|OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY AMEDD REGIMENT AMEDD MUSEUM|
HISTORY OF THE OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael J. Novosel
(3 SEPTEMBER 1922-2 APRIL 2006)
When CW4 Michael J. Novosel died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on 2 April 2006, the U.S. Army and the Army Medical Department lost one of its most decorated, courageous, and humble heroes. Mike Novosel's career reads like a novel and it does not require embellishment. His crowning achievement will always be considered the Medal of Honor that he was awarded for the incredible work that he and his crew of Dustoff 88, 82d Medical Detachment, 45th Medical Company, 68th Medical Group, did on 2 October 1969 in Kien Tuong Province of the Republic of Vietnam near the Cambodian border. [For information on his Medal of Honor, follow this link (http://history.amedd.army.mil/moh/novoselm.html)]
Much has been written about Mike Novosel and his career, including his own book, DUSTOFF: The Memoir of an Army Aviator, published by Presidio Press in 1999. His individual story was also part of the overall story of Army aeromedical evacuation (MEDEVAC) that was told in Peter Dorland and James Nanney, Dust Off: Army Aeromedical Evacuation in Vietnam, that was published by the U.S. Army Center of Military History in 1982 and can be found elsewhere on this site (http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/vietnam/dustoff/default.html).
While assigned to The Historical Unit, U.S. Army Medical Department, at Fort Detrick, Maryland, in the mid-1970s, CPT Peter Dorland, MS, himself an Army aviator, was given the task of researching and writing a history of Army aeromedical evacuation through the end of the Vietnam conflict. His research included interviewing and corresponding with many of the leading MEDEVAC aviators who had served in Vietnam, including Patrick H. Brady, himself a Medal of Honor recipient, Paul Bloomquist, Douglas Moore, and others who shaped the doctrine, operations, and philosophy of AMEDD MEDEVAC. For 30 years, these invaluable materials have lain largely unused in the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI) at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barrack. Pennsylvania. In time, these original interviews and correspondence will appear in the section of this website devoted to Army Aeromedical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) because they were done soon after the events discussed and reflect the personal views and experiences of these MEDEVAC pioneers at the time.
Pete Dorland interviewed then CW4 Mike Novosel at Fort Rucker, Alabama, on 19 June 1974. This interview is the first of these historical documents on AMEDD MEDEVAC to appear.
John T. Greenwood, Ph.D.
Interviewer: CPT Peter G. Dorland, MSC, The Historical Unit, US Army Medical Department, 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, I enlisted in the old Army Air Corps on Feb 7, '41, which happened to fall exactly 10 months before Pearl Harbor. I entered flight training in early 1942 and graduated from pilot training in the old Army Air Corps Training Command on Dec 13, 1942. I am on duty for all of World War II, and I ended up flying B-29 bombers out of the Marianas from the Island of 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 war was over. But I did find an interesting experience while there and was also given the opportunity for my first real command when I took over command of the 99th Bombardment Squadron, which was a B-29 squadron. We had 19 aircraft and 700 officers and enlisted men. Interesting to note that it was such a structure that I, as a Captain, had command of that many people. This was not unusual at all in that the 1st Bombardment Squadron had a First Lieutenant Reed who was in charge of it. To give you an idea,
whenever you hear stories about World War II having so much rank and so many young colonels in command, yet while the war was going on, I assure you this was not the case and when you consider that out of approximately 700 officers and men in the 1st Bombardment Squadron, it was equally sized as the 99th, that they had no higher rank than a first lieutenant.
Of course, another fact was the regulation prohibited anybody from taking command of an Air Corps combat unit unless he was a pilot. I am sure there were some individuals who had rank higher than first lieutenants, but they were not pilots. So, therefore, they could not command.
To make a long story short, after the war, I got out of the service and returned to civilian life. Stayed out long enough, you might say, to find out what it was like to be a civilian and then came the Korean War, at which time I applied for active duty again and was accepted in the grade of Major by this time.
I did not, again in this particular war, get to see any combat and was not quite pleased with this situation, but I did manage to go to the Air Command and Staff School and graduated from there. With the war over again, I got out in June 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 had with the exception of two that I can recall. I did not fly the B-32, or the B-34. But every other bomber that I know of in our inventory, I flew. I also flew the P-39, P-40, P-63 in the pursuit category. The trainers, I have flown the PT-19, BT-43, AT-6. Transports I have flown C-60, C-47, C-46, C-54, and I think that is about it. I am sure there are some others that escape me at this time. 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 at this time. In those days we were quite loose--I did not go out of my way to find aircraft to fly. We actually had all these aircraft at the installations where I was and I happened to be assigned
as the Chief of Test Flight and that is the reason I was able to fly all these aircraft because they were my responsibility.
Again, to give you an idea, I was a Captain at this time and I was Chief of Test Flight, and the reason I received this assignment was that when I joined the Flight Test Engineering Department at Laredo Army Air Field, and this is the installation I am talking about, we had six engineering test officers there. On one particular flight we had three of our test flight officers, who became airborne [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 senior officer, and at this particular time I was first lieutenant. But I was a senior officer and because of that position, I was made a Captain. One of the requirements for getting promoted in a command structure in World War II was that there be an opening, and the opening for my position called for Captain. So a month later, I became a Captain. There was no automatic promotion, such as time 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 of it and applied for duty with the Air Force at which time they said I was number one, too old and number two, I had too much rank, that they could not afford to take 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 this time. Also, I had four children but three of them were getting up into a respectable age, my oldest was 15. I can recall that as a young second lieutenant in WWII nothing use to aggravate me more than to have a man come up and 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 I would not follow into that kind of a trap. I figured anybody who had some skills that 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 I volunteered them. As I said, the Air Force could not accept me because they thought I was too old and had too much rank. Actually, I suppose I did, because I was a Lieutenant Colonel by this time in the reserves and by law could not go on duty with the Air Force on any lower grade structure. But I found out the Army was looking for aviators. I applied to them without even thinking of applying for a commission, I accepted the position as a CW2. In other words, an instant Chief Warrant Officer, which was all right with me. I was called on the phone from some individual whom I can't even recall his name. I was given instructions to go to Fort Wolters, to tell the people in charge there to give me a check ride, for the purpose of validating an aeronautical rating. In other words, my World War II pilot rating, I suppose, was unacceptable to the modern Army. I went to Fort Wolters, presented myself to their standardization board or whatever it was called in those days, told the individual who looked like he was the most in charge what I was there for, and without anyone checking any further, I was asked no identification, no proof, I had no orders, actually nothing written to
indicate that I was a legitimate individual on legitimate Army business. To be 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 they proceeded to give me a 30-minute ride and the next day issued orders making me an Army aviator.
Question: Where had you received your helicopter training?
