(3 SEPTEMBER 1922-2 APRIL 2006)
When CW4 Michael J. Novosel died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on 2April 2006, the U.S. Army and the Army Medical Department lost one of its mostdecorated, courageous, and humble heroes. Mike Novosel`s career reads likea novel and it does not require embellishment. His crowning achievement willalways be considered the Medal of Honor that he was awarded for the incrediblework that he and his crew of Dustoff 88, 82d Medical Detachment, 45th MedicalCompany, 68th Medical Group, did on 2 October 1969 in Kien Tuong Province of theRepublic of Vietnam near the Cambodian border. [For information on his Medal ofHonor, follow this link (Medal of Honor recepient - CW4 Mike Novosel)]
Much has been written about Mike Novosel and his career, including his ownbook, DUSTOFF: The Memoir of an Army Aviator, published by Presidio Pressin 1999. His individual story was also part of the overall story of Armyaeromedical evacuation (MEDEVAC) that was told in Peter Dorland and James Nanney,Dust Off: Army Aeromedical Evacuation in Vietnam, that was published bythe U.S. Army Center of Military History in 1982 and can be found elsewhere onthis site (Vietnam Dustoff).
While assigned to The Historical Unit, U.S. Army Medical Department, at FortDetrick, Maryland, in the mid-1970s, CPT Peter Dorland, MS, himself an Armyaviator, was given the task of researching and writing a history of Armyaeromedical evacuation through the end of the Vietnam conflict. His researchincluded interviewing and corresponding with many of the leading MEDEVACaviators who had served in Vietnam, including Patrick H. Brady, himself a Medalof Honor recipient, Paul Bloomquist, Douglas Moore, and others who shaped thedoctrine, operations, and philosophy of AMEDD MEDEVAC. For 30 years, theseinvaluable materials have lain largely unused in the U.S. Army Military HistoryInstitute (MHI) at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barrack. Pennsylvania.In time, these original interviews and correspondence will appear in the sectionof this website devoted to Army Aeromedical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) because theywere done soon after the events discussed and reflect the personal views andexperiences of these MEDEVAC pioneers at the time.
Pete Dorland interviewed then CW4 Mike Novosel at Fort Rucker, Alabama, on 19June 1974. This interview is the first of these historical documents on AMEDDMEDEVAC to appear.
John T. Greenwood, Ph.D.
Chief, Office of Medical History
Office of The Surgeon General, U.S. Army
Falls Church, Virginia
16 May 2006
Interviewer: CPT Peter G. Dorland, MSC, The Historical Unit, US Army MedicalDepartment, Fort Detrick, Frederick, MD 21701
Interviewee: CW4 Michael J. Novosel
Date: 19 June 1974
Place: Ft. Rucker, AL
Answer: I am CW4 Michael J. Novosel. To give you some background, Ienlisted in the old Army Air Corps on Feb 7, `41, which happened to fallexactly 10 months before Pearl Harbor. I entered flight training in early 1942and graduated from pilot training in the old Army Air Corps Training Command onDec 13, 1942. I am on duty for all of WorldWar II, and I ended up flying B-29 bombers out of the Marianas from the Islandof Tinian.
Unfortunately, I did not really get into real violent action. I was there for(you might say) the wind-up of the war. Possibly half a dozen missions, the warwas over. But I did find an interesting experience while there and was alsogiven the opportunity for my first real command when I took over command of the99th Bombardment Squadron, which was a B-29 squadron. We had 19 aircraft and 700officers and enlisted men. Interesting to note that it was such a structure thatI, as a Captain, had command of that many people. This was not unusual at all inthat the 1st Bombardment Squadron had a First Lieutenant Reed who was in chargeof it. To give you an idea,
whenever you hear stories about World War II having so much rank and so many youngcolonels in command, yet while the war was going on, I assure you this was notthe case and when you consider that out of approximately 700 officers and men inthe 1st Bombardment Squadron, it was equally sized as the 99th, that they had nohigher rank than a first lieutenant.
Of course, another fact was the regulation prohibited anybody from takingcommand of an Air Corps combat unit unless he was a pilot. I am sure there weresome individuals who had rank higher than first lieutenants, but they were notpilots. So, therefore, they could not command.
To make a long story short, after the war, I got out of the service andreturned to civilian life. Stayed out long enough, you might say, to find outwhat it was like to be a civilian and then came the Korean War, at which time Iapplied for active duty again and was accepted in the grade of Major by thistime.
I did not, again in this particular war, get to see any combat and was notquite pleased with this situation, but I did manage to go to the Air Command andStaff School and graduated from there. With the war over again, I got out inJune 1953.
Question: By this time, what types of different aircraft had you flown?
Answer: Well, as an example, in World War II, I flew every bomber we hadwith the exception of two that I can recall. I did not fly the B-32, or theB-34. But every other bomber that I know of in our inventory, I flew. I alsoflew the P-39, P-40, P-63 in the pursuit category. The trainers, I have flownthe PT-19, BT-43, AT-6. Transports I have flown C-60, C-47, C-46, C-54, and Ithink that is about it. I am sure there are some others that escape me at thistime. Bombers. Well to rehash, I can say the B-l7, B-24, B-25, B-26, B-29,Lockheed Hudson (bomber version of that), that is about all I can think of atthis time. In those days we were quite loose--I did not go out of my way to findaircraft to fly. We actually had all these aircraft at the installations where Iwas and I happened to be assigned
as the Chief of Test Flight and that is the reason I was able to fly allthese aircraft because they were my responsibility.
Again, to give you an idea, I was a Captain at this time and I was Chief ofTest Flight, and the reason I received this assignment was that when I joinedthe Flight Test Engineering Department at Laredo Army Air Field, and this is theinstallation I am talking about, we had six engineering test officers there. Onone particular flight we had three of our test flight officers, who becameairborne [in a] B-24 for the purpose of conducting an engineering test on it,and they were killed as a result of an accident that resulted from that test.That left myself and two others to take on the job. I happened to be the seniorofficer, and at this particular time I was first lieutenant. But I was a seniorofficer and because of that position, I was made a Captain. One of therequirements for getting promoted in a command structure in World War II wasthat there be an opening, and the opening for my position called for Captain. Soa month later, I became a Captain. There was no automatic promotion, such astime in grade as we experienced during the Vietnamese War.
Bringing us back up to date, I saw this Vietnamese situation developing, and,by this time of course, I was an airline pilot flying for Southern Airways,Inc., out of Atlanta, Georgia, and New Orleans, Louisiana.
In one of my headier or lighter moments, I decided I wanted to become part ofit and applied for duty with the Air Force at which time they said I was numberone, too old and number two, I had too much rank, that they could not afford totake me on as a pilot.
Question: How old were you at this time?
Answer: Well, let`s see, this was `64, I was 41 years old at thistime. Also, I had four children but three of them were getting up into arespectable age, my oldest was 15. I can recall that as a young secondlieutenant in WWII nothing use to aggravate me more than to have a man come upand say "if I were ten years younger I would be with you" and"let me say how tough it was in World War I." I was determined that Iwould not follow into that kind of a trap. I figured anybody who had some skillsthat was in need should volunteer them. Even if I was 41 and had four children,I certainly felt I had skills that somebody needed for this darn war. So Ivolunteered them. As I said, the Air Force could not accept me because theythought I was too old and had too much rank. Actually, I suppose I did, becauseI was a Lieutenant Colonel by this time in the reserves and by law could not goon duty with the Air Force on any lower grade structure. But I found out theArmy was looking for aviators. I applied to them without even thinking ofapplying for a commission, I accepted the position as a CW2. In other words, aninstant Chief Warrant Officer, which was all right with me. I was called on thephone from some individual whom I can`t even recall his name. I was giveninstructions to go to Fort Wolters, to tell the people in charge there to giveme a check ride, for the purpose of validating an aeronautical rating. In otherwords, my World War II pilot rating, I suppose, was unacceptable to the modernArmy. I went to Fort Wolters, presented myself to their standardization board orwhatever it was called in those days, told the individual who looked like he wasthe most in charge what I was there for, and without anyone checking anyfurther, I was asked no identification, no proof, I had no orders, actuallynothing written to
indicate that I was a legitimate individual on legitimate Army business. Tobe specific, I really had no orders putting me on active duty. Nevertheless,this man said "All right, we will give you a check ride." So theyproceeded to give me a 30-minute ride and the next day issued orders making mean Army aviator.
Question: Where had you received your helicopter training?
Answer: I received it as a civilian as a result of my civilianemployment. So actually my Army rating cost the Government the equivalent of 30minutes flying time. They did not even give me my set of wings, which is theusual blessing bestowed upon a new aviator, be he warrant or commissioned. I hadto go out and buy mine. I forgot what they cost. It`s just lately that I thinkabout it, I felt that someone should have given me a set of wings for free.
My first assignment was at Fort Bragg. I was assigned to the Special Forces.I believe one of the reasons for this is that I do have a foreign languagecapability, as a matter of fact I did not know English until I was 7. English,you might say, is my secondary language. Because of my foreign languagecapability, this was the reason I went to Special Forces. It was also one of thereasons that I spent some time in World War II as an OSS agent. I think thisbackground was the rationale for my assignment to the Forces. It must have beenquite a sight, when I think back about it now, because again I had no ordersplacing me on active duty, but I did have orders, mimeographed orders, making mean Army aviator. I had absolutely no uniform, nor if I had one would I know howto wear it because I had spent 14 years in the Air Force Reserve and the blueand the OD were somewhat different.
The first thing my commanding officer did was to assign a brand new W-1 to bemy escort for about a week or so to teach me how to dress, what uniforms to buy,and what not to buy. It was quite an interesting experience. That did not takelong because they put me right to work, and, I recall, if my memory serves mecorrectly, I came on active duty on a Tuesday and by Thursday night they had a35-pound pack on my back and we were on a 10-mile hike. So I was very quicklyindoctrinated into the Army methods.
The first thing of any significance, I recall, that had any great import tome, other than the usual amount of training was the fact I participated to someextent with the air assault test program going on in 1964-1965 as a helicopteraircraft commander. I was flying the H-34s in these days. The next thing Irecall was that I was sent to Arabia. This was an interesting experience. Iremember going with a Captain George Dorsey and myself and a crew chief. It wasour job to disassemble the helicopter, in other words take off the head and themast because it was the only way we could put it in a C-131, which we did withthe help of some of our unit mechanics. However, when we were sent to Arabiathere was just the three of us, George Dorsey, the crew chief, and myself. Itwas our job upon arrival in Arabia to reassemble this aircraft, which we did,religiously going by the book, but we had no actual tech inspector to verify ourwork. I assure that after we put it back together again you saw one very, verycomprehensive test flight, which consisted of probably about 1 hour of nothingbut hovering, waiting for something to fly off. After that we felt we had put itback together again the way it was supposed to have been, and we proceeded tofly our mission, I think we were quite successful.
Question: What was your mission there?
Answer: Well, the mission was twofold: first of all, we were there tosupport the Special Forces in observing and assisting in a . . . it was actuallyrevolution that was going on, not well publicized, this was in the city of theBritish Protectorate of Aden [today`s Yemen]. We were guests of the RAF [RoyalAir Force] at this particular time. The other mission, like I said, the missionwas two-fold, the other mission was to support one of the Gemini flights thatwas going on at that time. In case they were to go down, then we would againreassemble and get in the C-130, Air Force operated, and go into the generalarea where the capsule may or may not accidentally return to earth. We were togo and protect it if we could. This was our mission.
Of course, then, immediately upon returning back to the States, I think I hadtwo weeks of relatively no activity when the situation developed in theDominican Republic, and I was dispatched down there.
Again, flying the UH-1 Huey in support of Special Forces operation, which wasof air intelligence gathering nature.
Question: When were you checked out in the Huey?
Answer: I don`t recall exactly, but it had to be sometime in 1965.Probably around the spring of 1965. It was a local check out. Just as the H-34check out was a local check out (speaking of local, I am talking about Ft. Braggby Special Forces personnel). I was also given a fixed-wing rating at the sameplace flying the Heliocourier, the U-10.
Question: What model Huey were you flying?
Answer: This was the Bravo Model, that is all we had in those days. Ofcourse, we had some As, but the As, I think, were all at Rucker. We had theseBravo
models, B Model Hueys, and it was my job to make periodic runs to the variousobservation posts that were being manned by Special Forces people in theintelligence and information gathering medium. This went on quite uneventfully.It was also at the Dominican Republic when I first became acquainted with DustOff. The first individual that I knew in this line of work was Captain [Kent] Gandy. Imight add, never until that time had I known of the existence of Dust Off, oranything of a medical evacuation nature. As it turned out, it was Captain Gandy,who knew that I was there and knew of my position and my work in supporting theSpecial Forces camps, and he had a medical evacuation mission in an area he wasunfamiliar with. He also knew it was an area I was working in. So he asked me togo with him, and I did to more or less prevent any problems or at least I wasable to show him the area that he was looking for and this was my purpose forgoing along with him.
Of course, we know, you and I, when we were talking about this, we know thatCaptain Gandy, then later on (Major), was killed in Vietnam. It was really a sadday for me to find that two of my personal friends were killed on this oneparticular MEDEVAC [medical evacuation] evacuation mission. We are speaking nowof Major [Harry] Phillips and, of course, Major Gandy.
