Inspired by Vietnam War classics like Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Karl Marlantes’s Matterhorn, First with Guns is a thought-provoking exploration of personal identity set amidst a war and an era that forever altered American identity. The novel follows William Dougherty’s journey into manhood from a disturbing childhood in rural Nebraska to aerial combat in Vietnam. Early in his deployment, Dougherty commits a notorious blunder that destroys his Commanding Officer’s Huey. The young airman is grounded and punished until he and a friend forge transfer papers that get him reassigned to the 334th, the Army's original Armed Helicopter Company whose motto is “First with Guns.” As a member of the Raider platoon, Dougherty and a bone-weary assortment of door gunners fly around the clock through rain, fog, mechanical failure, and murderous ground fire, as the horrors of war alter them in unimaginable ways. While searching for an elusive enemy from the skies above rice paddies and rubber plantations, Dougherty experiences a grim connection with his disgraced father. American exceptionalism, racism, a country divided politically and ideologically, its leaders obsessed with weapons, technology, and military superiority—the themes of First with Guns are as relevant today as they were fifty years ago.