Answer: I received it as a civilian as a result of my civilian employment. So actually my Army rating cost the Government the equivalent of 30 minutes flying time. They did not even give me my set of wings, which is the usual blessing bestowed upon a new aviator, be he warrant or commissioned. I had to go out and buy mine. I forgot what they cost. It's just lately that I think about 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 language capability, 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 language capability, this was the reason I went to Special Forces. It was also one of the reasons that I spent some time in World War II as an OSS agent. I think this background was the rationale for my assignment to the Forces. It must have been quite a sight, when I think back about it now, because again I had no orders placing me on active duty, but I did have orders, mimeographed orders, making me an Army aviator. I had absolutely no uniform, nor if I had one would I know how to wear it because I had spent 14 years in the Air Force Reserve and the blue and the OD were somewhat different.
The first thing my commanding officer did was to assign a brand new W-1 to be my 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 take long because they put me right to work, and, I recall, if my memory serves me correctly, I came on active duty on a Tuesday and by Thursday night they had a 35-pound pack on my back and we were on a 10-mile hike. So I was very quickly indoctrinated into the Army methods.
The first thing of any significance, I recall, that had any great import to me, other than the usual amount of training was the fact I participated to some extent with the air assault test program going on in 1964-1965 as a helicopter aircraft commander. I was flying the H-34s in these days. The next thing I recall was that I was sent to Arabia. This was an interesting experience. I remember going with a Captain George Dorsey and myself and a crew chief. It was our job to disassemble the helicopter, in other words take off the head and the mast because it was the only way we could put it in a C-131, which we did with the help of some of our unit mechanics. However, when we were sent to Arabia there was just the three of us, George Dorsey, the crew chief, and myself. It was 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 our work. I assure that after we put it back together again you saw one very, very comprehensive test flight, which consisted of probably about 1 hour of nothing but hovering, waiting for something to fly off. After that we felt we had put it back together again the way it was supposed to have been, and we proceeded to fly 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 to support the Special Forces in observing and assisting in a . . . it was actually revolution that was going on, not well publicized, this was in the city of the British Protectorate of Aden [today's Yemen]. We were guests of the RAF [Royal Air Force] at this particular time. The other mission, like I said, the mission was two-fold, the other mission was to support one of the Gemini flights that was going on at that time. In case they were to go down, then we would again reassemble and get in the C-130, Air Force operated, and go into the general area where the capsule may or may not accidentally return to earth. We were to go and protect it if we could. This was our mission.
Of course, then, immediately upon returning back to the States, I think I had two weeks of relatively no activity when the situation developed in the Dominican Republic, and I was dispatched down there.
Again, flying the UH-1 Huey in support of Special Forces operation, which was of 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-34 check out was a local check out (speaking of local, I am talking about Ft. Bragg by Special Forces personnel). I was also given a fixed-wing rating at the same place 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. Of course, we had some As, but the As, I think, were all at Rucker. We had these Bravo
models, B Model Hueys, and it was my job to make periodic runs to the various observation posts that were being manned by Special Forces people in the intelligence and information gathering medium. This went on quite uneventfully. It was also at the Dominican Republic when I first became acquainted with Dust Off. The first individual that I knew in this line of work was Captain [Kent] Gandy. I might add, never until that time had I known of the existence of Dust Off, or anything 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 the Special Forces camps, and he had a medical evacuation mission in an area he was unfamiliar with. He also knew it was an area I was working in. So he asked me to go with him, and I did to more or less prevent any problems or at least I was able to show him the area that he was looking for and this was my purpose for going along with him.
Of course, we know, you and I, when we were talking about this, we know that Captain Gandy, then later on (Major), was killed in Vietnam. It was really a sad day for me to find that two of my personal friends were killed on this one particular MEDEVAC [medical evacuation] evacuation mission. We are speaking now of Major [Harry] Phillips and, of course, Major Gandy.
I saw Major Gandy when he came into Vietnam for a short while, we talked about an hour or so, that was the only time I saw him. We reminisced about our experiences in the Dominican Republic. Oddly enough, I talked to Major Phillips for approximately two hours before he was killed. I had an occasion to go into his unit for refueling purposes as a result of some other work, for some other missions I was conducting at the time.
Question: While in the Dominican Republic, did you have any other further exposure to the MEDEVAC people there?
This was the only time I had direct work with them, although on my own, I recall, I performed a medical evacuation mission and I suppose again. The reason was that I was asked to do this mission was that it involved a Special Forces detachment or camp site where I was asked to come in late at night to pick up a man who had suffered a stab wound. I performed that mission satisfactorily. We got the man out with no problem.
The problem with flying in the Dominican Republic was it was a hilly area. It has mountains that go from sea level to 10,500 feet. It is quite difficult. Of course, at night there's quite a bit of rain and thunder storm activity. This was 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 are absolutely no navigational aids, or there were none at that time available to us.
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 seems to lose its accuracy when in storm activities. In other words, the needle instead of pointing to the station, is going to the thunderstorm or usually just rotating around, showing you nothing. You could not very well rely on it.
Question: What were your activities after you left the Dominican Republic?
Answer: Believe it or not, while I was down there, I had an Army aviator come 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 were actually supporting the Special Forces endeavor down there. We had the change of crew in the Caribou, and this man came down and said "Hey, what are you doing here, you are supposed to be in Vietnam." I said, "that was the first time I knew about it," "Well, the orders are out on you." "Well," I said, "they are going to have to do something, I am here and have no way of getting to Fort Bragg, which is my home station, nor do I know anything about this order to Vietnam." As it turned out, everything was righted by the Army, and, in its infinite wisdom, they corrected all the orders and allowed me three weeks' leave. They sent me back home to Fort Bragg, 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-week leave before going over to Vietnam. At this point, you have to recognize this is now 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 about it, I supposed. In retrospect, I suppose I really was not worried about it, it was my wife who was worried about it. I recall the last thing she asked me before leaving, she said "we've got to know, but just in case you don't make it back, where do you want to be buried?" I said, "Well, I supposed really I would like to go to Arlington." We made all those complete 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 because of 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 now your flight to Vietnam was 18 hours. My flight to Tinian, which was not quite that long, took three days, in a prop-driven C-54. With stops always for refueling and maintenance, of course. The prop aircraft is not reliable like these 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 Hawaii for about an hour, long enough to refuel, most of the passengers went and refreshed themselves at the bar. Then we stopped at Wake Island, again to refuel-minimum time, and we stopped in the Philippines and then into Vietnam-total time was 18 hours. That was the first time. Second time we took a similar route but a little bit different. I was thinking as I was traveling over there just what combat 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 flying helicopters, 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. I had two inches of armor glass immediately in front of me, I was totally encased in half-inch armor plate in back of me and around me, on my seat in the B-29. I had all this going for me, practically no way in which a bullet could come in and hit me, unless it was able to thread its way through a few cracks here and there. 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 in the bulkhead between the bomb bay and flight compartment. I knew what the Huey was like. I had the most rudimentary type of armor that was here and there but not everywhere,
unfortunately. In front of me I had absolutely no armor with the exception of the chest protector.
I did not know where I was going or what I would be doing. I had hoped that I would end up flying a helicopter gunship. I can recall filling out the questionnaire about your experience. I said I was a gunnery instructor in World War II, which was one of my jobs, and I was not lying there, it is true, and I thought this would get me assignments, for sure, with a gunship platoon. As it turned out, they must have looked at my age and figured I could not see anything. That is the only thing I can figure out, or they did not think that anything learned in World War II could be used in the Vietnamese situation.