I saw Major Gandy when he came into Vietnam for a short while, we talkedabout an hour or so, that was the only time I saw him. We reminisced about ourexperiences in the Dominican Republic. Oddly enough, I talked to Major Phillipsfor approximately two hours before he was killed. I had an occasion to go intohis unit for refueling purposes as a result of some other work, for some othermissions I was conducting at the time.
Question: While in the Dominican Republic, did you have any other furtherexposure to the MEDEVAC people there?
This was the only time I had direct work with them, although on my own, Irecall, I performed a medical evacuation mission and I suppose again. The reasonwas that I was asked to do this mission was that it involved a Special Forcesdetachment or camp site where I was asked to come in late at night to pick up aman who had suffered a stab wound. I performed that mission satisfactorily. Wegot the man out with no problem.
The problem with flying in the Dominican Republic was it was a hilly area. Ithas mountains that go from sea level to 10,500 feet. It is quite difficult. Ofcourse, at night there`s quite a bit of rain and thunder storm activity. Thiswas always the problem. Also the problem when Captain Gandy and I flew together,it was a rainy day with thunderstorms that we had to circumnavigate. Of course,at night you can`t very well do this because you can`t see the mountains.You really have to be on your toes and know where you are going. There areabsolutely no navigational aids, or there were none at that time available tous.
Question: How did you navigate?
Answer: DR - Dead reckoning - and pilotage, knowing where you were,picking up a spot on the ground you could recognize, flying time - distance -heading, etc. We had ADF at San Isidro Airport. But, as you know, an ADF seemsto lose its accuracy when in storm activities. In other words, the needleinstead of pointing to the station, is going to the thunderstorm or usually justrotating around, showing you nothing. You could not very well rely on it.
Question: What were your activities after you left the DominicanRepublic?
Answer: Believe it or not, while I was down there, I had an Army aviatorcome down there with a Caribou. In the Special Forces and the rest of the Army
support down there, at this stage, we had one Caribou and one Huey that wereactually supporting the Special Forces endeavor down there. We had the change ofcrew in the Caribou, and this man came down and said "Hey, what are youdoing here, you are supposed to be in Vietnam." I said, "that was thefirst time I knew about it," "Well, the orders are out on you.""Well," I said, "they are going to have to do something, I amhere and have no way of getting to Fort Bragg, which is my home station, nor doI know anything about this order to Vietnam." As it turned out, everythingwas righted by the Army, and, in its infinite wisdom, they corrected all theorders and allowed me three weeks` leave. They sent me back home to FortBragg, allowed me three weeks` leave before I went to Vietnam. By this time,1965 had come to an end, and we now come into January 1966.
Question: We were about to come to Vietnam.
Answer: Well, as I said, I was at least allowed to have a three-weekleave before going over to Vietnam. At this point, you have to recognize this isnow 1966 and I am now 43 years old-I have gotten orders to go back to war.This is why I came in the first place, so I should not have been worried aboutit, I supposed. In retrospect, I suppose I really was not worried about it, itwas my wife who was worried about it. I recall the last thing she asked mebefore leaving, she said "we`ve got to know, but just in case you don`tmake it back, where do you want to be buried?" I said, "Well, Isupposed really I would like to go to Arlington." We made all thosecomplete arrangements. So I don`t know if I could have gotten into Arlington,I understand it is hard to get into, but now I understand I am eligible becauseof one of my awards.
I can recall the flight over. As you know, it is a long flight- nerve-
wracking, bone-breaking- it has never been a pleasure. I can recall nowyour flight to Vietnam was 18 hours. My flight to Tinian, which was not quitethat long, took three days, in a prop-driven C-54. With stops always forrefueling and maintenance, of course. The prop aircraft is not reliable likethese jets are.
Question: What did you fly over in to Vietnam?
Answer: I flew in the DC-8. It was minimum stops. We stopped in Hawaiifor about an hour, long enough to refuel, most of the passengers went andrefreshed themselves at the bar. Then we stopped at Wake Island, again to refuel-minimumtime, and we stopped in the Philippines and then into Vietnam-total time was18 hours. That was the first time. Second time we took a similar route but alittle bit different. I was thinking as I was traveling over there just whatcombat would be like, whether it would be somewhat like it was in World War II.I really did not know what to expect. I knew I was going to be flyinghelicopters, which would be completely different from flying combat in a B-29.
I knew about all the armor that I had in the B-29, such as flak curtains. Ihad two inches of armor glass immediately in front of me, I was totally encasedin half-inch armor plate in back of me and around me, on my seat in the B-29. Ihad all this going for me, practically no way in which a bullet could come inand hit me, unless it was able to thread its way through a few cracks here andthere. Flak, this was usually taken up by the armor and flak curtains we had.Flak curtains were nothing more than, like a hanging coat of mail, hung up inthe bulkhead between the bomb bay and flight compartment. I knew what the Hueywas like. I had the most rudimentary type of armor that was here and there butnot everywhere,
unfortunately. In front of me I had absolutely no armor with the exception ofthe chest protector.
I did not know where I was going or what I would be doing. I had hoped that Iwould end up flying a helicopter gunship. I can recall filling out thequestionnaire about your experience. I said I was a gunnery instructor in WorldWar II, which was one of my jobs, and I was not lying there, it is true, and Ithought this would get me assignments, for sure, with a gunship platoon. As itturned out, they must have looked at my age and figured I could not seeanything. That is the only thing I can figure out, or they did not think thatanything learned in World War II could be used in the Vietnamese situation.
Nevertheless, I found out very shortly, I was in the replacement depot forone day, when I
found out I was to be assigned to Dust Off. As I said, I really had no ideawhat Dust Off was all about, except for my one brief experience with CaptainGandy. One of my fellow officers there, Major French, I can still recall what hesaid, that is, he did not think much of the assignment and if he were in myposition, he would do everything to get out.
Question: Was this Ernie [Bob] French?
Answer: I have never met the man since then, I really don`t know-hewas a Major in 1966-I don`t even know if he survived his first tour. I nevermet the man or heard of him since that time. Nevertheless, he made it his pointto inform me that I should look for other avenues of endeavor, if I were to stayalive in Vietnam. He did not think much of the assignment. I supposed I was veryquick to change my attitude about him, if I had an attitude. I can recallLieutenant "Buz" Sawyer, I would say he was about 6` 2", astringbean-
type of individual, always had a smile on his face, wonderful disposition, hewas sent to the replacement depot to escort me to my unit. He let me know hisname was "Buz," a wonderful individual. A real good pilot, very stableindividual, one you could really entrust your life to. I think that he wasindicative of the Medical Service Corps aviators that was as I call the core ofDust Off. He made me feel welcome, showed me around, introduced me to all thepeople, after he took care of me, got me signed in, had my pay recordsstraightened out - always a part of it, drew weapons, etc., all the usualstuff that a new individual into the war area has to contend with. Here, I amtotally new- this is a totally alien environment for me. I am with a unit thatI know very little about, and I am expected to contribute to. Of course, I wasthe next thing I recall was talking with Major Owen Koch, my CO, and the firstthing he asked me was when he saw me was "how long I had been flying."I did not really think about it how I shocked him, because I said withoutbatting an eye "24 years." Now, when I look back, this is rathershocking to have someone come into a combat area and say they have been flying24 years. Most people retire before this, then I suppose I realized why the AirForce said I was too damn old to go into this war theater. It was quiteinteresting. Owen Koch said, he did what you might say the Hollywooddouble-take, "How long did you say?" I said "24 years," andI realized why he was so shocked. He did, however, I assure you, make mewelcome, he was always a very genial individual with me. We got along famously,we flew together occasionally.
I recall one rather humorous incident between Owen Koch and myself. Thisinvolved an American advisor, who was wounded, who was advising an ARVN unit
of undetermined size. I know what it was, a company or what, he was a staffsergeant to the best of my knowledge. He had received a bullet wound that hadfractured his leg. The area we went into was quite hot, and he was his owndirector, you might say, his own RTO, everything, he was not getting any greatamount of help from the ARVN. As soon as we landed in this area, we had nocovering fire at all, we had no covering aircraft in `65, `66 in that area,Why MEDEVACs were not able to secure gun ship cover because we did not have thegun ships, we were not able to get Air Force coverage, because we did not havethe facilities available so we were on our own.
But I recall that it was quite a hot area, and Major Koch was quiteconcerned. The wounded American could not get into the aircraft, none of theVietnamese were willing to help him, at least it appeared they were not willingto help him, and we had to send out our medic and crew chief. At this point, allwe had to do was sit there, I just happened to have my movie camera around, andI started taking movies of the scene. I still recall Major Koch looked at me,and he said "What in the world are you doing?" I said, "I amtaking movies of the evacuation. I thought it was better than biting mynails." Needless to say, we got the man out. The medic and crew chief wentover and helped the man out-put him on a litter and we evacuated him. That wasone scene I recall with Major Koch,
Question: What sort of in-processing orientation ride did the unit giveyou? What did you think about it?
Answer: Well, it was sufficient, I will say that much. I was with theunit about one month or 6 weeks, don`t recall exactly, I joined the unit aboutthe
same time as Colonel [Chuck] Conselman (Major at that time) joined the unit. Weserved our apprenticeship of about one month or six weeks, at which time we wereboth made aircraft commanders. Major Conselman was an aviator of quiteconsiderable ability and background. My flying time, I suppose, and backgroundand experience warranted Major Koch appointing me as an aircraft commander thatquick. This was not the usual method of operation. I flew with Captain JimLombard on some of my early missions. I flew with Captain Al Borth. I think thefirst time our aircraft was hit I flew with Captain Borth. The first time Ireceived an award for valor, I recall, that was when I flew with Captain JamesLombard. We effected an evacuation under most extreme conditions of weather. Thewhole crew was glad we got that mission off - it was a rather tough one - nodoubt about it. Thunderstorms. I recall in order to get through the turbulencewe slowed up on three different occasions, somewhere from 100 knots to 90 or 80and finally ended up doing 70 knots to get through, and we did. It was quite anexperience. The indoctrination, well, if you were to ask me what the programwas, there was no program. There was a method though. The method was to get theindividual trained, to get him acquainted with the area as rapidly as possible,and to be able to be a viable part of the organization. The organization was agoing concern, I assure you. The morale was very high. As you know, at thisparticular point, the Army was desperate for aviators, they wanted to fill thecockpits. We had many majors who were assigned by many, I mean, on a percentagebasis. We had majors who were actually flying as co-pilots, no disrespect meantto them or to their ability. Just that some of these people, you must realize,had been off flying status for two or
three, maybe four years, who were actually doing nothing but medical andhospital administrative work and because of the need were asked to come back onflying status and which they did. I consider them as much an asset to theorganization as anyone else. The expertise was still there, maybe theirtechnique and timing were off, but, after all, being out of an aircraft for sucha long time made it difficult for them to adjust. They certainly did contribute,and contributed well. I recall, Major [Warren (Punchy)] Hoen, as an example. I don`t knowexactly how long he had been grounded, but I know he came back on status. He andI flew together quite often, we enjoyed a very fine relationship. I think we didsome excellent work together.
Question: Probably not with you, but in talking with some of the otherwarrants, was there a problem with some of these "rusty" field gradeofficers trying to pull rank on the warrants who had been flying right along?
Answer: There may have been problems, but offhand I would say it was notthe fault of the "rusty" field grade officers, it probably was thefault of the W-l or W-2 exercising his first command. We`ve always had thisproblem, as you know. If you think back about it, the hardest people to getalong with are the corporals or lieutenants, because this is the first exerciseof command on any structure that you look at where a man has the ability to takeover and tell somebody to do something where he realizes he is somebody`sboss. We must be realistic and remember that really and truly a corporal knowsnothing and neither does a second lieutenant. Now, of course, we have ourWarrant Officer 1s and the bright young 2s-and remember in this particulartime, why an individual could be promoted to first lieutenant
after serving one year as second lieutenant. Of course, the same is true of aW-2 would become one after serving one year as a W-l. We used to have the saying"Lt. Fuzz." In this war we came up with a new one, it was "Mr.Fuzz," this was the Warrant Officer who is 18, 19 or 20 years old, who hadhis first opportunity. If any problem arose, I assure you from my ownexperience, it would not be the fault of the captain or the major, it would tendto lie more on this, inexperienced, infantile leader who is impressed by his ownposition, rather than by the actual facts of the case. I would have to say thatmost majors and after all, especially those who have returned to flight statusafter an absence of a year or two, are knowledgeable people. If they saidanything to the "aircraft commander," they did it in the context oftrying to improve the situation, trying to improve the safety factor if nothing,because . . . these were a dangerous time, I assure you.
