alive after he was shot down on January 27, 1973. She uses a lot of reconstructed dialogue based on interviews with Hall’s wife Mary Lou and other members of his family, friends, and fellow Navy fliers to tell the story of Hall’s life as a Blue Angel (including his two years as the group’s commander), his Vietnam War experiences, and his family’s ordeal since 1973.

Throughout the book Keen offers the highest words for praise for Mary Lou Hall and for Harley Hall. “With her equanimity and aplomb, Mary Lou moves forward [today] like the indomitable, spirited woman she is, ” Keen says in the book’s final paragraph, which ends with this sentence, commenting on a tribute paid to Harley Hall by Adm. Jim Maslowski in July of 2000 at the dedication of the H.H. Hall Professional Building in Vancouver, Washington:

“Jim’s poignant tribute to his fellow Blue Angel, his mentor, and his friend… [serves] not only as a reminder of Hall’s efforts on behalf of America, of liberty, of the people’s vote, and of family, but also as [a summary] of the life of Harley H. Hall—the best of the best!”

—Marc Leepson

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