Nevertheless, I found out very shortly, I was in the replacement depot for one day, when I
found out I was to be assigned to Dust Off. As I said, I really had no idea what Dust Off was all about, except for my one brief experience with Captain Gandy. One of my fellow officers there, Major French, I can still recall what he said, that is, he did not think much of the assignment and if he were in my position, 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-he was a Major in 1966-I don't even know if he survived his first tour. I never met the man or heard of him since that time. Nevertheless, he made it his point to inform me that I should look for other avenues of endeavor, if I were to stay alive in Vietnam. He did not think much of the assignment. I supposed I was very quick to change my attitude about him, if I had an attitude. I can recall Lieutenant "Buz" Sawyer, I would say he was about 6' 2", a stringbean-
type of individual, always had a smile on his face, wonderful disposition, he was sent to the replacement depot to escort me to my unit. He let me know his name was "Buz," a wonderful individual. A real good pilot, very stable individual, one you could really entrust your life to. I think that he was indicative of the Medical Service Corps aviators that was as I call the core of Dust Off. He made me feel welcome, showed me around, introduced me to all the people, after he took care of me, got me signed in, had my pay records straightened out - always a part of it, drew weapons, etc., all the usual stuff that a new individual into the war area has to contend with. Here, I am totally new- this is a totally alien environment for me. I am with a unit that I know very little about, and I am expected to contribute to. Of course, I was the next thing I recall was talking with Major Owen Koch, my CO, and the first thing 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 without batting an eye "24 years." Now, when I look back, this is rather shocking to have someone come into a combat area and say they have been flying 24 years. Most people retire before this, then I suppose I realized why the Air Force said I was too damn old to go into this war theater. It was quite interesting. Owen Koch said, he did what you might say the Hollywood double-take, "How long did you say?" I said "24 years," and I realized why he was so shocked. He did, however, I assure you, make me welcome, 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. This involved 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 staff sergeant to the best of my knowledge. He had received a bullet wound that had fractured his leg. The area we went into was quite hot, and he was his own director, you might say, his own RTO, everything, he was not getting any great amount of help from the ARVN. As soon as we landed in this area, we had no covering 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 the gun ships, we were not able to get Air Force coverage, because we did not have the facilities available so we were on our own.
But I recall that it was quite a hot area, and Major Koch was quite concerned. The wounded American could not get into the aircraft, none of the Vietnamese were willing to help him, at least it appeared they were not willing to help him, and we had to send out our medic and crew chief. At this point, all we had to do was sit there, I just happened to have my movie camera around, and I 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 am taking movies of the evacuation. I thought it was better than biting my nails." Needless to say, we got the man out. The medic and crew chief went over and helped the man out-put him on a litter and we evacuated him. That was one scene I recall with Major Koch,
Question: What sort of in-processing orientation ride did the unit give you? What did you think about it?
Answer: Well, it was sufficient, I will say that much. I was with the unit about one month or 6 weeks, don't recall exactly, I joined the unit about the
same time as Colonel [Chuck] Conselman (Major at that time) joined the unit. We served our apprenticeship of about one month or six weeks, at which time we were both made aircraft commanders. Major Conselman was an aviator of quite considerable ability and background. My flying time, I suppose, and background and experience warranted Major Koch appointing me as an aircraft commander that quick. This was not the usual method of operation. I flew with Captain Jim Lombard on some of my early missions. I flew with Captain Al Borth. I think the first time our aircraft was hit I flew with Captain Borth. The first time I received an award for valor, I recall, that was when I flew with Captain James Lombard. We effected an evacuation under most extreme conditions of weather. The whole crew was glad we got that mission off - it was a rather tough one - no doubt about it. Thunderstorms. I recall in order to get through the turbulence we slowed up on three different occasions, somewhere from 100 knots to 90 or 80 and finally ended up doing 70 knots to get through, and we did. It was quite an experience. The indoctrination, well, if you were to ask me what the program was, there was no program. There was a method though. The method was to get the individual 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 a going concern, I assure you. The morale was very high. As you know, at this particular point, the Army was desperate for aviators, they wanted to fill the cockpits. We had many majors who were assigned by many, I mean, on a percentage basis. We had majors who were actually flying as co-pilots, no disrespect meant to 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 and hospital administrative work and because of the need were asked to come back on flying status and which they did. I consider them as much an asset to the organization as anyone else. The expertise was still there, maybe their technique and timing were off, but, after all, being out of an aircraft for such a 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 know exactly how long he had been grounded, but I know he came back on status. He and I flew together quite often, we enjoyed a very fine relationship. I think we did some excellent work together.
Question: Probably not with you, but in talking with some of the other warrants, was there a problem with some of these "rusty" field grade officers 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 not the fault of the "rusty" field grade officers, it probably was the fault of the W-l or W-2 exercising his first command. We've always had this problem, as you know. If you think back about it, the hardest people to get along with are the corporals or lieutenants, because this is the first exercise of command on any structure that you look at where a man has the ability to take over and tell somebody to do something where he realizes he is somebody's boss. We must be realistic and remember that really and truly a corporal knows nothing and neither does a second lieutenant. Now, of course, we have our Warrant Officer 1s and the bright young 2s-and remember in this particular time, why an individual could be promoted to first lieutenant
after serving one year as second lieutenant. Of course, the same is true of a W-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 had his first opportunity. If any problem arose, I assure you from my own experience, it would not be the fault of the captain or the major, it would tend to lie more on this, inexperienced, infantile leader who is impressed by his own position, rather than by the actual facts of the case. I would have to say that most majors and after all, especially those who have returned to flight status after an absence of a year or two, are knowledgeable people. If they said anything to the "aircraft commander," they did it in the context of trying 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 with Captain 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 longer with us. Al Borth was the duty pilot, if you want to call it that, on this 24-hour shift basis we worked on. Someone was always available to fly throughout the night. In addition to the duty pilot, we had our back ups. Al Borth was duty pilot this one particular night, and Rockwell and I were the back ups. Al received a very urgent mission with the 1st Division, where he was called out around 3 o'clock in the morning. He could see he could not handle it all, so he alerted us. By the time all this had transpired, it was by this time maybe 5:30 and still
dark, and we saw the area that was under attack. It was loaded with tracers going in both directions. We knew Al had already been there at one time. Of course, he went in with his lights out to prevent the enemy from seeing him or to fire at him, but he finally had to put on his landing lights so he was in total observation. Rothwell and I were backing up and we went into the same area. I think on this particular day we evacuated 20 some American wounded. It was a unit of the 1st Division, who had been hit at night in an ambush. The odd thing that comes to my mind about this mission is that we are still there and flying evacuations by the time daylight arrives. We just simply made the observations, you know, it would be nice if we could get a cup of coffee-we were waiting for a group of wounded to be dressed and stabilized, so we could evacuate them further. We made the comment, "We would like a cup of coffee." Someone said, "Why don't you go to the mess tent, they are sure to have some coffee." We went there, and believe it or not, here we were able to have scrambled eggs, fresh, fresh biscuits, a total complete breakfast out in the field. The only thing I can say that enabled this situation to be there as it was, was that during all this fighting, this man in the mess tent had to be baking those biscuits and had to be preparing this breakfast. If you can imagine such a situation. The battle must have been going on all around him and he had to be working there. I assure these were excellent biscuits, and remember we did not have pre-baked things, this was hand-made. I always recall that. Rockwell and I enjoyed a very good breakfast. We performed the rest of our mission.