Missions. I recall a number of missions, rather good ones occurred withCaptain Rothwell, and I believe Rockwell is dead now. He was killed in Korea.Strange, every time you talk about these people, so many of them are no longerwith us. Al Borth was the duty pilot, if you want to call it that, on this24-hour shift basis we worked on. Someone was always available to fly throughoutthe night. In addition to the duty pilot, we had our back ups. Al Borth was dutypilot this one particular night, and Rockwell and I were the back ups. Alreceived a very urgent mission with the 1st Division, where he was called outaround 3 o`clock in the morning. He could see he could not handle it all, so healerted us. By the time all this had transpired, it was by this time maybe 5:30and still
dark, and we saw the area that was under attack. It was loaded with tracersgoing in both directions. We knew Al had already been there at one time. Ofcourse, he went in with his lights out to prevent the enemy from seeing him orto fire at him, but he finally had to put on his landing lights so he was intotal observation. Rothwell and I were backing up and we went into the samearea. I think on this particular day we evacuated 20 some American wounded. Itwas a unit of the 1st Division, who had been hit at night in an ambush. The oddthing that comes to my mind about this mission is that we are still there andflying evacuations by the time daylight arrives. We just simply made theobservations, you know, it would be nice if we could get a cup of coffee-wewere waiting for a group of wounded to be dressed and stabilized, so we couldevacuate them further. We made the comment, "We would like a cup ofcoffee." Someone said, "Why don`t you go to the mess tent, they aresure to have some coffee." We went there, and believe it or not, here wewere able to have scrambled eggs, fresh, fresh biscuits, a total completebreakfast out in the field. The only thing I can say that enabled this situationto be there as it was, was that during all this fighting, this man in the messtent had to be baking those biscuits and had to be preparing this breakfast. Ifyou can imagine such a situation. The battle must have been going on all aroundhim and he had to be working there. I assure these were excellent biscuits, andremember we did not have pre-baked things, this was hand-made. I always recallthat. Rockwell and I enjoyed a very good breakfast. We performed the rest of ourmission.
I can recall, of course, being with Captain Lombard on the night we had tomake an evacuation on the Minh Thanh Road. This was the night of the violentthunderstorms where we had to slow up to 70 knots. The interesting thing aboutthis mission was we had navigational aids to the extent we had a VOR receiver.We were receiving the Saigon VOR very nicely and this put us into position wherewe found our way to a town by the name of Chon Thanh. But from Chon Thanh to thepickup sight, it required a flight of about six minutes, it was in totaldarkness, total rain, violent turbulence and once in a while the inevitableflash of lightening.
I recall that Captain Lombard said, "I am not instrumentqualified." I said, "I am not either." I know what it is allabout, and I said, "I know you know how to fly instruments." He said,"Right, and for your information I am on the gauges right now." Inother words, we left Chon Ton, and really no reference whatsoever, we were intotal blackness at this particular point, with the exception of the occasionallightening flash. We talked the situation over between ourselves, and we bothdecided that we would close one eye in case of a lightening flash coming closeby so we would not be blinded. This was the situation that confronted us.
As the weather became worse and rougher, why we kept slowing up. We finallyslowed up to 70 knots. I recall also that about four minutes before arriving atthe spot I made contact with the unit on the ground I said, "Are you surethis is a real urgent mission? Things are really bad up here." He said,"Yes, the mission was urgent." We did not know at the time, but therewas a short round situation over there that had wounded three of their people.Finally, I would say about a minute before my estimated time of arrival hadexpired, I again said making
contact with the ground - no problem as far as talking with them, the FMset was working beautifully, theirs was, too - I let them know that theyshould be hearing our rotor and our engine. We were, of course, totally blackedout - that is the way we flew because we did not know what to expect. Theyinformed me that, "Yes, they did hear us." I told them to put out alight of some kind. You might say almost miraculously, immediately I looked outand I saw the one flashlight, they had one flashlight. "Is that all youhave, one flashlight?" "We have another one somewhere, we will try andget it." I said, "I want to make sure who I am talking to, if you hearmy instructions at this point, flash your light off and on," and he did. Iknew it was them and not someone else. We were always having trouble with havingthe VC pick up our transmissions and playing tricks on us throwing out coloredsmoke, etc. We were right where we were supposed to be. Our dead reckoning -time - distance problem we had mentally computed, because that is the way itwas, we were in total darkness we had to use the "WAG" system, itworked very nicely and we ended up where we were supposed to be. I do recall CPTLombard was doing the flying, and we did have some violent lightening flashesand because he had been on instruments all this time, he was having difficultyorienting himself to a visual environment, so he asked me to take it down forhim, which I did. I recall I could see the light but that was all I could see.In descending, I put on the landing light to see what the visibility was like,and, of course, we immediately became totally obscured. The rain was so hardthat the landing light just diffused all this moisture and reflected it againstus, so we could see nothing. I quickly turned it off, so I could see theflashlight down there,
which I did, in getting closer to it. Then I put on the landing light again.This time CPT Lombard hollered, "There are trees ahead." That givesyou an idea how we had timed it. It was quite close. Then there was no problem.Between our lights and the lightening flashes, we could actually see the roadthey were on and set the aircraft down and made the evacuation. What I was goingto say was one of the benefits of flying Dust Off over in the III Corps area wasthat we did have a very good, reliable VOR station at Tan Son Nhut or Saigon. Wehad a real fine ADF that was (I am sure) installed by the French in the late30s. This was a two-masted job, double-antenna type, very antique, very large,but still very durable and powerful. We found it to be much more reliable thanour own modern, million-dollar outfit. I suppose the French outfit could nothave cost more than $10,000, and I assure you everyone of ours cost a millionbecause of the requirement for air transportability and all this other stuff.
In locating these various areas of operation, it was always my habit,whenever I could, to compute these locations by a VOR radial and/or an ADFbearing. I actually used this information that I wrote down for pickups at nightand in bad weather, and it really came in handy. Of course, I gave thisinformation to all the other pilots, and it was available to them. Whether ornot they used it as much as I did, I don`t know. But I do recall that I usedthis and rechecked it periodically during daytime operations. In other words, ifI went into Lai Khe, I would expect a certain reading on VOR and ADF, and if Iwent up to Chon Thanh the same is true. It would be true at Quan Loi, the RedEarth Plantation (Terre Rouge Plantation). I used it certainly to find Cu Chi, Iused it to find Tay Ninh, Dau Tieng, these were the major areas of operationthat we were always involved in.
Question: Did you also construct your own approaches from theseintersections?
Answer: Someone must have been talking to you. Yes, I actually visuallyand mechanically sat down and designed some approaches for these areas to theextent that I actually had an approach for Saigon heliport, which was verycomplicated. I think I was the only one who could understand it. I could noteven get it across to my friends, they could not believe it would work the way Idid it. I found it to be helpful. It certainly was not the safest approach, butat least it showed me where I was and what I wanted to do. It involved a seriesof ever changing radials and bearings to get into the Saigon heliport.
We did use the VOR radial system on all of our night evacuations, because allof our aircraft were equipped with workable VOR radio receivers and the Saigonor Tan Son Nhut VOR was operational at that time. What would happen, well, wehad trained all of our radio telephone operators (RTOs) how to draw aradial, how to extend a radial with a piece of string from the Saigon VOR to thecoordinates of the pickup site. Then they would, of course, read off from themile chart how many miles. This was a real blessing to us to enable us to fly aradial to get over the area or at least get into the general area and at leastalert the individual on the ground, "Well, by now you should hear me or seeme." It worked beautifully. I am sorry to say that on my second tour, theVORs were taken out of commission. Not only that, but when I was in the Delta,not one aircraft had a VOR receiver and the entire Delta was covered by TACAN. Isuppose an Air Force province, and they were not about to let us have any TACANfor our helicopters. As a matter of fact, our own people
would not think of giving us a TACAN for our helicopters, saying it was notnecessary. Well, I am not going to belabor the point, but certainly when anindividual is on a mission, such as we had out of the Can Tho area down the tipof the Ca Mau peninsula, this entailed a flight of approximately 110 nauticalmiles where our individuals were forced by the circumstances to fly nothing butdead reckoning and pilotage at night under the most extreme weather conditions.You have to realize these people I am talking about, now, are 19, 20, 21 yearsold youngsters, my own son was one of them, who was 20 years old at the time. Inthinking back, I have got to honestly say that some of the best flying done byan organization was certainly flown by the 82d Medical Detachment in the Deltaunder these most difficult of conditions where they actually had lessinstrumentation than Lindberg had when he flew across the Atlantic.
You have to recognize Lindberg flew the Atlantic in 1927, and we are talkingabout 1969 and 1970 when I was there. To my knowledge, the 82d MedicalDetachment never refused a mission, at least not while I was there. I never knewof any mission being refused, delayed, yes, but refused, no. Certainly therewere delays, there had to be. as an example: 110 nautical miles of flying theDelta, with absolutely no weather information, could be equated with someonetrying to fly across the United States with all the weather information at hiscommand. Our people would go out and they would hit these thunderstorms andsuffer this turbulence. Sometimes they would actually punch through to break outinto the relatively smooth air. Certainly not clear because there was no moon.There was always an overcast and the lighting situation on the ground was notthere to help them at all. So they
would proceed on what? On a heading they had precomputed on a time anddistance problem, they had precomputed and continued to punch on. You canimagine what I am talking about, now, is individuals having to make pickups atnight to LSTs, approximately 10 miles off the coast. this they did more thanonce. They went to the island that was west of Huc Hoa Island. When you think ofthe distance involved, when you think of the instrumentation available to thepeople, and beyond that, actually, even if they had had the instruments on boardthe aircraft, they had absolutely no training, no training in VOR for thatmatter. They certainly had no training in TACAN; we were unable to acquire it.Again, I wish to state that our young Warrant Officers, young second and firstlieutenants, young captains, how they did this and how they survived, I find itvery difficult especially when I consider myself at that time. I am thinking nowof `69 - I had been rated 27 years. I had been flying as a rated serviceaviator and I was worried at times at night whether or not I would find an area,whether or not I could punch through the thunderstorms. With all my experience,I had these anxieties, if you want to call them that. I thought, "What mustbe going through the minds of these young officers?" my son included. Healso was a part of the unit. They certainly wrote a beautiful chapter for ArmyAviation, and the Medical Service Corps. They have a group of individuals whothey can really and truly be proud of.
Question: During your first tour, did you have Paris Control to help outat all?
Answer: We had Paris. But the strange thing about Paris was that they hadsuch a great area of ground clutter and even in the second time they had this
great area of ground clutter. They were not too much help in the area wherewe really were doing a lot of operating in those days. As an example, they werecertainly helpful in the An Loc area and the Loc Ninh area. For myself, I alsohad this experience that they often went off the air because of powerdifficulties or some other maintenance difficulties. I kept their use down to aminimum because I wanted to rely on my instrumentation, and I did have real goodVOR instrumentation where I could determine a LOP (Line of Position), whichwould take me over the intended pickup area. Where I used the Paris Control wasto make sure I did not fly into Cambodia. This seemed to have been a majorconcern of everybody at that time. I did not want to upset any politicalapplecart. We used them, of course, to assist us in getting around artilleryareas. They were aware of the artillery. This would enable us to fly a missionwithout having to contact the individual artillery units. SOIs were available inIII Corps area at the time, but for some reason or other, they were not used.
On my second tour, the SOIs were used religiously down in the Delta, so weknew exactly what the artillery situation was ourselves. I might add that PaddyControl in the Delta was very good and seemed to be more accurate in theirpositioning information than the control in Saigon. I am not saying that one wasbetter than the other, I think it was the circumstances, in the Saigon area didhave a problem in their equipment, Paddy Control, of course, had the benefit ofbeautiful flat terrain. No interference from the hills or anything of this type.Of course, they did not have anywhere near the traffic. Therefore, they wereable to help you out considerably. When you recall, I mentioned 110
nautical mile-missions, even Paddy Control in the Delta would lose you after50 or 60 miles. The reason, of course, was we have gained altitude, but ingaining altitude we were subjecting ourselves to more turbulence in thethunderstorm area. We found our best altitude was around 2,000 feet, or lower.Sometimes I have gone down as low as 500 feet when the turbulence was strong. Itseemed to dissipate when you got down closer to the surface.
Question: Did you talk to Paddy and Paris Control?
Answer: I knew the controllers at Paddy intimately. I knew everyone ofthem and they knew me. I don`t believe we ever had a unit party, or they had aunit party, where the two groups did not invite one another. This was therapport we enjoyed with these units. You know, of course, Paddy and Paris wereall Air Force individuals. If ever there was a description of servicecoordination and working together atmosphere, I don`t think you would ever findit to be any better than what we experienced working with these Air Forceindividuals.
Question: Was this present when you got to the unit on both tours?
Answer: Well, as I said, not in my first tour, it wasn`t. Paris Controlhad a more pressing demand in that they were saturated with all this cargotraffic out of Saigon, and, of course, out of Bien Hoa. Even in `66 they werequite well occupied. During the daytime, really, we did not need Paris Controlto help us that much. At night, of course, we could have used them but in thosedays the activity was not that much. The missions ordinarily were not that long.We found that most of our efforts were in the Cu Chi area, in the Ben Cat area,1st Division, Bien Hoa area, Long
Binh area. This was not too far from our base of operation, which at thattime was at Tan Son Nhut itself. We did not move over to the Long Binh areauntil `67. Although there was a unit at Long Binh, the Dust Off complex thatlater became the 45th Company did not form up until `67 at Long Binh. I thinkit was January 1967 when they finally got established over there.
Question: On your first tour, what sort of field sites were you running?
