Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Rick Hudlow recounts his life story in Shamrock 22: “An American Aviator’s Story” (AuthorHouse, 415 pp., $31.99, hardcover; $23.95, paper; $3.99, e book). Hudlow is a man who lived to fly and who devoted his career to the Strategic Air Command—particularly the B-52.
“As a young man I served but did not get into combat in WWII, ” Hudlow humbly writes. “I served through Korea but was deeply involved in the new B-47 so did not serve in Korea. I served in Vietnam and saw our forces in action in the field and participated in the bombing campaigns in Vietnam.”
Hudlow’s story follows a path laid out by his father—a pilot, business owner, and consultant. Hudlow spent his boyhood at airports. He began flying by standing at the wheel of a Ford Tri-Motor because he was too small to see out the windshield. He enlisted in the Army aviation cadet program at age eighteen. Throughout his career, Hudlow extended to his subordinates the same high degree of confidence and respect that his father showed to him.
The core of Hudlow’s book deals with the Cold War, a topic practically forgotten since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. He entered SAC with the initial B-47 deliveries and rose in rank and influence as the Command’s importance toward deterring nuclear war increased.
Hudlow clearly enjoyed and was “most proud of” the everyday performance of his B-47 and B-52 crew duties. Promoted to staff level, he conceived modifications that improved B-52 capabilities.
In Vietnam, Hudlow served on a targeting panel. He came to recognize that B-52 bombs were being fused incorrectly. He inspected recently bombed areas and flew with forward air controllers to validate that observation. He then designed new fusing practices that improved bombing results. After that, the Seventh Air Force Commander consulted with Hudlow about other bombing tactics.
Upon his return from Vietnam, Hudlow failed to achieve his life-long goal of becoming a SAC Wing Commander and retired. He immediately went to work in private industry and spent many years traveling to parts of the world he missed while serving in the Air Force.