I can recall, of course, being with Captain Lombard on the night we had to make an evacuation on the Minh Thanh Road. This was the night of the violent thunderstorms where we had to slow up to 70 knots. The interesting thing about this 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 where we found our way to a town by the name of Chon Thanh. But from Chon Thanh to the pickup sight, it required a flight of about six minutes, it was in total darkness, total rain, violent turbulence and once in a while the inevitable flash of lightening.
I recall that Captain Lombard said, "I am not instrument qualified." I said, "I am not either." I know what it is all about, 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." In other words, we left Chon Ton, and really no reference whatsoever, we were in total blackness at this particular point, with the exception of the occasional lightening flash. We talked the situation over between ourselves, and we both decided that we would close one eye in case of a lightening flash coming close by 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 finally slowed up to 70 knots. I recall also that about four minutes before arriving at the spot I made contact with the unit on the ground I said, "Are you sure this 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 there was 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 had expired, I again said making
contact with the ground - no problem as far as talking with them, the FM set was working beautifully, theirs was, too - I let them know that they should be hearing our rotor and our engine. We were, of course, totally blacked out - that is the way we flew because we did not know what to expect. They informed me that, "Yes, they did hear us." I told them to put out a light of some kind. You might say almost miraculously, immediately I looked out and I saw the one flashlight, they had one flashlight. "Is that all you have, one flashlight?" "We have another one somewhere, we will try and get it." I said, "I want to make sure who I am talking to, if you hear my instructions at this point, flash your light off and on," and he did. I knew it was them and not someone else. We were always having trouble with having the VC pick up our transmissions and playing tricks on us throwing out colored smoke, 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 it was, we were in total darkness we had to use the "WAG" system, it worked very nicely and we ended up where we were supposed to be. I do recall CPT Lombard was doing the flying, and we did have some violent lightening flashes and because he had been on instruments all this time, he was having difficulty orienting himself to a visual environment, so he asked me to take it down for him, 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 hard that the landing light just diffused all this moisture and reflected it against us, so we could see nothing. I quickly turned it off, so I could see the flashlight 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 gives you 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 road they were on and set the aircraft down and made the evacuation. What I was going to say was one of the benefits of flying Dust Off over in the III Corps area was that we did have a very good, reliable VOR station at Tan Son Nhut or Saigon. We had a real fine ADF that was (I am sure) installed by the French in the late 30s. 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 than our own modern, million-dollar outfit. I suppose the French outfit could not have cost more than $10,000, and I assure you everyone of ours cost a million because 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 ADF bearing. I actually used this information that I wrote down for pickups at night and in bad weather, and it really came in handy. Of course, I gave this information to all the other pilots, and it was available to them. Whether or not they used it as much as I did, I don't know. But I do recall that I used this and rechecked it periodically during daytime operations. In other words, if I went into Lai Khe, I would expect a certain reading on VOR and ADF, and if I went up to Chon Thanh the same is true. It would be true at Quan Loi, the Red Earth Plantation (Terre Rouge Plantation). I used it certainly to find Cu Chi, I used it to find Tay Ninh, Dau Tieng, these were the major areas of operation that we were always involved in.
Question: Did you also construct your own approaches from these intersections?
Answer: Someone must have been talking to you. Yes, I actually visually and mechanically sat down and designed some approaches for these areas to the extent that I actually had an approach for Saigon heliport, which was very complicated. I think I was the only one who could understand it. I could not even get it across to my friends, they could not believe it would work the way I did it. I found it to be helpful. It certainly was not the safest approach, but at least it showed me where I was and what I wanted to do. It involved a series of 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 all of our aircraft were equipped with workable VOR radio receivers and the Saigon or Tan Son Nhut VOR was operational at that time. What would happen, well, we had trained all of our radio telephone operators (RTOs) how to draw a radial, how to extend a radial with a piece of string from the Saigon VOR to the coordinates of the pickup site. Then they would, of course, read off from the mile chart how many miles. This was a real blessing to us to enable us to fly a radial to get over the area or at least get into the general area and at least alert the individual on the ground, "Well, by now you should hear me or see me." It worked beautifully. I am sorry to say that on my second tour, the VORs 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. I suppose an Air Force province, and they were not about to let us have any TACAN for our helicopters. As a matter of fact, our own people
would not think of giving us a TACAN for our helicopters, saying it was not necessary. Well, I am not going to belabor the point, but certainly when an individual is on a mission, such as we had out of the Can Tho area down the tip of the Ca Mau peninsula, this entailed a flight of approximately 110 nautical miles where our individuals were forced by the circumstances to fly nothing but dead 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 years old youngsters, my own son was one of them, who was 20 years old at the time. In thinking back, I have got to honestly say that some of the best flying done by an organization was certainly flown by the 82d Medical Detachment in the Delta under these most difficult of conditions where they actually had less instrumentation than Lindberg had when he flew across the Atlantic.
You have to recognize Lindberg flew the Atlantic in 1927, and we are talking about 1969 and 1970 when I was there. To my knowledge, the 82d Medical Detachment never refused a mission, at least not while I was there. I never knew of any mission being refused, delayed, yes, but refused, no. Certainly there were delays, there had to be. as an example: 110 nautical miles of flying the Delta, with absolutely no weather information, could be equated with someone trying to fly across the United States with all the weather information at his command. Our people would go out and they would hit these thunderstorms and suffer this turbulence. Sometimes they would actually punch through to break out into 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 not there to help them at all. So they
would proceed on what? On a heading they had precomputed on a time and distance problem, they had precomputed and continued to punch on. You can imagine what I am talking about, now, is individuals having to make pickups at night to LSTs, approximately 10 miles off the coast. this they did more than once. They went to the island that was west of Huc Hoa Island. When you think of the distance involved, when you think of the instrumentation available to the people, and beyond that, actually, even if they had had the instruments on board the aircraft, they had absolutely no training, no training in VOR for that matter. 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 first lieutenants, young captains, how they did this and how they survived, I find it very difficult especially when I consider myself at that time. I am thinking now of '69 - I had been rated 27 years. I had been flying as a rated service aviator 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 must be going through the minds of these young officers?" my son included. He also was a part of the unit. They certainly wrote a beautiful chapter for Army Aviation, and the Medical Service Corps. They have a group of individuals who they can really and truly be proud of.
Question: During your first tour, did you have Paris Control to help out at all?