Answer: How do you mean by field sites? Field standby? This was mostunusual. Our standby at that time were single aircraft because, as I said, theassets were not available. I spent many, many nights at Loc Ninh, as an example,as the only aircraft, the only medical evacuation, and of course, the onlyaircraft. What would happen is that the lift units, the gunships, etc., whennightfall came they would go back to their units. Their war stopped at thispoint. Of course, they would come back out again if someone was hurting and theyneeded their support, but this was very seldom that the situation deterioratedor least to that extent because I very seldom saw them at night. Again, we mustbe truthful with ourselves, these people were not trained for this, and they didnot have the capability to operate at night the way our Dust Off people did. Ithink we were blessed in the Dust Off units that we did have a sufficient cadre,a sufficiently sizable group of people that did have experience that were ableto impart some knowledge and training to individuals. Talking about instrumentflying and etc.
Question: Were you conducting training of the unit pilots this time?
Answer: We had no actual training program because we could not afford it.It was a matter of assets. We had no periodic check rides, no periodic
instrument training because the aircraft were not available and all aircraftwere (it appeared) always demanded or required to be at one point or another.The usual procedure on the standby, let us go back again to Loc Ninh. A crewwould be sent out there for three days at which time they would be relieved byanother crew, and this existed as long as there were American operations by someAmerican unit in the area. In the Loc Ninh area, we were always supporting the1st Division. The same thing was true with Quan Loi, we were always supportingthe 1st Division. During all these standbys, as I said, there was one aircraft.You know later on when the assets became available, the sites such as Lai Khe,which was a brigade post, Phuoc Vinh was another brigade headquarters. WherePhuoc Vinh used to have one aircraft, Lai Khe use to have one Dust Off aircraftfor standby, these later became the sites of units. We set a standby at Cu Chiwhere we supported the 25th Division, one aircraft in `66. Towards the end ofthe war, as we know, these became total medical detachments. All this took timeand required the accumulation of assets and personnel to be able to manage thesesites.
Question: What was your attitude and the attitude of the other pilots ofthe unit toward these standbys? Did you look forward to going out on standbys?What were the living conditions?
Answer: The living conditions were quite primitive. It wascatch-as-catch-can. There were any number of ways of existence, you might say.First of all, we did have the facilities of the medical people who were there.We had their radios for communications in addition to our own, of course. We hadtheir mess facilities, which were always adequate, and sometimes we had theirsleeping facilities. At Lai Khe, for example, the living conditions
were, I would say, very good. We had a tent to keep the rain from us, we hada cot with a mosquito net, which was, this might not sound as being very much, Ithought it was very nice, you could at least get a good night`s sleep, unlessyou were awakened to go for a medical evacuation, nothing unusual. That`s thereason you were there, you expected it. You did not expect a complete night`ssleep, you expect to be awakened two or three times in a night, this actuallyhappened. Then, when you get further away from . . . when you talk about Lai Khe,we are talking about a brigade headquarters and its medical battalion, which hasa rather sizable number of individuals. When we go to an area, in those daystalking about Loc Ninh, Quan Loi, now we are talking about people out in thefield. Still and all, they would have some kind of a medical facility. Theywould have a tent, some litters propped up on supports to act as temporaryoperating facilities. In more than one occasion I slept on one of theseoperating tables when it was not being used. When that was not available, thenmy crew used to sleep inside the helicopter. That would be three people. I ,ofcourse, was certainly able to go in there and sleep inside my own helicopter,but I found I much preferred to be on the ground underneath the helicopter. Inthat way I did not have to share anybody else`s snoring, and it kept mesufficiently dry. I would still have a few drops of moisture collect on thebottom of the fuselage and drip on my face, etc. But I appreciated the fresh airI got out there. We got pretty odorous after three days in the field and noshower facilities, you can imagine what that would be like. Of course, you hadthe temptation because of the mosquitoes if in the helicopter you had the doorsthat slide
closed to keep them away. Then it would get humid and hot, no amount ofdeodorant could salvage that situation, that was the reason I personally alwayswent underneath the helicopter. Also, because of my size, I could do this easierthan someone who was quite large. There was not very much room underneath whenyou consider the litter and yourself.
Question: Did the pilots enjoy their standbys?
Answer: I think so. First of all, it gave them a rest from the usualadministrative duties, and, as you know, war was 50 percent waiting, 50 percentadmin. I don`t know where they have time to fight, because that`s 100percent, but that`s the way it goes.
Question: Did you have any additional duties on your first tour?
Answer: Yes. Unofficially, I tended to be the instructor for instrumentflying, Admin Officer for a while, until Captain Lombard took that over, andthen became Assistant Admin. I was Awards Officer, Aircraft Commander, a normalpart of the job. I would have to recheck my files to find out exactly all theother, the administrative functions and duties, that came my way.
Question: Was this true of all the pilots?
Answer: Everyone had something to do. Strangely enough, I found one thingthat I recall and put down as a matter of record: The monthly reports, or thechart of monthly reports during my first tour. We put down on a piece of plasticwith the black grease pencil to keep our situation current. This took up aboutsix inches of space. When I returned in `69, I found this six inches had grownto almost three feet. I could not believe we had become thatadministrative-minded.
Evidently, the infinite wisdom of the Army found it necessary to have thesereports to make us more efficient in fighting the war. Although, from anindividual perspective, let`s face it, I think we agree that all these reportsjust tended to detract from our initial and primary mission. Yet, they werenecessary, and we did accomplish them.
Question: What were some of the major operations which you supported, youand the other aviators in your unit, during the first tour?
Answer: Well, I do recall most of the operations were named after cities.Most of them were being operated by the 1st Division, which at this particulartime was under the command of Major General Depuy. A very dynamic leader whoseemed to have a sense about him, a presence of mind that he seemed to sensewhere the action would be or maybe he himself helped develop it, I don`t know.But there were so many times that I was called out on medical evacuation, and Iwould find him to be in the area, either to the extent that he was there where Icould see him or his aircraft, or he was talking on the FM radio. In oneoccasion, I recall, during a heavy downpour at Dau Tieng, here comes an aircraftand a man waving at me to come get this wounded individual. Who is it? GeneralDepuy. He is helping load the litter, my medic and crew chief are helping loadthe litter, it`s raining "cats and dogs," there he is. This was theway General Depuy operated. I recall also . . . a mine causing some damage, aVietnamese command detonated mine, overturned an APC. Miraculously there was aGI pinned down by this, but the ground was soft enough where apparently he didnot suffer any real injury. A crush injury has rather latent effects, and wewere there waiting for this man actually to be dug out with shovels, this is howtight he was pinned down. General Depuy
was there. This man as soon as he was free, got up and started walking, and Iremember someone hollered out there "stay put." Someone yelled at himto hold his position, and I don`t recall who it was, probably the medicbecause he understood the nature of the crush injury, and he rushed up to himwith the litter and put him on board.
These are my recollections of General Depuy. I recall also one time at DauTieng, I saw either him or his deputy. This was after a whole day of hoistingoperations, which are quite fatiguing and quite dangerous, as you know, hoistingis the least desirable type of method of evacuating wounded patients, especiallywhen all the wounded you are picking up seem to be suffering gunshot wounds.There must be somebody down there doing that to them. I recall, on thisparticular occasion I was with my co-pilot, a Mr. Whitesell. We were talking tothese people on the ground and the ground commander had artillery coming in fromDau Tieng. We were on Dau Tieng Ridge, and his artillery was impacting about 30meters away, and he asked me if I wanted it stopped. I said if you think youneed that I`d just as soon you keep it going. Any little bit of protection Iwill take just as much as you will. Still they needed more support, and they gotit from F-100`s firing 20 millimeter cannons. I think they were using mytail rotor as a marking point because they were firing what appeared to be thejust beyond it. I could actually hear each one of these 20 millimetersexploding, and we did have some shrapnel nicks in the tail boom, The individual,I recall, who was in charge of that battalion in the area was LTC Hathaway, whosat down on Christmas Day that particular year and wrote me a very nice letter.I will treasure it always. The thing I recall most vividly
was the man on the ground talking to COL Hathaway, mentioning to him the factthat "every time I throw yellow smoke to mark my position, somebody throwsit back at me." Now this is how close the enemy was, if you can imaginesuch a state of affairs. Why in the world they never shot me out of the sky, Idon`t know. They certainly saw me and had me under observation.
Question: Might it have been the red cross?
Answer: It could have been. Many times, really and truly, many times Iwent in for pickups, I know my fellow Dust Off pilot did the same, went in forpickups when we knew we should have been shot at because we were definitely inan area that was totally raked by fire, and yet they would allow us to get inand out. Either they were allowing us or they had to reload the weapons orsomething; it was very strange. Of course, there were other times when we neverexpected to get shot at where we would receive a lot of fire. I did feel onoccasion that the Viet Cong, when they were able to recognize the red cross, didabide by their interpretation of the Geneva Convention. However, we`ve got tobe honest with ourselves, these instances were in the minority. The other thingI must confess, also was I have to be realistic and look at it from their pointof view, the red cross is very hard to define until you are very close, at leastthe red crosses we had. This was painted on a white background, on an OD-paintedhelicopter, really did not define the red cross until you were very close.
Question: What are your thoughts on the white helicopter? I know you werenot there when the program was going on, but what are your general thoughts onit?
Answer: I can only say that my views are not borne by experience, I wouldoff hand have to agree with the concept inasmuch as if we were shot at as muchas we
were under the old configuration of OD paint with the red cross and whitebackground, and this not seem to prevent them from hitting us. If we paintedthem white, at least then, this was very definitive that only the whitehelicopters were medical evacuation, no other aircraft or helicopter had thatpaint scheme, then we could accuse the Viet Cong, or for that matter any enemy,of violating the procedures as laid down by the Geneva Convention. As you know,the Geneva Convention was quite complex, because it also sets out rules andregulations as to the manner in which wounded would be evacuated. There areprocedures laid out which some of our own people apparently are not aware of. Itis not as simple as going into an area with total immunity. Even a medicalevacuation helicopter under certain conditions may be fired at legally under theGeneva Convention. I never really felt a hatred for these people because, afterall, they had a job to do just as I had a job to do. If they fired at me Iconsidered that a part of the game. I know that commander down there had to sendin some amount of reports to his headquarters, just as much as I had to send insome reports to my headquarters. We were on opposite sides, I feel no hatredwhatsoever towards these people. I certainly don`t agree with them, but Idon`t hate them. I never hated any of my enemies for that matter, I respectedthem.
Question: Did you experience any problems on your first tour with theground elements you were supporting calling missions incorrectly?
Answer: Yes, this happened on numerous occasions. I don`t offhandrecall these errors to be any more pronounced on my first tour than they wereduring the second tour. The situation certainly lends itself to some degree of
abuse, and I know we are talking about overclassification of injuries andwounds. This is,
after all, again could be expected. What does it take? Well, it is going totake a little bit more education on the part of the ground commander, but Idon`t know if any more education can be imparted to these individuals thanwhat is already being given to them. I think the situation is such that when aman is in a combat situation, sometimes he will overreact at the sight of bloodof one of his comrades and will tend to overclassify. There is nothing unusualabout that. It is unfortunate that sometimes this overclassification is going torob a really needy evacuation of this accomplishment. When one manoverclassifies a routine injury into a serious one, when in effect a realserious one is taking place at the same time, they both require assets of amedical evacuation nature. Of course, only one can be served. Now we are dealingwith the time factor. Who calls in the mission first, and which one is approvedfirst. Unfortunately, this is the way of war. A war should never runefficiently.
Question: Initially you were under the 1st Logistics Command?
Answer: Right. 1st Log Command.
Question: What sort of support did they give to the 283d and whatrequirements did they make of the 283d?
Answer: Well, I suppose this was one of our periods where we can engagein some degree of nostalgia. It was a period when we were more or less our ownboss. The 1st Log Command really and truly had no one knowledgeable aboutaviation. We were the only aviation assets that were part of 1st Log at thatparticular time, that I know of.
We were left alone because they did not know what to do with a bunch ofhelicopters or for that matter a bunch of medical evacuation personnel. Insofaras support was concerned, I found no pressing needs for going out of the usualsupply or command channels to get anything done. It appeared that everything weneeded was given to us, exactly what channels were utilized, I could not tellyou. But paying of personnel was done immediately, as I mentioned, and goingwith LT Sawyer to have my personnel papers and my pay processed, it was veryexpeditiously accomplished. It took no more than two hours, which I think wasvery good. By the same token, on my second tour I had just as good treatment,just as equitable, when I was with the 82d in the Can Tho area. We weresupported at Binh Thuy by the Navy, but our pay and records were handled by theArmy at Can Tho, a distance of about six miles. It took us very little time toget processed again, about a couple of hours and it was all done. Medicalsupport at Binh Thuy, second tour, we enjoyed the support of two medical units.We had the Naval Flight Surgeon who were there, but because of some priorarrangements our actual records were kept by the Air Force at Air Force BinhThuy. What would happen was that, although the records were at the Air Forceinstallation, we were usually being served by Dr. White of the Navy. We found itto be more expeditious to do it that way. We were all quite healthy. We had noreal problems at all.
Question: During either tour, did you find the unit taxed for committingthe aircraft for nonmedical purposes?
Answer: I have to be truthful, no, I really never, in the whole two yearsI was there, was aware of any use of our aircraft for anything other than
medical evacuation, or its administrative functions. In other words, we inthe Delta, of course, had to go to Long Birth for occasional meetings withcompany headquarters. That would certainly require an aircraft of ours totransport our people who were involved in the meetings. This was a minor facetof it, the number of hours this represented would be a part of a decimal of onepercent to give you an idea. After all, we flew well over a thousand hours amonth, and we would make maybe one or two trips to Long Binh in that period foradministrative purposes.
