NEVER TOLERATE TYRANNY!....Conservative voices from the GRASSROOTS.
UH-34 helicopters out of Ky Ha, South Viet Nam. One evening at dusk the
squadron got a call that a Marine company found itself surrounded, had
numerous serious casualties, and was fearful of running out of
ammunition. [As I have no permission, I’m changing the names of the
other pilots] I was on standby medevac as wingman to Captain Morrow in
a flight of two. My co-pilot, Lieutenant Baker had been in-country for
less than two weeks.
Ammunition was loaded onto Morrow’s chopper. Mine was left empty to facilitate loading the wounded as
quickly as possible. By the time we were airborne, it was nearing dark.
The LZ was about 20 minutes southwest of Chu Lai. We were told there
was no possibility of supporting aircraft or artillery due to the fact
that the enemy and the Marines were practically belt-buckle to
belt-buckle. Enroute, however, we were notified that the Marines had
beaten back the enemy, no mortar shells had landed in the zone for over
five minutes and that the LZ was safe enough to drop the ammunition and
pick up the wounded.
Morrow and I found the area on an azimuth from Chu Lai, but there was no need to pinpoint the LZ. Tracers still
criss-crossed it occasionally, frequently ricocheting wildly at sharp
angles in that bizarre and almost lovely scene familiar to all who have
experienced night combat. Nearing the zone, a few tracers streaked up
toward us, and then quickly veered away as they missed us. All just
small arms fire as far as I could tell.
Morrow and I had planned to land at the same time, but as we turned to circle just away
from the LZ to begin our run in, he radioed that he was going to go
down, take a look, and try to get the ammunition out. He would call me
when he was ready to lift off and I was to head in. He then radioed the
troops on the ground to tell them our plans and to have the wounded
ready to load.
As we watched, as best we could in the dark, Morrow let down into the zone. Baker tightened his shoulder straps and lowered his
clear-plastic visor. I asked Gunny Roberts, the crew chief and gunner
on the right side of the aircraft, if he was all set, and got back the
two-click affirmative. Baker keyed his mike to say something; it hissed
a moment, and then stopped.
“Gunny,” I said on the intercom, “they’re supposed to have six wounded. I don’t know how we’ll get them
all in, but do your best. Just tell me when we’re ready to go.”
He double clicked again.
I had just taken off some power when I heard Morrow yell “SHIT” over the
air. He was a hundred feet from the center of the zone, still moving
rapidly, and flying through a spraying firehose of tracers. He slowed,
I heard him yell “Kick it out. Kick it out,” probably not realizing he
was on the air, not the intercom. As he lifted out of the zone (we
could really only see a dark form, but pinpointed by tracers) he said,
“Two, take it around!” I pulled power back in and broke left before
reaching the zone.
A half mile from the LZ Morrow turned on his running lights and I joined up on him. “I don’t think you can make
it,” he radioed. But I knew it was my decision. I called the company CO
and asked him if the wounded were ready to come out. He answered in the
affirmative, paused with the mike hissing and said, “I’m not sure you
can get...” and then went silent. Morrow had to head back to the base,
not sure how badly his aircraft was damaged. I called the company six
and told him to load only those that were critical. Then I peeled off
Morrow and headed back to the LZ.
About half a mile from the zone I let down to less than a hundred feet and lowered the nose to build up airspeed. Our gunner on the left
side M-60 asked if he could shoot. I told him no. We passed over a tree
line at fifty feet and tracers just came from everywhere. I heard
someone yelling No! No! No but couldn’t tell who it was. I saw and
think I felt an explosion on my left from what I later learned was a
mortar. Tracers were headed straight for us now from the far side of
the LZ, with no deflection. I kept the nose down and flew directly
ahead, pulling up and climbing left beyond the zone. On the flight line
fifteen minutes later an inspection revealed we had not taken a single
The next morning near noon, I took over an aircraft from a pilot who was sick. We flew out to the same LZ and when I landed there
were ten Marines under shelter-halves lined up for evac. Ten dead
Marines. I will never forget the sight. In my twenty five or thirty Air
Medals is one which came from that mission. I have always been glad
that I didn’t know which one. I wouldn’t want to wear it.
Combat is a lot of things. Thousands and thousands of books have been written
to try to describe what it is like. Had I read them all, none would
have prepared me for being a twenty-four year old Marine pilot trying
to make a life or death decision in the dark in Quang Ngai province. I
flew hundreds of missions over the next two and a half years in the
Marines and later Air America. Was shot down four times. They say that
Viet Nam vets don’t like to talk about the war. Maybe some of them,
like me, can’t talk about the heroics without remembering the missions
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