Answer: We had Paris. But the strange thing about Paris was that they had such 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 where we really were doing a lot of operating in those days. As an example, they were certainly helpful in the An Loc area and the Loc Ninh area. For myself, I also had this experience that they often went off the air because of power difficulties or some other maintenance difficulties. I kept their use down to a minimum because I wanted to rely on my instrumentation, and I did have real good VOR instrumentation where I could determine a LOP (Line of Position), which would take me over the intended pickup area. Where I used the Paris Control was to make sure I did not fly into Cambodia. This seemed to have been a major concern of everybody at that time. I did not want to upset any political applecart. We used them, of course, to assist us in getting around artillery areas. They were aware of the artillery. This would enable us to fly a mission without having to contact the individual artillery units. SOIs were available in III 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 we knew exactly what the artillery situation was ourselves. I might add that Paddy Control in the Delta was very good and seemed to be more accurate in their positioning information than the control in Saigon. I am not saying that one was better than the other, I think it was the circumstances, in the Saigon area did have a problem in their equipment, Paddy Control, of course, had the benefit of beautiful flat terrain. No interference from the hills or anything of this type. Of course, they did not have anywhere near the traffic. Therefore, they were able to help you out considerably. When you recall, I mentioned 110
nautical mile-missions, even Paddy Control in the Delta would lose you after 50 or 60 miles. The reason, of course, was we have gained altitude, but in gaining altitude we were subjecting ourselves to more turbulence in the thunderstorm 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. It seemed 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 of them and they knew me. I don't believe we ever had a unit party, or they had a unit party, where the two groups did not invite one another. This was the rapport we enjoyed with these units. You know, of course, Paddy and Paris were all Air Force individuals. If ever there was a description of service coordination and working together atmosphere, I don't think you would ever find it to be any better than what we experienced working with these Air Force individuals.
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 Control had a more pressing demand in that they were saturated with all this cargo traffic out of Saigon, and, of course, out of Bien Hoa. Even in '66 they were quite well occupied. During the daytime, really, we did not need Paris Control to help us that much. At night, of course, we could have used them but in those days 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 that time was at Tan Son Nhut itself. We did not move over to the Long Binh area until '67. Although there was a unit at Long Binh, the Dust Off complex that later became the 45th Company did not form up until '67 at Long Binh. I think it 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 most unusual. Our standby at that time were single aircraft because, as I said, the assets 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 only aircraft. What would happen is that the lift units, the gunships, etc., when nightfall came they would go back to their units. Their war stopped at this point. Of course, they would come back out again if someone was hurting and they needed their support, but this was very seldom that the situation deteriorated or least to that extent because I very seldom saw them at night. Again, we must be truthful with ourselves, these people were not trained for this, and they did not have the capability to operate at night the way our Dust Off people did. I think 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 able to impart some knowledge and training to individuals. Talking about instrument flying 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 aircraft were (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 crew would be sent out there for three days at which time they would be relieved by another crew, and this existed as long as there were American operations by some American unit in the area. In the Loc Ninh area, we were always supporting the 1st Division. The same thing was true with Quan Loi, we were always supporting the 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. Where Phuoc Vinh used to have one aircraft, Lai Khe use to have one Dust Off aircraft for standby, these later became the sites of units. We set a standby at Cu Chi where we supported the 25th Division, one aircraft in '66. Towards the end of the war, as we know, these became total medical detachments. All this took time and required the accumulation of assets and personnel to be able to manage these sites.
Question: What was your attitude and the attitude of the other pilots of the 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 was catch-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 had their mess facilities, which were always adequate, and sometimes we had their sleeping 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 had a cot with a mosquito net, which was, this might not sound as being very much, I thought it was very nice, you could at least get a good night's sleep, unless you were awakened to go for a medical evacuation, nothing unusual. That's the reason you were there, you expected it. You did not expect a complete night's sleep, you expect to be awakened two or three times in a night, this actually happened. 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 has a rather sizable number of individuals. When we go to an area, in those days talking about Loc Ninh, Quan Loi, now we are talking about people out in the field. Still and all, they would have some kind of a medical facility. They would have a tent, some litters propped up on supports to act as temporary operating facilities. In more than one occasion I slept on one of these operating tables when it was not being used. When that was not available, then my crew used to sleep inside the helicopter. That would be three people. I ,of course, 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. In that way I did not have to share anybody else's snoring, and it kept me sufficiently dry. I would still have a few drops of moisture collect on the bottom of the fuselage and drip on my face, etc. But I appreciated the fresh air I got out there. We got pretty odorous after three days in the field and no shower facilities, you can imagine what that would be like. Of course, you had the temptation because of the mosquitoes if in the helicopter you had the doors that slide
closed to keep them away. Then it would get humid and hot, no amount of deodorant could salvage that situation, that was the reason I personally always went underneath the helicopter. Also, because of my size, I could do this easier than someone who was quite large. There was not very much room underneath when you 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 usual administrative duties, and, as you know, war was 50 percent waiting, 50 percent admin. I don't know where they have time to fight, because that's 100 percent, 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 instrument flying, Admin Officer for a while, until Captain Lombard took that over, and then became Assistant Admin. I was Awards Officer, Aircraft Commander, a normal part of the job. I would have to recheck my files to find out exactly all the other, 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 thing that I recall and put down as a matter of record: The monthly reports, or the chart of monthly reports during my first tour. We put down on a piece of plastic with the black grease pencil to keep our situation current. This took up about six inches of space. When I returned in '69, I found this six inches had grown to almost three feet. I could not believe we had become that administrative-minded.
Evidently, the infinite wisdom of the Army found it necessary to have these reports to make us more efficient in fighting the war. Although, from an individual perspective, let's face it, I think we agree that all these reports just tended to detract from our initial and primary mission. Yet, they were necessary, and we did accomplish them.
Question: What were some of the major operations which you supported, you and 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 particular time was under the command of Major General Depuy. A very dynamic leader who seemed to have a sense about him, a presence of mind that he seemed to sense where 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 I would find him to be in the area, either to the extent that he was there where I could see him or his aircraft, or he was talking on the FM radio. In one occasion, I recall, during a heavy downpour at Dau Tieng, here comes an aircraft and a man waving at me to come get this wounded individual. Who is it? General Depuy. He is helping load the litter, my medic and crew chief are helping load the litter, it's raining "cats and dogs," there he is. This was the way General Depuy operated. I recall also . . . a mine causing some damage, a Vietnamese command detonated mine, overturned an APC. Miraculously there was a GI pinned down by this, but the ground was soft enough where apparently he did not suffer any real injury. A crush injury has rather latent effects, and we were there waiting for this man actually to be dug out with shovels, this is how tight he was pinned down. General Depuy
was there. This man as soon as he was free, got up and started walking, and I remember someone hollered out there "stay put." Someone yelled at him to hold his position, and I don't recall who it was, probably the medic because he understood the nature of the crush injury, and he rushed up to him with the litter and put him on board.