Question: Did you or any of the other pilots during the first tourattend pre-operational briefings before these large-scale divisional operationswould go on?
Answer: Yes, we did. I am not saying that all the pilots involved went toall the briefings, but somebody represented the unit for all these bigoperations. Actually, what would happen is that, let us say, I was sent out asthe medical evacuation standby for an operation. Again, remember, this is oneaircraft, so it is one crew, I, as aircraft commander, would certainly beinvolved in any detailed briefing that would be going on in this locale. In thisrespect, we did attend all the various briefings that were necessary. We wouldget the frequencies that were involved, the call signs, etc. Remember I said inthis period of `65, `66, `67, we in the III Corps area, did not use SOIs although I say, they were available.
Question: Would you have certain missions assigned to you during thesebriefings, such as "you will locate at a specific location," "youwill follow lifts in"?
Answer: Yes. Usually this is the way it all started. If you were apart of an
operation, you go to the briefings, you would be a part of the assemblyprocess, and with the first lift of troops into an LZ, you would accompany themin there. Of course, not right down to the ground, you would stay at anappreciable altitude, usually around 2,000 feet circling, and you would followthem out and of course observe everything that was going on. If one of thesewere hit or shot down, then, of course, it was our job to go in and retrievethem. We had the facilities, the trained people to take care of these people whoinvariably would end up injured. As one lift departed, we would leave them andgo in and escort the second lift in. All this time circling the area about 2,000feet.
Question: Was this pretty much SOP when you go over there the firsttime?
Answer: Yes. We would be on our frequency. We would be monitoring whatthey were saying. We knew if they were taking fire, for a number of reasons.First of all, every time they took fire, it was their habit to throw out whitesmoke, to indicate where the fire was coming from and we would get them on theFox Mike, the FM set, they would voice what was happening, "Taking firefrom such and such a position of the plot."
Question: Do you recall any incidences where you had to pick up someof these troops?
Answer: Oh, there were many. Just to single out one. I recall one thatinvolved . . . well, let`s go back to my second tour. One involved a Cobra thatwas on a gun run, and he was hit by enemy fire, what type I don`t know, itdoes not matter, but he was probably at an altitude of about 500 feet and itlooked to me like at least two kilometers away from the target area when theenemy picked him up and hit him. Whoever it was was a wonderful shot
because, after all, this man was in an attack mode losing altitude, pickingup speed in a curved flight track. He was hit, and it looked to me as if he justcompletely dropped out of the sky. He went from 500 feet almost instantaneouslydown to the ground. The aircraft immediately burst into flames. It was one ofthese situations where you immediately say to yourself "the man and creware dead." But it did not happen that way. The next thing we could see wasthe canopy going up and two figures running out, so we went in and got them.They were both injured to some extent, but still the greatest injury I thinkthey sustained was they hit on freshly plowed ground that was baked hard by thesun and because of the fire, one of the crewmen was able to run to myhelicopter, the other required the use of the litter. The crew chief and the aidman, in running, tripped and stumbled on these clods of clay that were there, atwhich time the man on the litter was very unceremoniously spilled out. Hesustained more injuries there than from the crash. In a period of what you mightsay peril to the individual it was still humorous, and we had to laugh. Therewas no other way out of it. After all, even though you are in danger, why, youcan`t lose your sense of humor. We got the two people on board. Why, I stillrecall the two of those individuals were laughing very loudly. Even to them, whowere victims of this circumstance, it appeared funny. How often did that happen?I don`t know, quite a few times.
Question: How much time would elapse between when the Cobra got hit andwhen you were on the ground?
Answer: I was maybe three to four kilometers away, at the most, andhowever long a time it takes to fly that amount, let us say a minute, twominutes, not very much.
Question: Early in your first tour, what sort of flight following did youdo as far as making sure that when covering the vast expanses someone knew whereyou were in case you went down?
Answer: I must confess very little, not very much, not enough to reallybe totally on the safe side. One of the problems involved in this idea of flightfollowing from the point of view of the air crewman is number one, the urgencyof the mission. Sometimes the mission is labeled to you as life or death, and Isuppose that this tends to override all other considerations. The other thing tobe remembered is the method in which we received these missions. Let us assume atypical example: I am on a mission, which I have completed. I am returning nowto base and I get a mission radioed to me wherein I must now either mentally orphysically with a chart compute what direction I must take. Hopefully, I do thismentally. I should know the area that well where I immediately make a turn tothe left or right and go in the general direction and then take up a generalheading which will take me to the area. At the same time now, either myself ormy co-pilot must plot the actual coordinates on the chart. Now, when all thistakes place in a span of time of . . . let`s say ten minutes, and this wasnothing unusual, then you can see you don`t have the opportunity to requestflight following and tell the flight following agency, Paris, I am now divertingto coordinates so and so. You might think this does not take very much time, butthere is the changing of frequencies involved, if you have the time. One of youis plotting, the other one is actually flying. There should be, I suppose, amechanical way of pushing just a button and relaying some of this information,because the duties that are
imposed upon both crewman are such that it often times precluded their beingable to request flight following and to keep the controlling agency totallyinvolved. In addition to Paris Control, there is your own control you must talkwith. The transmitting of a mission itself sometimes will take one or twominutes; after all, there are clarifications to be made. Maybe the transmissionis garbled in one area or another. Maybe it requires detailed plotting. Maybewhen the man plotted the set of coordinates it ended up that he looked on hisfront, and he was right in the middle of a group of trees. He had to think itcan`t possibly be there, so his first idea, he calls back for verification. Sooften we did, as you know, have our missions which were in the middle of trees.It would require a vertical descent of 100, 200 feet vertically down into a holein the trees. Or when mistakes were made it would be nothing uncommon to findthe area plotted to be out in the ocean. However, when this happened, this Iattributed more to the aircraft commander than to the radio telephone operatorbecause an aircraft commander should alert himself to some degree ofmemorization. Once he hears prefixes and coordinates it should tell him he issomewhere in the vicinity of water and the coordinates as given to him could notbe correct. We found this to be true down the Delta, especially during my secondtour, where with six aircraft we had 13,000 miles to cover. We really reliedupon our memory to save time. Our aircraft commanders, I assure you, when theyreceived a mission in the air, and were flying from point to point, had a verygood idea and could make a turn in the proper direction at least to get themstarted. Then, after they faced the aircraft towards the general area of the newmission, then they or the co-pilot would plot it and find out exactly where itwas.
It was amazing how six crews of 12 pilots could cover that area of 13,000square miles day in and day out, 24 hours a day, and still have the ability andmental capacity and the alertness after all this work to actually face off theaircraft towards the general area of the pickup zone and in many cases knowexactly where the coordinates would be. This is how proficient our people were.Think about this. We were not talking about people who have been in the air alltheir lives, we are talking about people who were one year at the very most outof flight school.
All combat situations, I suppose, have their memorable parts, and I would sayso far as we of the Army in this particular war are concerned, had a most uniquesituation, in that so many of us were asked to serve on two separate occasions,or in other words, two tours of duty. The second one, of course, not followingimmediately upon the first. So each tour, in this respect, came up with theirown personalities, if you will. Certainly the first tour was different from thesecond tour, if for no other reason than the geographical location that wasinvolved. Then, too, there was the situation that we were working in anenvironment with a minimum of resources during the first tour, and a relativeabundance of resources in the second tour. During the first tour, as I saidbefore, we did not have support, no fire support or very little, veryfragmentary. On some occasions, you might just be blessed with a mission wherethere was a gun team that was in the area. Or as I mentioned in one of my hoistmissions, I was given support by F-100`s on one side and artillery on the other.On a hoist mission, I suppose, you take everything you can get,
especially when in a hostile area, or one which is totally insecure as thisone certainly was. I would say the differences I do recall were the relativeabsence of support in the first tour, the working and accomplishment of missionswith the bare necessities of resources, not living conditions, but the use ofequipment, the abundance of equipment was not there. Single- ship, three-nightstandbys at isolated areas like Loc Ninh, Quan Loi, Tay Ninh, Dau Tieng, PhuocVinh, Lai Khe. These were the rule, not the exception. Occasionally we went toother areas, total field sites in the middle of rice paddies, and we would spendtwo or three nights there. Places that had no name - we were there. It was amost unusual sensation as a Dust Off crewmember, again, when the night fell, tosee all the gunships, all the lift ships, and fixed-wing, if they were in thearea, they would leave, and you would be there by yourself. You picturedyourself as the air power in that locale, such as it was. This was us, this wasDust Off.
Standbys knew no rank. Majors would go the same as W-ls. When your turn cameyou went. On more than one occasion, I remember spending the night at Dau Tiengwith Major Hoen. I recall, when he got his first mission assignment as aircraftcommander, I said, "You and I have been flying quite a bit together, I`mgoing to go out with you this time as co-pilot rather than aircraftcommander." We spent three very enjoyable nights up there. It just sohappens they were not that active at that time. The other difference, I recallthis is from a personal nature now, all of my activity or 90 percent of myactivity in III Corps was supporting 1st Division and 25th Division, Americantroops. Then in my second tour, it
was just the opposite. Ten percent of the time I supported American troopsand 90 percent the ARVN troops. Here was an entirely different world. Firsttour, we were close to Saigon, we could on our days off, we use that expressionday off, during my first tour was considered a day when you were not out in thefield. You did not get really, truly days off. We worked to the best of myknowledge, seven days a week. There was some tendency to relax a little bit onSunday, but it did not mean we were not working, I assure you we were. Either wewere flying or doing some administrative duty or motor, stables, things of thistype, there was always work to be done. On those nights when we were not out inthe field, we could at least go to downtown Saigon and occasionally enjoy a goodmeal at one of the better Vietnamese restaurants, or the American restaurantssuch as the Rex Hotel, which at this particular time was still being operated bythe Navy, and it was a sight to behold.
Question: Could you describe the Rex?
Answer: Well, this was an anachronism in the theater of war. I don`t knowwho the lowest ranking individual was that lived in the Rex, but I never metanyone who was not at least a major and this was an Air Force major, who myselfand my co-pilot had the misfortune of inviting to sit down to dinner with us onenight. He totally shocked us. You got to recall that we had come from a standbyat Loc Ninh, three or four days up there with nothing but C rations being heatedby C4, which is an illegal procedure any good Army man knows, but it is the mostexpeditious method of heating your C rations. But after this standby at Loc Ninh,we went to Saigon during our first night back in the home area. We decided wewere
going to have a good meal at the Rex. We invited this Air Force major to sitwith us because the place was crowded, and he needed a place to sit. We got abottle of Vin Rose Mateus, which we enjoyed. We offered some to the major, andhe declined. We sat down to read the menu, which we thought was really excellentlooking, and he upon looking at it, said, "The same old crap." At thispoint, you saw two Army warrant officers ask an Air Force major to please leaveour table. We could not stand this kind of attitude. He did, that was a humorouspart. The other thing about the Rex and the part everybody visited, was the topfloor, the veranda, or the night club area, the officers` club where the barwas, the slot machine section, the fish in the round pool. It was quite nice,not air-conditioned it did not have to be; it enjoyed cool breezes both day andnight. The food was excellent. The restaurant part was enclosed, I am talkingabout the bar not being air-conditioned. But it was a nice place to go andforget your troubles and enjoy yourself and relax. I suppose we averaged aboutone night a month in there. It was very nice.
Question: Where did you go after you left your first tour?
Answer: After the first tour, I came back to the States and wasassigned to Hunter Army Airfield. The job I had was to be one of the individualsto set that place up as a helicopter advanced training school for the Army. WhenI reported in to Hunter, there were five other Army officers there. The highestranking was a LTC Shaw, who was setting up the maintenance phase. The place wascompletely dominated and still under the control of the Air Force. As a matterof fact, they had a wing of C-124`s. We were given just one-half of onebuilding, as I recall, to operate in. Well, from
that little group of individuals we set up Hunter into the complex thateventually became where we were graduating the ultimate classes of 200 or 400. Ihave forgotten just what it was now, made it into a very efficient Army flighttraining school. I certainly was proud of my contribution to that effort.
It was also at Hunter that I was to be discharged and return back to mycivilian life and job. I had already received my discharge orders to beeffective on the 22 of July 1968. Around the 12th or somewhere in thatneighborhood, I went for my separation physical. It was discovered then I hadglaucoma. This situation prevented me from returning to my civilian employment,which was an airline pilot. The FAA would not think of giving me a waiver. TheArmy itself did not think much of a waiver, and they immediately grounded me. Ittook about two months of effort. First of all, I decided I would then stay inthe Army rather than get out since I had no job to return to with my poor eyecondition. I was ready to cry, but, being too old, I didn`t do that but ithurt enough because I was giving up a civilian job that was quite lucrative. TheArmy after two months? time did give me a waiver and the waiver is still ineffect to this day. The glaucoma, of course, is kept in check by medications. Istill go to the ophthalmologist, and it appears at this point, as if there issome doubt whether or not glaucomatic condition exists. It appears that maybe Idon`t have glaucoma now. That is all water over the dam, I`m not going to tryand think that problem out or rationalize it or find fault with anyone. If Idoubted the initial determination of the ophthalmologists that came up with theconclusion of glaucoma, I could have gone to another doctor and found assuranceor reassurance that it was or was not a fact.
