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U.S. Air Force Pocket Survival Handbook: the portable and essential guide to staying alive

5 February 2013

U.S. Air Force Pocket Survival Handbook: the portable and essential guide to staying alive, USAF (Jay McCullough, editor), ISBN 9781620871041, 359 pp.

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As is the publishing business custom, I have been provided a copy by of this book, in this case by Skyhorse Publishing, to read and to provide an unbiased review. No compensation has been offered, expected or requested — nor would compensation be accepted.

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U.S. Air Force Pocket Survival Handbook: the portable and essential guide to staying alive by the USAF (Jay McCullough, editor)

U.S. Air Force Pocket Survival Handbook: the portable and essential guide to staying alive by the USAF (Jay McCullough, editor)

This book is a great read and not only for the obvious reasons such as how to obtain water or how to forage for food when circumstances  demand such actions. This book delves more deeply than most books in the field since military aircrews, and long distance civilian pilots as well, can find themselves stranded in a remote region that may be tens to hundreds of miles from civilization.

The stranded or crashed aircraft offers much in the way of survival, of course, another way this book differs from the more individually oriented texts, but there is also the need to address evasion since military aircrew may find themselves not only stranded but also hunted. The last chapters in this well written and organized book address evasion and should be read not only for the hard-earned knowledge within them but also to appreciate these risks accepted by military aircrews — that is, suddenly being on the ground and well into hostile territory with few options.

The majority of the book, though, has information useful for civilians as well as military persons. Naturally, the basics are covered in sufficient details and with no potentially confusing minutia. This is a book written to have the information needed in concise, clear and unambiguous terms. Illustrations are in acceptable black and white half-tone images and primarily in wonderful pen-and-ink style drawings.

This book also addresses the psychology of surviving in a situation that may be thrust upon the reader without warning and with dire consequences should a mistake be made. This is a prime factor in survival often missed in other books of this genre — initiative and the will to survive are paramount to ensure a successful outcome — so it is especially professional of the USAF that this aspect is so well addressed by the use of no less than three chapters of the book (Chapters 4–6).

The making of fire and places for them, in Chapter 12, is also enlightening (pun intended) since this involves not only what an individual may have on hand but also what can be utilized from the aircraft. Chapter 8 addresses medicine in a prisoner of war camp —making for insightful reading in a sociologically complex situation. Essentials of shelter are addressed, as well, and construction in a snow environment does not fail to spark interest.

This book is useful for anyone who travels by aircraft across remote expanses — whether that may be measured in how many miles from civilization or, better, measured in how long a period of time one may be stranded before help arrives or how far one must travel to civilization. Aviation’s history is replete with survival stories of both explorers, as well as military personnel, and this book contains knowledge obtained through their shared experience. This knowledge is also useful for the individual pilot who will travel over desert, mountains or by island hopping — it would be good practice to read, occasionally review and most of all keep this book in the aircraft.

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