These are my recollections of General Depuy. I recall also one time at Dau Tieng, I saw either him or his deputy. This was after a whole day of hoisting operations, which are quite fatiguing and quite dangerous, as you know, hoisting is the least desirable type of method of evacuating wounded patients, especially when 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 this particular occasion I was with my co-pilot, a Mr. Whitesell. We were talking to these people on the ground and the ground commander had artillery coming in from Dau Tieng. We were on Dau Tieng Ridge, and his artillery was impacting about 30 meters away, and he asked me if I wanted it stopped. I said if you think you need that I'd just as soon you keep it going. Any little bit of protection I will take just as much as you will. Still they needed more support, and they got it from F-100's firing 20 millimeter cannons. I think they were using my tail rotor as a marking point because they were firing what appeared to be the just beyond it. I could actually hear each one of these 20 millimeters exploding, 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, who sat 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 fact that "every time I throw yellow smoke to mark my position, somebody throws it back at me." Now this is how close the enemy was, if you can imagine such a state of affairs. Why in the world they never shot me out of the sky, I don'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 I went in for pickups, I know my fellow Dust Off pilot did the same, went in for pickups when we knew we should have been shot at because we were definitely in an area that was totally raked by fire, and yet they would allow us to get in and out. Either they were allowing us or they had to reload the weapons or something; it was very strange. Of course, there were other times when we never expected to get shot at where we would receive a lot of fire. I did feel on occasion that the Viet Cong, when they were able to recognize the red cross, did abide by their interpretation of the Geneva Convention. However, we've got to be honest with ourselves, these instances were in the minority. The other thing I must confess, also was I have to be realistic and look at it from their point of view, the red cross is very hard to define until you are very close, at least the red crosses we had. This was painted on a white background, on an OD-painted helicopter, really did not define the red cross until you were very close.
Question: What are your thoughts on the white helicopter? I know you were not there when the program was going on, but what are your general thoughts on it?
Answer: I can only say that my views are not borne by experience, I would off hand have to agree with the concept inasmuch as if we were shot at as much as we
were under the old configuration of OD paint with the red cross and white background, and this not seem to prevent them from hitting us. If we painted them white, at least then, this was very definitive that only the white helicopters were medical evacuation, no other aircraft or helicopter had that paint 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 and regulations as to the manner in which wounded would be evacuated. There are procedures laid out which some of our own people apparently are not aware of. It is not as simple as going into an area with total immunity. Even a medical evacuation helicopter under certain conditions may be fired at legally under the Geneva Convention. I never really felt a hatred for these people because, after all, they had a job to do just as I had a job to do. If they fired at me I considered that a part of the game. I know that commander down there had to send in some amount of reports to his headquarters, just as much as I had to send in some reports to my headquarters. We were on opposite sides, I feel no hatred whatsoever towards these people. I certainly don't agree with them, but I don't hate them. I never hated any of my enemies for that matter, I respected them.
Question: Did you experience any problems on your first tour with the ground elements you were supporting calling missions incorrectly?
Answer: Yes, this happened on numerous occasions. I don't offhand recall these errors to be any more pronounced on my first tour than they were during the second tour. The situation certainly lends itself to some degree of
abuse, and I know we are talking about overclassification of injuries and wounds. This is,
after all, again could be expected. What does it take? Well, it is going to take a little bit more education on the part of the ground commander, but I don't know if any more education can be imparted to these individuals than what is already being given to them. I think the situation is such that when a man is in a combat situation, sometimes he will overreact at the sight of blood of one of his comrades and will tend to overclassify. There is nothing unusual about that. It is unfortunate that sometimes this overclassification is going to rob a really needy evacuation of this accomplishment. When one man overclassifies a routine injury into a serious one, when in effect a real serious one is taking place at the same time, they both require assets of a medical evacuation nature. Of course, only one can be served. Now we are dealing with the time factor. Who calls in the mission first, and which one is approved first. Unfortunately, this is the way of war. A war should never run efficiently.
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 what requirements did they make of the 283d?
Answer: Well, I suppose this was one of our periods where we can engage in some degree of nostalgia. It was a period when we were more or less our own boss. The 1st Log Command really and truly had no one knowledgeable about aviation. We were the only aviation assets that were part of 1st Log at that particular time, that I know of.
We were left alone because they did not know what to do with a bunch of helicopters or for that matter a bunch of medical evacuation personnel. Insofar as support was concerned, I found no pressing needs for going out of the usual supply or command channels to get anything done. It appeared that everything we needed was given to us, exactly what channels were utilized, I could not tell you. But paying of personnel was done immediately, as I mentioned, and going with LT Sawyer to have my personnel papers and my pay processed, it was very expeditiously accomplished. It took no more than two hours, which I think was very 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 were supported at Binh Thuy by the Navy, but our pay and records were handled by the Army at Can Tho, a distance of about six miles. It took us very little time to get processed again, about a couple of hours and it was all done. Medical support 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 prior arrangements our actual records were kept by the Air Force at Air Force Binh Thuy. What would happen was that, although the records were at the Air Force installation, we were usually being served by Dr. White of the Navy. We found it to be more expeditious to do it that way. We were all quite healthy. We had no real problems at all.
Question: During either tour, did you find the unit taxed for committing the aircraft for nonmedical purposes?
Answer: I have to be truthful, no, I really never, in the whole two years I was there, was aware of any use of our aircraft for anything other than
medical evacuation, or its administrative functions. In other words, we in the Delta, of course, had to go to Long Birth for occasional meetings with company headquarters. That would certainly require an aircraft of ours to transport our people who were involved in the meetings. This was a minor facet of it, the number of hours this represented would be a part of a decimal of one percent to give you an idea. After all, we flew well over a thousand hours a month, and we would make maybe one or two trips to Long Binh in that period for administrative purposes.
Question: Did you or any of the other pilots during the first tour attend pre-operational briefings before these large-scale divisional operations would go on?
Answer: Yes, we did. I am not saying that all the pilots involved went to all the briefings, but somebody represented the unit for all these big operations. Actually, what would happen is that, let us say, I was sent out as the medical evacuation standby for an operation. Again, remember, this is one aircraft, so it is one crew, I, as aircraft commander, would certainly be involved in any detailed briefing that would be going on in this locale. In this respect, we did attend all the various briefings that were necessary. We would get the frequencies that were involved, the call signs, etc. Remember I said in this 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 these briefings, such as "you will locate at a specific location," "you will follow lifts in"?
Answer: Yes. Usually this is the way it all started. If you were a part of an
operation, you go to the briefings, you would be a part of the assembly process, and with the first lift of troops into an LZ, you would accompany them in there. Of course, not right down to the ground, you would stay at an appreciable altitude, usually around 2,000 feet circling, and you would follow them out and of course observe everything that was going on. If one of these were hit or shot down, then, of course, it was our job to go in and retrieve them. We had the facilities, the trained people to take care of these people who invariably would end up injured. As one lift departed, we would leave them and go in and escort the second lift in. All this time circling the area about 2,000 feet.
Question: Was this pretty much SOP when you go over there the first time?
Answer: Yes. We would be on our frequency. We would be monitoring what they 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 white smoke, to indicate where the fire was coming from and we would get them on the Fox Mike, the FM set, they would voice what was happening, "Taking fire from such and such a position of the plot."