There evidently had to be something wrong with my eyes at that particularpoint in time. From that moment on I have been wearing glasses to read, I don`t need them for any other purpose. After all, when a man reaches the"over the hill" area he has to expect his eyes to deteriorate to someextent. Anyhow, recognizing that I had an eye problem, I decided I would stay inthe Army.
Question: When did you find out about your pending second return?
Answer: Well, by the time it was discovered I had the glaucoma and by thetime I was put back on flight status, I had been back in-country now in excessof 18 months, I was approaching about 20 months all totaled by this time, and Iknew people were going back for their second tour. My problem was that with thedetermination of an eye condition which caused me to have a profile, I could optto refuse any Vietnam second tour on the basis of my eye condition, which gaveme a profile requiring that I have medication four times a day, which I couldnot for certain know if it would be available to me in Vietnam. Certainly if Iwere shot down and captured, then I know I would not have the medication.Glaucoma is a condition that results in eventual blindness, if it is not kept incheck. Nevertheless, I knew a second tour request was going to be imminent andso it was, I think in November of that same year. Remember now, my glaucomaticcondition was analyzed in July. I was put back on flight status in September. InNovember, we had a DA team visit us from Warrant Officer Aviation Section andthe purpose of this team was nothing more than to find out what you wanted to doon your second tour. They were not there to say "you may or may notgo," they were there to answer the question "where do you want to go,
what would you like to do?" I think in a prior conversation with you Imentioned the fact I was offered the job of flying the P2V, a former Navy Patroltype aircraft which the Army had converted to an electronic surveillancemission. With all my heavy bomber experience, why I am sure I could have fittedright into this, but it was not the thing I was looking for if I had to go backto Vietnam. I did not want to circle, as I use the expression, for ten hours inan aircraft, very boring. So I told the colonel interviewing me that if I had togo back I wanted to go back again with a Dust Off unit. He said he would seethat it would be done and so it was.
While I was at Hunter, I was assigned there at the same time that COL Bissell(major then) was assigned there with the hospital. I had known Major Bissellduring my first tour, he was down the Delta with the 82d while I was with the283d in the Saigon area. We saw one another quite often. In a casualconversation, he mentioned the fact that he was going back for his second tourand was going back to the Delta and take command of the 82d Medical Detachment.I mentioned the fact I had to go back, too, very shortly, but I did not knowexactly where I was going. At this particular time, he voiced an opinion hewould like to have me working for him. In other words, why not join him in the82d. Of course, I thought very quickly, that this would be a very goodarrangement, since we knew one another, each other`s habits and work ethics, ifyou will, we were both a little old fashioned, we thought people should work. Iknew I could get along with him, and I agreed to the situation. It did alltranspire just as we planned, I did go over there, he beat me there by about amonth.
I followed him and joined him with the 82d. My job was training.
Question: Did you have an Instrument Ticket by this time?
Answer: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact my job at Hunter was trainingpeople to become instrument instructors, in other words, what we were doingthere we were making "purses out of sows ears." We took Vietnamreturnees, people who had had their one-year tour in Vietnam, and madeinstrument instructors out of them. This was really quite a problem, quite ajobs All these people we dealt with really had no instrument training norexperience. After 50 hours, we were expected to make instrument instructors outof them. In addition to that, during this time we were expected to get theminstrument tickets. We did accomplish this. I think the whole Army benefitedfrom this program. We think we were very selective, very restrictive in awardingthe title of Instrument Instructor to our products. If the students who weregraduated from the Hunter complex survived in the environment of Vietnam withits bad weather, I think the people we produced were responsible for that. I amvery proud of my contribution in that respect. I think all the people who workedwith me are also.
Question: Do you remember if any Dust Off types took this course?
Answer: Oh, I`m sure they did. I know for a fact that when I wentAMEDD training course, which I had to go through, even though I had experienceas a Dust Off pilot in my first tour. About one-half of the trainees that werein my class were graduated out of Hunter. Of all these people who were AMEDDclassmates of mine, not a one of them that I know of was killed, injured, orsustained damage because of instrument flying deficiency. I am not saying thatnone of them were killed because some were.
Question: You just got to where Colonel Bissell beat you by the month.
Answer: Oh, yes. Well, upon arrival over there, I met many of my oldfriends. I met Colonel [Arlie] Price, Major Huey P. Lang, Captain Rasmussen, so manypeople that I had known during my first tour. When I went down to the Delta,Major Bissell was there waiting for me. He had already established the unit. Hejust moved the unit from Soc Trang to Navy Binh Thuy. We were billeted and fedand supported by the Naval Air Support Facility at that place. There was a smallrunway there capable of taking fixed wing. We did not need the runway but we hadvery good revetments, very strong, a real fine physical plant to work from.
Question: Did the pilots live in BOQs?
Answer: They were completely supported by the Navy. They had individual private rooms which were furnished by the Navy. The Navy furnished the maids at no cost, the laundry was free, a Navy service. This was the way they operated. I don`t know where the Navy picked up the funds for the maids, but they were there. They did not pay for them, we did not pay for them. Laundry is free to all people in the Navy installation. This was not a great amount of money but it was a slight benefit that the other Army people did not enjoy. In my first tour I paid for my maid, and the laundry, soap, etc. The Naval mess, as anybody who ever visited one knows, is a superior product. It functions 24 hours a day. You don`t have to knock on the door saying "I just completed a mission, I want something to eat." The Naval mess is open 24 hours a day. It was very, very nice to have a facility such as that to support you.
Question: Were there any other Army units at Navy Binh Thuy?
Answer: No, we were the only ones, our six aircraft, 12 pilots and totalof 46 people.
Question: Where did the enlisted crew stay?
Answer: They stayed in the enlisted quarters furnished by the Navy, whichwere also very good. They had running water, which was fresh and potable, hotand cold, with complete bathroom facilities. It was a strange war. The Navyknows how to go to war.
Question: Did you maintain any field sites out of Navy Binh Thuy?
Answer: No, not as a rule, very seldom -- on rare occasions we would.They were so few I find it very hard to recollect that I had spent any amount oftime away like I did during my first tour. My first tour, most of my time wasspent at field sites. Muddy shoes, muddy jungle clothing, relatively in a dirtycondition where a bath felt good when you came back to base. This was not soduring my second tour. It was just the opposite. By the same token, one mustremember that in my first tour I flew something like 600 plus flying hours;during my second tour I flew 1,410 hours in one year. So, if you compute thatout on a daily basis, that comes out to four hours a day average, which is nosmall task. I must also admit I did not take R&R or leave. I was there fromthe very beginning to the very end. It took me approximately four or five daysto get established, and then I cleared up the last four or five days. So I flew350 or 355 days.
Whenever you meet an individual who is in this business and in the area ofthe Delta, and he tells you he flew, let`s say somewhere in the neighborhood ofnine or ten hours or more in one day, by the very nature of that situation, hedid not get out of the aircraft. He hot refueled for
the major portion of it. Now it is entirely possible that he may have had onebreak where he may have gone and sat down to a lunch or something of this type.In a day`s operation, the way we were set up, our duty day started at 7o`clock for the day shift and terminated at 1800 hours. The night shift flewfrom 1800 through to 7 o`clock the next morning. See what I am getting at now?We are dealing now with approximately 12-hour days. Many occasions I have flown10 hours, 11, 12 even 13. Of course, you can very well imagine if I flew 13hours, I could not have gotten out of the aircraft.
Question: What sort of backup did you use? Say, you were out on amission, or the first up crew was out on a mission, how did the backup work?
Answer: We always operated, day and night, day shift or night shift, weoperated on one, two and three. First up, second up, third up. First up, ofcourse, took the missions as they came. If he could be diverted, if he completedone mission. Of course, this all required complete radio hookups of radiocommunications and integrity. As soon as we were to go into a "hot"area to pick up an individual or a group, he would say "I am going innow." He would keep us posted. We knew when he was going in, we expectedhim up very shortly by the very nature of this mission, we expected a radiocall. If something were to develop now, where we would not hear from him for agreat length of time, we would assume the worst. Now, if a mission came in, wewould give it number two or second up. Let us say, now that number one came backin and reported mission completed, and he was on his way and a mission werecalled in that he could possibly divert slightly to make this thing. We wouldthen, of course, ask him to do this if the condition of
your patient, can you take this mission, which is, let`s say, 10 or 15minutes out of your way. Remember, we had 13,000 square miles to cover. It wouldbe much more advantageous to us, from our operational point of view, to diverthim these few minutes or few miles rather than launch a second aircraft thatwould take three or four times as much to complete the mission. This is actuallywhat we did, we would divert. It would be nothing uncommon for a Dust Offhelicopter working the Delta to come into a hostile area with 10, 15 patients onboard. As a matter of fact, on one occasion I came in with 26 that I hadaccumulated over a series of, let`s say, five or six stops. I don`t think thatwas a record, we did not keep records to that extent. That gives you an idea ofhow many you could accumulate from a series of missions where the condition ofyour patients made this possible for you to divert from one location to anotheras you were coming up to a base hospital area.
Question: What would the reaction be in the operations shop if anaircraft called into an area but not out after a reasonable period of time?
Answer: We would, of course, immediately go through the channels. We hadan operational section at Can Tho which ordinarily phoned in the missions to us.All the missions were centrally diverted from a field site to their generalheadquarters, from their general headquarters to the central operationaldetachment, which was at Can Tho. They would call us if the mission wereMEDEVAC.Now, we would just go back through the line and find out what happened. At thesame time, when a mission came in we would just discount number one as beingavailable and we would launch number two. We ourselves did nothing to retrievenumber one - even though he may be down and probably was down for this was notour mission. We
would have liked to gone out and helped, certainly, but then we would havebeen in effect wasting an aircraft and crew. Someone else had to go get thisindividual.
Question: Who did this? Did the situation arise?
Answer: Oh, yes. I was shot down three times in my tour. I would do mybest to make contact by the medium available, the ground force commander, and Iusually was with him after my aircraft was incapacitated. I had him make a callto his headquarters to relay the information that I was down, what was wrong,what was required. This would certainly have a good effect on the people backhome. They would know quicker that way that everybody was all right or someonehad or had not sustained an injury. We would also let them know whether or notwe needed an airlift out, retrieval by Chinook. Usually this was the case.
Question: In supporting this roughly 10 percent to 90 percent US to ARVN,were there normally US advisors or English-speaking personnel on the ground?
Answer: Right, it was SOP that we were not to go in for a pickup until wefirst made contact with the American on the ground. Now, there were other meansavailable. If the American was not on the ground for the pickup then we weresupposed to pick up a Vietnamese bilingual individual who would then talk to theVietnamese on the ground and relay to us the information, what the tacticalsituation was, how we go about making the pickup, etc.
Question: Was this through the aircraft`s radios?
Answer: Through his own radio he would carry on board, invariably aPRC-25. This was the general rule, this was the unit SOP. Of course, as in all
things, sometimes we would throw variations into this operation which wouldbe totally dependent upon the situation as it existed at that time. These wereSOP`s or outlines sometimes you just can`t follow down to the letter.
Question: Was the 9th Infantry Division working the riverine operations in your AO?
Answer: Yes. You are talking about the 9th at Dong Tam. They were stillthere, of course, Dong Tam and the 9th was the first unit to be deactivatedunder President Nixon`s Vietnamization policy. This was about mid `69, Idon`t know the exact month.
Question: Did you support the riverines?
Answer: Supported them. Supported many Naval operations on the river andin the Gulf of Siam and South China Sea.
Question: Could you describe them at these operations - sort ofcovering three different phases?
Answer: All right. Well, essentially, if they were water-type, riverine-typeoperations, they all had their same general aspects. I will just describe theusual Navy method. They had what they called "Tango `Boat" is oneexample. A Tango boat is a very, very small craft that is armed with .50caliber, is able to go on to the shore to allow troops to get off. They also hadcertain of these Tango boats configured with two runners, as I called them,which would allow your two Huey skids to fit. These were used for MEDEVAC. Idon`t know of anybody else who ever landed on these Tango boats except Dust Offaircraft. Maybe some support or supply aircraft did. In all the time I was thereI never saw anyone on them except
Dust Off aircraft. It was quite tricky because the platform that was for eachskid was approximately one foot, maybe 18 inches wide. I never did get out to measurethem. I knew my skids would fit and that was it. Now, the power of the Huey asagainst the power of the boat was such that you had to watch because you couldoverpower the helmsman. He wanted to stay in mid-stream and you wanted him tostay in mid-stream, too, because you didn`t want your blades to go hittingtrees that were on the shoreline. If you didn`t watch yourself, you couldactually overpower this individual. That was one aspect of it. The other thingwas that usually when we landed on board the tango boats it was an insecuresituation as a rule. There was some action going on the vicinity, and this madeit quite a touchy situation. A more enjoyable sight would be the big Navy riverboats, which were not quite the size of an LST but somewhere approaching thathad a helicopter deck and we could operate in and out of there with relativeease. Here, there were never any thoughts of enemy activity in the area. Thesewere quite big. Even bigger than that were the LSTs which we enjoyed settingdown on because here we could get refueled. Anytime we needed food or drink theywere well supplied and could give it to us. It went to such an extent if theydid not have Coke or soft drink, we would get a cold beer. I know Army aviatorsdon`t drink beer while they are working, but we took water out of a beer can.
Question: The smaller Tango boats. Did they have medical treatmentcapability as well as the landing capability?
Answer: They had it to the same extent, a medical APC would have it. Idon`t know if you are familiar with those or not - completely rudimentarytype
medical facility, no doctors, an aid man who could stabilize a patientdepending on how serious he was. It was quite an interesting assignment to belanding on these.
Question: Do you recall any problems in working with the riverineelements of 9th Division?
Answer: No, because we did not have that much work with them, theiractivity actually was diminishing during this period of time. Also, they had, asyou know, their own Dust Off unit that was assigned to them. Whatever help wedid was when their own facilities were so taxed they required help from someoneelse. That was the unit at Dang Tam under the command of Major Murphy at thatparticular time.
Question: During your second tour, you were engaged in a certainoperation for which you received a not at all minor decoration, and I am sureyou have been asked to discuss it before. For the purposes of this would you gointo details of that operation?
Answer: Talk about Colonel Lindsey. As you know, he was a doctor, acolonel, and occasionally he would go and fly missions with various Dust Offcrews. In this particular case he came down to the Delta to fly with me. Hespent the day flying with me. Of all the times I can recall when I had somethinggo wrong of a very serious nature, why he was on board. I don`t know ifColonel Lindsay was aware of the difficulties, but I certainly was aware of thepossible traumatic consequences that could come up. What I am getting is that wehave a ship load of wounded and coming south out of Chi Lang for Navy Binh Thuyand the hospital area. Almost immediately my transmission oil pressure goes fromits normal reading
down to zero. I am not going to take time at this particular point to analyzewhat is wrong or right, but I did have time to send out an emergency call to theunit through Paddy Control telling them my transmission oil pressure had zeroedout and I was immediately going for the deck. Luckily, they picked it up, andthey knew what my intention was. It was exactly what we did. I went right downto the deck and continued to fly inbound with this load of wounded. ColonelLindsey, of course, is in the back tending to the wounded, and he has notblinked an eye at this point. He does not seem to care whether we are flying ornot. Of course, I am not going to bother him by going into details. The reason Idid this was just in case my transmission oil pressure was to go to zero and itwas not the gage that I would be in a more favorable position to do somethingabout my predicament. We proceeded to fly at about 10 feet off the ground forBinh Thuy and about one-half way there I picked up one of our own Dust Offaircraft who was sent out to have a look and see if they could spot me. Theyescorted me back in. I thought it was quite interesting to see Lindsey doing allthis work, totally oblivious to a potentially most dangerous situation for him.Of course, it was Colonel Lindsey who had a great deal to do with my award thatI received for this action on the 2d of October, which you were talking about.It gives you an idea of the type of dedicated people we had working in thatarea. If you wanted to learn firsthand what the problems of the medic were, thisis what Colonel Lindsey, I am sure, was doing.
Question: Was he at this time 44th Brigade XO?
Answer: I believe so, I believe that was his title. He spent a sizableportion of
the day, I would say two-thirds of the day, working there, doing the work ofa medic. I might say doing a terrific job. I suppose, in retrospect, thecombined age of that aircraft commander and that medic was probably a record forany part of the Vietnam war.
Two old codgers there, but we did get along. We understood one another, Iwill say that much.
You asked me about this encounter of the 2d of October 1969. It was quiteinteresting and certainly at the time it occurred. I nor my crew don`t thinkentertained any thoughts that it would develop into the situation it did. It wasa mission that was called while we were airborne, just like all such missionsare, except that when we heard the coordinates I knew right away it was quite aways up north. When I plotted them I did not realize how far up north, becauseif you check on a map of South Vietnam, you will find out even though we were inthe Delta, operating in our area in the Delta, the pickup site was north of Cu Chi. This is how far the Delta extends. Of course, this was in the top part ofthe Plain of Reeds. It was in what I call the throat of the Parrot`s Beak,that is why it goes up so far north. It was in our area of responsibility andnot the Saigon area. At this particular time, which was around 4 o`clock inthe afternoon, I had already been flying for seven hours. Of course, I did notknow that this mission would take another four hours or a total of 11 hours offlying for that particular day. My co-pilot was Tyrone Chamberlain, a W-l, mymedic was SP4 Herbert Heinold, crew chief, Specialist Joe Horvath. In going upto the area, I had to fly through a lot of bad weather, thunderstorms were badwas the main concern at the time, it took me
40 minutes just to reach the area. Of course, the last 15 minutes of flightwe were in clear weather by this time. I had a chance to talk to the individualon the scene. He was flying in a C and C ship above the area which was ourconcern. This was a Captain Harry L. Purdy, an Infantry Officer, assigned to aSpecial Forces Unit. He let me know what the situation was; it was not good byany measurement. First of all, we had no air cover of any kind except forhimself, and this was only in a directing mode. We had no gun ships available.We had no Air Force support available. To make matters worse, we had noAmericans on the ground. We could not use the method of picking up a Vietnameseand talking to the people on the ground because all communication had been lostwith these people anyhow. These individuals were part of three companies ofSouth Vietnamese who were sent in to clear out an enemy training area whereinthey had three forts that simulated South Vietnamese fortifications. One wastriangle, the other two were squares. I still remember that.
Question: While you were inbound, what was the enemy situation reportedto be?
Answer: Well, it was really undetermined except that the enemy controlledthe area. There were an indefinite number of wounded and killed who were downthere. The C and C could see them with his binoculars, I suppose, and hereported the location of a few of these to me. Of course, I naturally asked forwho I could contact on the ground. At this point I was told "no one,"they had no contact with anybody, Vietnamese or American, and that, in fact,there were no Americans there. I found out later that a couple of aircraft hadbeen shot down in support of this unit, and they had already been retrieved
and gotten out of there, and some Air Force aircraft had been hit. My problemwas to determine whether or not this pickup of any kind could be accomplished.Captain Purdy said he saw some people (friendlies, as he called them) movingaround, and it might be possible to go in and try to locate them. At least dothat, and try to make a pickup.
Well, of course, he could not tell what the exact situation on the ground wasnor could I, but I said "I will go in and take a look." The place hementioned to me was the triangular fort, the simulated triangular fortification.He directed me in. I went in to take a look, and brought it to hover in the areahe told me to look for this one friendly wounded or suppressed individual. Theycould not move about because they were totally surrounded and cut off. When Ibrought it to a hover over this area, I saw no one, absolutely no one, friendlyor enemy. But I sure heard a lot of noise. This was all kind of machine gunsthat were opening up from all around, in front, in back, and off to the side.Why they did not hit me, I don`t know. They all missed as far as I know, ofcourse, I could not tell for sure. I made an immediate turn to the right andflew out of the area, getting fired at all the time. Of course, I crossed astream at this point, and the firing was even heavier, I found what I had done.I had gone into Cambodia where the main forces of VC were, they really opened upon me. In the conversation of Captain Purdy, he let me know why the firing hadincreased on the other side of the river. This is how close it was. That leftmany doubts at this point in my mind whether or not we could do anything. Intalking with Captain Purdy again he insisted there was someone down there inthis triangular fort. As near
as I could tell, it was in the area I was hovering. Again, where I saw noone, but said, "Well, I will try it again," so we went in a secondtime, with the same identical results except that rather than turn to the rightto go to Cambodia, I turned to the left and did not pick up as much fire.
Question: What were your thoughts at this time about going back in there?
Answer: Well, I know a man that is in the C&C knows what he sees,and, of course, I know I am really pressing and trying to pick up what is downthere to get him out of there. I know these people have been there since 8o`clock in the morning. This is when they were first cut off, they have lostall their weapons, lost the commo equipment, but they are still down there andare being fired at. They are hugging the rice paddies` dikes, such as theyare, or the grass or something to keep from being observed and from being hit.Purdy in the C&C can see these people. Without any disagreements from thecrew, I said, "Well, we will go again and try." That was it, we did.It was evident after the second attempt that we were not going to get them fromthat triangular fort. No way for us to get them there. First of all, we weretotally surrounded by enemy bunkers. I think the one photo shows you 27 of themapproximately surrounding the area that is visible in the photo. I am notcertain that all these were able to fire at us, but enough were able to fire tomake us miserable. So what I did I then went down as close to this area as Icould, really low, to look and made many passes back and forth trying to seesomebody, but I could not. So then I decided Capt. Purdy does not addresshimself to the fact I made two or three passes back and forth just to try andlocate somebody. Then I decided, "Well, I will circle." This is what Iproceeded to do,
circled the four areas where there was relatively clear area and when I seeclear, let`s say maybe a 100 yards away from a bunker. So I would circle that,hoping that these people would see me, well, finally, believe it or not, one manhad nerve enough to stand up in the grass, this is what he did-stood up andwaved his shirt. I knew it could not be the VC, no VC is going to take off hisshirt to wave at me, he is going to fire at me. So I went, skidded right to him,and we pulled him in. That was our first one. From then on this was the methodwe used. We just went down there, circled, flew back and forth always moving,and hoping that someone would pop up and with a nerve to say "Here Iam." It seemed as if one success brought on another one. At one time weactually had four people standing up and waving at us. We went right tothem-some were able to jump in, some were in a bad way. I think when it wasfinally done, we picked up 29, I think was what we claim, and I think one ofthem died later on. To this day I don`t know that for sure.
Question: What were the other crew members doing during these walkingaround the areas?
Answer: Well, we were getting considerable fire. I did not keep track ofthe number, I had other things on my mind. Capt. Purdy says that in hisobservation of us, on six different occasions at least, or approximately six,the fire became so bad we had to make a quick exit, reassemble, regroup ourthoughts, come in from another direction then to try and get these people out. Iknow that the firing was tough. In one case in going to a man who was makinghimself visible, for us to pick up, he was shot down. It looked to us he wastotally killed. We were not about to stop and investigate his condition. We didcome back on other occasions in the same area, and
if he were able to, he could have got up and come to us for help. We neverspotted him again. So we knew we were getting quite a bit of fire. My co-pilot,Tyrone Chamberlain, he kept himself busy by just informing me that everythinglooked good in the cockpit, which I suppose was a good way for him to keep cooland he would actually yell out "RPM in the green, Nl OK, temperature OK,pressure OK." He just kept informing me. I was not able to look at theinstruments, I assure you. I was that busy so that was what he was doing. Themedic and the crew chief were actually hanging out both sides of the helicopterwhenever they saw a wounded man on their side, they would assist him in. We didnot stop to put these people on litters, nor was anybody that we could determineneeded a litter. One man certainly could use one, he was the one holding hisintestines, partly in and partly out. I don`t know if he was the one who died ornot.
Question: How many trips finally in and out did you make?
Answer: What it took was three different series of attempts. What wouldhappen is we would load up, and I don`t know exactly how many on each particularseries of lifts, but let us say approximately one-third of the 29 we picked upand then proceeded into Moc Hoa to deposit them to the medical station there andalso to pick up more fuel.
Question: Was this an ARVN medical station?
Answer: We don`t know. We were met there by the Special Forces medicalpeople, and we let this situation off to them and any further evacuation theyaccomplished. This was not our concern at this particular time. As I said, wepicked up about one-third, say nine or ten, take them in, deposit
them with the Special Forces medics and personnel and hot refuel, and go backout. Do it again. This was one of those situations where you never know forcertain how many. In talking it over with ourselves, and I don`t know if Capt.Purdy addresses himself to how many times we went in, we determined that inorder to make these things work, there were at least 15 different attempts,extractions as we call them, at least 15 different extractions to pull out 29people. We figured out on occasion we did pick up three or four when most of thetime it was just one. So if you even that out, it came out to about two perextraction, or in other words, somewhere in the neighborhood of 15.
Question: Did you have any gun support - any Air Force?
Answer: OK, we had no gun ship support until the last series. We finallythen picked up two Cobras, and I don`t know where they came from, but we did gettwo Cobras. The problem was it was now getting dark. Now, the Air Force in themeantime, during my second series of lifts, the Air Force came in, with someF-100s and proceeded to drop four, five, or six bombs onto the area that wasgiving us the most problems. The area we knew was where the most firing wascoming from. The problem was after they finished, I saw absolutely nothing goodcome of all these wonderful attempts. They dropped a lot of tonnage and made alot of noise and would not let me in there. Now, in retrospect, I believe, thatif I had gone in there while they were bombing, I could have done a much betterjob. This was the point where I am sure the VC were hiding their heads. The AirForce would not drop the bombs unless I went out of there. I had to let him dohis thing to get him out of there, and then I could go back again. As I said, he
really, I am sure, tried and I am sure he hit one or two of the bunkers,maybe damaged them, but not that much really.
Question: All these extractions were flying in and out of the bunkers asdepicted on the photograph or were they more or less concentrated on an area?
Answer: I would say the actual pickups were on the south side of thebunkers. Where we were flying, we were flying all over. We had an area ofconcentration and the place he wanted me to set down into was in here. See thisline? He said there was a man hugging that. So I hovered, you might say, rightabout in here - two times. We were getting fired at all the way around - I don`tknow which ones of these bunkers were manned or which was not.
Question: Are all these bunkers?