Question: Do you recall any incidences where you had to pick up some of these troops?
Answer: Oh, there were many. Just to single out one. I recall one that involved . . . well, let's go back to my second tour. One involved a Cobra that was on a gun run, and he was hit by enemy fire, what type I don't know, it does not matter, but he was probably at an altitude of about 500 feet and it looked to me like at least two kilometers away from the target area when the enemy 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, picking up speed in a curved flight track. He was hit, and it looked to me as if he just completely dropped out of the sky. He went from 500 feet almost instantaneously down to the ground. The aircraft immediately burst into flames. It was one of these situations where you immediately say to yourself "the man and crew are dead." But it did not happen that way. The next thing we could see was the 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 think they sustained was they hit on freshly plowed ground that was baked hard by the sun and because of the fire, one of the crewmen was able to run to my helicopter, the other required the use of the litter. The crew chief and the aid man, in running, tripped and stumbled on these clods of clay that were there, at which time the man on the litter was very unceremoniously spilled out. He sustained more injuries there than from the crash. In a period of what you might say peril to the individual it was still humorous, and we had to laugh. There was no other way out of it. After all, even though you are in danger, why, you can't lose your sense of humor. We got the two people on board. Why, I still recall the two of those individuals were laughing very loudly. Even to them, who were 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 and when you were on the ground?
Answer: I was maybe three to four kilometers away, at the most, and however long a time it takes to fly that amount, let us say a minute, two minutes, not very much.
Question: Early in your first tour, what sort of flight following did you do as far as making sure that when covering the vast expanses someone knew where you were in case you went down?
Answer: I must confess very little, not very much, not enough to really be totally on the safe side. One of the problems involved in this idea of flight following from the point of view of the air crewman is number one, the urgency of the mission. Sometimes the mission is labeled to you as life or death, and I suppose that this tends to override all other considerations. The other thing to be remembered is the method in which we received these missions. Let us assume a typical example: I am on a mission, which I have completed. I am returning now to base and I get a mission radioed to me wherein I must now either mentally or physically with a chart compute what direction I must take. Hopefully, I do this mentally. I should know the area that well where I immediately make a turn to the left or right and go in the general direction and then take up a general heading which will take me to the area. At the same time now, either myself or my co-pilot must plot the actual coordinates on the chart. Now, when all this takes place in a span of time of . . . let's say ten minutes, and this was nothing unusual, then you can see you don't have the opportunity to request flight following and tell the flight following agency, Paris, I am now diverting to coordinates so and so. You might think this does not take very much time, but there is the changing of frequencies involved, if you have the time. One of you is plotting, the other one is actually flying. There should be, I suppose, a mechanical 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 being able to request flight following and to keep the controlling agency totally involved. In addition to Paris Control, there is your own control you must talk with. The transmitting of a mission itself sometimes will take one or two minutes; after all, there are clarifications to be made. Maybe the transmission is garbled in one area or another. Maybe it requires detailed plotting. Maybe when the man plotted the set of coordinates it ended up that he looked on his front, and he was right in the middle of a group of trees. He had to think it can't possibly be there, so his first idea, he calls back for verification. So often 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 hole in the trees. Or when mistakes were made it would be nothing uncommon to find the area plotted to be out in the ocean. However, when this happened, this I attributed more to the aircraft commander than to the radio telephone operator because an aircraft commander should alert himself to some degree of memorization. Once he hears prefixes and coordinates it should tell him he is somewhere in the vicinity of water and the coordinates as given to him could not be correct. We found this to be true down the Delta, especially during my second tour, where with six aircraft we had 13,000 miles to cover. We really relied upon our memory to save time. Our aircraft commanders, I assure you, when they received a mission in the air, and were flying from point to point, had a very good idea and could make a turn in the proper direction at least to get them started. Then, after they faced the aircraft towards the general area of the new mission, then they or the co-pilot would plot it and find out exactly where it was.
It was amazing how six crews of 12 pilots could cover that area of 13,000 square miles day in and day out, 24 hours a day, and still have the ability and mental capacity and the alertness after all this work to actually face off the aircraft towards the general area of the pickup zone and in many cases know exactly 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 all their lives, we are talking about people who were one year at the very most out of flight school.
All combat situations, I suppose, have their memorable parts, and I would say so far as we of the Army in this particular war are concerned, had a most unique situation, 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 following immediately upon the first. So each tour, in this respect, came up with their own personalities, if you will. Certainly the first tour was different from the second tour, if for no other reason than the geographical location that was involved. Then, too, there was the situation that we were working in an environment with a minimum of resources during the first tour, and a relative abundance of resources in the second tour. During the first tour, as I said before, we did not have support, no fire support or very little, very fragmentary. On some occasions, you might just be blessed with a mission where there was a gun team that was in the area. Or as I mentioned in one of my hoist missions, 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 this one certainly was. I would say the differences I do recall were the relative absence of support in the first tour, the working and accomplishment of missions with the bare necessities of resources, not living conditions, but the use of equipment, the abundance of equipment was not there. Single- ship, three-night standbys at isolated areas like Loc Ninh, Quan Loi, Tay Ninh, Dau Tieng, Phuoc Vinh, Lai Khe. These were the rule, not the exception. Occasionally we went to other areas, total field sites in the middle of rice paddies, and we would spend two or three nights there. Places that had no name - we were there. It was a most unusual sensation as a Dust Off crewmember, again, when the night fell, to see all the gunships, all the lift ships, and fixed-wing, if they were in the area, they would leave, and you would be there by yourself. You pictured yourself as the air power in that locale, such as it was. This was us, this was Dust Off.