Answer: Yes, you can see the little holes. When someone says, "Howcould so many bunkers fire at you and not hit you?" Well, because the damnbunkers can`t turn, and I kept moving. So this one might fire a small burst atme, this one might pick me up later and fire at me, this one might fire at me- see what I am getting at? That was the reason. There was a hell of a lot offire, don`t misunderstand me, but they were also hindered, because I keptmoving. OK? Now, where did the work happen? Most of the pickups, and I have toguess this is where the F-100 bombs - you can see that - looks like onlythree but it was more than three, probably two or three exploded in the samearea. Most of the work was in this area. The triangular fort, you can`t pick up, I tried and tried and analyzed this photograph but I could never findit, it is in here somewhere.
Question: Who was shooting these photographs while this was going on?
Answer: These photographs were taken months after. As a matter of fact, Ican`t think of the guy who took the thing. Barfield, I think, I flew him upthere on a photo mission. These were all taken with lenses - they would notallow us in the area.
Question: Is this the river you were talking about?
Answer: Yes, that is the river. Somewhere in this area, is thistriangular fort, and I went in and turned right, across the damn river andreally picked it up. That is Cambodia. On the map, we will show it to you in twoperspectives. On the map, it is right here, notice, see this part way up herenotice where Cu Chi is, north of Saigon, north of Cu Chi - that is it. Ofcourse, here is that area we are talking about, right here close, three andone-half, clicks. Here is the river.
Question: Those are the bunkers on the map here?
Answer: Yes. They are not listed as bunkers, but there is the attempt toknock out one, you can see by Cobras, flying rockets. Even if they hit it, theground up there, I don`t know what the hell it is made of, see the ridges? Thatis where these people were hiding. This gives you a much better - see all overthat is how they were able to survive.
This wobbly thing here up and down is - it starts about in here - the endof this thing here. OK? This river starts moving down like this - right inhere - so the fort then is somewhere here and I made this turn-and I caughtit.
Question: Did your aircraft sustain much damage?
Answer: Oh, yea, full of holes. They knocked out my VHF radio, myairspeed indicator - they say I lost control momentarily and the only thing Ican say, two things may have caused that. First of all, I took . . . I had twobullets that came in on either side of me, one here and one here, and may havebeen the shock wave that moved my hand . . . really the bullet had to just move.The other thing is that another bullet got my sole of my boot - I think thatis what caused me to go out of control because the damn aircraft went like thatand for some reason or other, I don`t know what happened, but one of my damnfeet went in or out. This last man we picked up, the maneuver was so violentthat he was out of the aircraft, except that Horvath had him by the hand, he hadalready hauled him in and just as he hauled him in, that`s when this bastardopened up and when I say close I mean about 30 feet away. He was aiming at me- not at the aircraft - me personally when this thing slewed off the side,this man went back out. According to Horvath, we were this time 60 feet in theair by the time we got him back in again. Let`s see, what does he say, "Igrabbed his hand and started pulling him aboard. Before I could get him aboard,a VC jumps up from the grass with an automatic rifle fire, shooting holes in theship, and shrapnel in the AC`s leg. The wounded man slipped off the ship, butI still had a hold of his hand. Then I started pulling him in. We were 50 or 60feet in the air when I got the wounded man aboard."
Superficially-the only thing I can figure out that caused that movement ofthe helicopter and it was violent-was either that bullet that deflected off mysole or a big piece of the window came in and hit me on
the hand, the stick hand. The movement of the stick would not make theaircraft yaw, so it had to be the pedal.
Question: How many holes did the aircraft sustain?
Answer: I would say about nine or ten. The problem is they were all infront - that was the bad thing. There were two bullets that did come on eitherside of me. How this man missed me, I don`t know, because I was hovering. Idon`t know exactly where I was but this, remember now, it was almost dark, wecould just barely see this man silhouetted against the sky. Actually now, Ithink what it was, he was told by the VC, they already had him, and I am prettysure this is what happened: they told him "Get up and wave." I wassomewhere in here, exactly where I don`t know, but I was hovering backwardto either this bunker or this . . . one of these . . . I picked up somebodyabout in here, about 100 yards from the bunker, one of them, said "Hey, wesee another one right next to a bunker." He was waving his shirt. I knewdamn well we were really going to take some hits, so I backed up into it to putsome more metal between us. When I got him on board, this guy is not in back,now the VC is in front of me firing from this angle, so I think they had plantedhim.
Question: What time did you finally terminate your extractions?
Answer: By the time we got home, well, because of the hits we sustainedin this that was our last, we had the Cobras that were circling above us andthey never saw a thing. It was too damn dark. This man had no tracers.
Question: Was it ever determined they were VC or hard-core NVA?
Answer: We don`t know. Someone may know, but I don`t. We went back to MocHoa and shut down - that was the first shut down we had after about 10 hoursof flying. You know, look at the aircraft and
find out where the holes were. We found a couple in the rotor in addition tothe damage to the aircraft up front. We determined it was nothing in thecontrols that was hit. We had no air speed indicator, but I did not need thatanyhow. I could fly by the power setting, and I know what I am getting, roughly.I still had the FM radio working, I know that much.
Question: In addition to your Medal of Honor, what did the crew membersreceive?
Answer: To the best of my knowledge, as I have been told, and I don`tknow this for a fact, Chamberlain received the Distinguished Service Cross, butI don`t know it for a fact. No one has ever told me. Horvath and Heinold wereboth put in for the Silver Star, but I don`t know if they received it. I knowthey received an award. I hope it was the Silver Star. I personally recommendedto the CO, Major Simmons, that the crew be put in for the Silver Star, this iswhat I thought. Of course, other people thought otherwise. I am very fortunatethey did.
Question: Two tours in Vietnam, what are your thoughts on the enlistedcrew members who flew aeromedical evacuation?
Answer: I could never say anything but give them the highest ofaccolades. I consider them a part of Medical Service Corps, just the same as Iconsider the warrant who was assigned to the duty, of medical evacuation, DustOff, if you will. Who trained them, who inspired, them, I don`t know. Butwhoever it was certainly deserves a heck of a lot of credit. I can truthfullysay that in two tours, this includes over 2,000 very close and strong combathours, I never saw one medic or crew chief that ever flinched, that did not dowhat was asked in all these bad situations.
Certainly on this particular day, October 2d, Specialist Horvath and Heinold,my co-pilot Chamberlain, could have at any of these times said, "Let`sget out here, this is too much," and they would have been not consideredslackers in the least. I am sure it was a tough day. Remember, as I said, I flew11 hours, and they were with me for all those 11 hours. I certainly was not atthe controls for 11 hours after all, Ty Chamberlain was there to do the flying.We swap off as we do in all these things. I fly one mission, he flies another,this is the way we did it, this is the way we spell ourselves. These enlistedcrew members certainly had to be in my estimation the best the Army everproduced. I don`t think they were ever given enough credit, really and truly,for all the work they have done, Personally, I salute them and take my hat offto them. Remember, we up front have got the ability to make a choice to go in ornot to go in; this man in the back, however, has got to sit there and grin andbear it and he rides out the adversity that you create, or if you do it right,of course, he is not found to be wanting for anything in that respect. Theenlisted men - I think they are just wonderful.
Question: After three wars, when you finally got into the thick of it,what are your thoughts in retrospect on having finally gone through it?
Answer: Well, as far as I am concerned, to me, my two tours in Vietnamwere the most rewarding that any individual could imagine. It is a strange thingto be a part of a war and honestly say you have not killed anyone. I know thatwe expect killing. I also think that if you question those who have really seena lot of war, that that individual, if he is honest with himself and honest toGod, will say the one thing he hates the
most is war and the one thing he sees the futility of is war. I personallywould like to describe war as nothing more than a state of internationalanarchy, because that is what it is. You know, if you and I have a disagreementand we get into a fight, there is some element of law that is going to tell youand me to cease and desist. We can carry this on up the chain of command, to sayif two towns disagree, there is a bigger law that will tell them to stop to theextent that if two states disagree and if they were to go to war, the countrywould tell them to stop, would they not? And yet, there is no one when twocountries disagree to go to war, we have anarchy because there is no further lawto tell them to stop and desist. So, you might say that is a philosophicalthought on my part. I think I am entitled to a little philosophical thought atthis age of mine.
I will say that this war tended to be quite personal. I think all of us inDust Off can say that. It was a personal thing. Many of us actually had occasionto see the enemy, for all practical purposes, face-to-face. We saw theindividual who was firing at us. I would say that 99 percent heard the enemy`sfire that was personally directed at us or our aircraft. This is a strange thingthat really not too many people can say. You go to a battle area you can hear alot of noise but that does not mean you know it is directed at you personally.It could be directed in your direction or to the unit. In our business of DustOff, when we were there on the ground, alone, insofar as a vehicle wasconcerned, and we knew our presence on these occasions did meet with the enemy`sobjection to the extent they would fire at us. That was the reason we were hitso many times. That is why some got shot down, why some of us are not here,
many, many friends of mine in the Dust Off business. Captain Joe Fulghum waskilled in February 1967. Major Phillips, Major Gandy, I don`t know exactly whatmonth it was but it was in `66 [13 August]. As I said before, I recall talkingwith Major Phillips a couple hours before that. WO1 Vars was killed on a hoistmission in the vicinity of Lai Khe. Mr. Bush flew into Nui Ba Den at night. Ialways feel somewhat responsible for that. I did not have the time to take himaside and show him how to use the VOR and had I done so, I am sure I would haveshown him how not to hit Nui Ba Den. He came into the 283d about three weeksbefore I was due to go home after my first tour and he specifically asked me togo fly with him and show him instrument procedures. I said I would, but for somereason or other I never had the chance. On a dark, rainy night with theseconditions he hit the mountain head on and was killed immediately with hisentire crew. Some of the failures you might chalk up against me or the system.Who else? Father Michael J. Queely, not a Dust Off`er, but a chaplain I usedto play bridge with. As a matter of fact, a strange thing one night I playedbridge with Father Michael J. Queely and Captain Mickey [Marion G.] Runion, adentist, and Captain Joe Fulghum and myself at Lai Kai while Joe Fulghum and Iwere on standby. Inside of about two or three months, the other three gentlemenwere killed. I am still here - it is a strange world.
It would not be fair to my sense of pride if I did not mention my son whograduated from aviator training in `69, and he joined me as member of the 82dMed Detach in January 1970. We had occasion to fly together and be together inthe same unit, a 12-aviator detachment. He and I were together for about threemonths. I had one of the naval pilots come to me, a Commander Jaburg, a verygood personal friend who also flew
combat with me on many occasions, as my co-pilot, I would say for at least150 hours in one year, that was what he flew with us. We were always short ofpersonnel and always high on flying time, and we welcomed any help we could get.We did use a lot of Navy pilots, but Commander Jaburg I remember saying he wouldgive anything to have his son with him (his son was not old enough) to see howhe would do in battle. I don`t know if he realized all the ramifications thatstatement entailed because it is quite an experience and quite rewarding to seeyour son tested in battle found not wanting as I did. My son I know was overthere about two weeks when he got shot down for the first time. He came out ofthe situation laughing. The training system evidently had done its job, becausehe went on to complete his tour. If I recall correctly, he evacuated in his oneyear about 2,500 people. He flew approximately 1,000 hours in combat and he haddone this by the time he was 20 years old - he did better than I did. I was 21when I flew my first thousand hours, so he beat me there. My first thousandhours were not in combat yet his were,
I recall one specific incident, that, of course, was picked up by John Ryanof UPI, who was there to witness it. We had the last pickup of the day andeverything was going fine. It was one of those quite days when nothing wentwrong, except on this pickup which looked so perfect. I am checking out a newaircraft commander, and he was making the run into the pickup site and all hellbroke lose. We had a very firmly entrenched and implanted .30 caliber machinegun that just opened up at us - I grabbed the controls and got out of there- and proceeded to make about a half
a dozen passes trying to get into this area, but they would not let me land,would not bring out the wounded for me. I am the scheduling officer for themissions, and I knew first up that night was my son. What I was trying to do wasto get this wounded individual or group out. I wanted to complete the missionduring daylight hours rather than have him go on there at night, because it isso much tougher at night and still had this .30 caliber in there. The situationwas forced upon me, I was short on fuel and had to leave. About two hours later,my son did go in and he made the pickup, everything turned out all right.
Of course, I am always asked, for those who knew the situation, how did itfeel having to schedule your son. Well, a couple of things happened. First ofall, when he first came in, the unit, I made a few rules - first of all,don`t ever call me "dad" or "daddy," that is what he usedto do, and as far as I am concerned I ain`t your father. We are going torun it that way. The other thing is I scheduled him right down the line - madeno exceptions, whether it be night or day time, bad or good weather, he was onthe roster. This was the only way I could do it. To have done less would nothave been fair to him or more would not have been fair to me or the other peoplein the unit. He wanted to join me, and I appreciate his loyalty to me - afather and son relationship. It was quite rewarding to have this experience andto be able to survive it and both of us survived it. But he, to my estimation,is no more and no less than the rest of the young warrant officer and youngcommissioned pilots we had. It was really they who made the history of Dust Off,really they who have left their mark on
this profession of ours. Really and truly, you are now embarked upon a job ofwriting the history of medical evacuation and as such I am sure you are going todo a good job. When the whole story of Vietnam is told, I am sure they are goingto be able to use Winston Churchill`s very famous words "Never had somany owed so much to so few," and this is what Dust Off is. They were thefew who really will make this Vietnam war, to come out looking good for us. Ifanything good came out of it, I think it was the good attitude, the good work ofmen trying to help other men, and this is what Dust Off was doing.