Standbys knew no rank. Majors would go the same as W-ls. When your turn came you went. On more than one occasion, I remember spending the night at Dau Tieng with Major Hoen. I recall, when he got his first mission assignment as aircraft commander, I said, "You and I have been flying quite a bit together, I'm going to go out with you this time as co-pilot rather than aircraft commander." We spent three very enjoyable nights up there. It just so happens they were not that active at that time. The other difference, I recall this is from a personal nature now, all of my activity or 90 percent of my activity in III Corps was supporting 1st Division and 25th Division, American troops. Then in my second tour, it
was just the opposite. Ten percent of the time I supported American troops and 90 percent the ARVN troops. Here was an entirely different world. First tour, we were close to Saigon, we could on our days off, we use that expression day off, during my first tour was considered a day when you were not out in the field. You did not get really, truly days off. We worked to the best of my knowledge, seven days a week. There was some tendency to relax a little bit on Sunday, but it did not mean we were not working, I assure you we were. Either we were flying or doing some administrative duty or motor, stables, things of this type, there was always work to be done. On those nights when we were not out in the field, we could at least go to downtown Saigon and occasionally enjoy a good meal at one of the better Vietnamese restaurants, or the American restaurants such as the Rex Hotel, which at this particular time was still being operated by the 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 know who the lowest ranking individual was that lived in the Rex, but I never met anyone who was not at least a major and this was an Air Force major, who myself and my co-pilot had the misfortune of inviting to sit down to dinner with us one night. He totally shocked us. You got to recall that we had come from a standby at Loc Ninh, three or four days up there with nothing but C rations being heated by C4, which is an illegal procedure any good Army man knows, but it is the most expeditious 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 we were
going to have a good meal at the Rex. We invited this Air Force major to sit with us because the place was crowded, and he needed a place to sit. We got a bottle of Vin Rose Mateus, which we enjoyed. We offered some to the major, and he declined. We sat down to read the menu, which we thought was really excellent looking, and he upon looking at it, said, "The same old crap." At this point, you saw two Army warrant officers ask an Air Force major to please leave our table. We could not stand this kind of attitude. He did, that was a humorous part. The other thing about the Rex and the part everybody visited, was the top floor, the veranda, or the night club area, the officers' club where the bar was, 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 and night. The food was excellent. The restaurant part was enclosed, I am talking about the bar not being air-conditioned. But it was a nice place to go and forget your troubles and enjoy yourself and relax. I suppose we averaged about one 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 was assigned to Hunter Army Airfield. The job I had was to be one of the individuals to set that place up as a helicopter advanced training school for the Army. When I reported in to Hunter, there were five other Army officers there. The highest ranking was a LTC Shaw, who was setting up the maintenance phase. The place was completely dominated and still under the control of the Air Force. As a matter of fact, they had a wing of C-124's. We were given just one-half of one building, as I recall, to operate in. Well, from
that little group of individuals we set up Hunter into the complex that eventually became where we were graduating the ultimate classes of 200 or 400. I have forgotten just what it was now, made it into a very efficient Army flight training 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 my civilian life and job. I had already received my discharge orders to be effective on the 22 of July 1968. Around the 12th or somewhere in that neighborhood, I went for my separation physical. It was discovered then I had glaucoma. 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. The Army itself did not think much of a waiver, and they immediately grounded me. It took about two months of effort. First of all, I decided I would then stay in the Army rather than get out since I had no job to return to with my poor eye condition. I was ready to cry, but, being too old, I didn't do that but it hurt enough because I was giving up a civilian job that was quite lucrative. The Army after two months̓ time did give me a waiver and the waiver is still in effect to this day. The glaucoma, of course, is kept in check by medications. I still go to the ophthalmologist, and it appears at this point, as if there is some doubt whether or not glaucomatic condition exists. It appears that maybe I don't have glaucoma now. That is all water over the dam, I'm not going to try and think that problem out or rationalize it or find fault with anyone. If I doubted the initial determination of the ophthalmologists that came up with the conclusion of glaucoma, I could have gone to another doctor and found assurance or reassurance that it was or was not a fact.
There evidently had to be something wrong with my eyes at that particular point 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 some extent. Anyhow, recognizing that I had an eye problem, I decided I would stay in the 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 the time I was put back on flight status, I had been back in-country now in excess of 18 months, I was approaching about 20 months all totaled by this time, and I knew people were going back for their second tour. My problem was that with the determination of an eye condition which caused me to have a profile, I could opt to refuse any Vietnam second tour on the basis of my eye condition, which gave me a profile requiring that I have medication four times a day, which I could not for certain know if it would be available to me in Vietnam. Certainly if I were 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 in check. Nevertheless, I knew a second tour request was going to be imminent and so it was, I think in November of that same year. Remember now, my glaucomatic condition was analyzed in July. I was put back on flight status in September. In November, we had a DA team visit us from Warrant Officer Aviation Section and the purpose of this team was nothing more than to find out what you wanted to do on your second tour. They were not there to say "you may or may not go," 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 I mentioned the fact I was offered the job of flying the P2V, a former Navy Patrol type aircraft which the Army had converted to an electronic surveillance mission. With all my heavy bomber experience, why I am sure I could have fitted right into this, but it was not the thing I was looking for if I had to go back to Vietnam. I did not want to circle, as I use the expression, for ten hours in an aircraft, very boring. So I told the colonel interviewing me that if I had to go back I wanted to go back again with a Dust Off unit. He said he would see that 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 Bissell during my first tour, he was down the Delta with the 82d while I was with the 283d in the Saigon area. We saw one another quite often. In a casual conversation, he mentioned the fact that he was going back for his second tour and 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 know exactly where I was going. At this particular time, he voiced an opinion he would like to have me working for him. In other words, why not join him in the 82d. Of course, I thought very quickly, that this would be a very good arrangement, since we knew one another, each other's habits and work ethics, if you will, we were both a little old fashioned, we thought people should work. I knew I could get along with him, and I agreed to the situation. It did all transpire just as we planned, I did go over there, he beat me there by about a month.
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 training people to become instrument instructors, in other words, what we were doing there we were making "purses out of sows ears." We took Vietnam returnees, people who had had their one-year tour in Vietnam, and made instrument instructors out of them. This was really quite a problem, quite a jobs All these people we dealt with really had no instrument training nor experience. After 50 hours, we were expected to make instrument instructors out of them. In addition to that, during this time we were expected to get them instrument tickets. We did accomplish this. I think the whole Army benefited from this program. We think we were very selective, very restrictive in awarding the title of Instrument Instructor to our products. If the students who were graduated from the Hunter complex survived in the environment of Vietnam with its bad weather, I think the people we produced were responsible for that. I am very proud of my contribution in that respect. I think all the people who worked with 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 went AMEDD training course, which I had to go through, even though I had experience as a Dust Off pilot in my first tour. About one-half of the trainees that were in my class were graduated out of Hunter. Of all these people who were AMEDD classmates of mine, not a one of them that I know of was killed, injured, or sustained damage because of instrument flying deficiency. I am not saying that none 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 old friends. I met Colonel [Arlie] Price, Major Huey P. Lang, Captain Rasmussen, so many people 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. He just moved the unit from Soc Trang to Navy Binh Thuy. We were billeted and fed and supported by the Naval Air Support Facility at that place. There was a small runway there capable of taking fixed wing. We did not need the runway but we had very 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 total of 46 people.
Question: Where did the enlisted crew stay?
Answer: They stayed in the enlisted quarters furnished by the Navy, which were also very good. They had running water, which was fresh and potable, hot and cold, with complete bathroom facilities. It was a strange war. The Navy knows 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 of time away like I did during my first tour. My first tour, most of my time was spent at field sites. Muddy shoes, muddy jungle clothing, relatively in a dirty condition where a bath felt good when you came back to base. This was not so during my second tour. It was just the opposite. By the same token, one must remember 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 that out on a daily basis, that comes out to four hours a day average, which is no small task. I must also admit I did not take R&R or leave. I was there from the very beginning to the very end. It took me approximately four or five days to get established, and then I cleared up the last four or five days. So I flew 350 or 355 days.
Whenever you meet an individual who is in this business and in the area of the Delta, and he tells you he flew, let's say somewhere in the neighborhood of nine or ten hours or more in one day, by the very nature of that situation, he did 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 one break 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 7 o'clock for the day shift and terminated at 1800 hours. The night shift flew from 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 flown 10 hours, 11, 12 even 13. Of course, you can very well imagine if I flew 13 hours, I could not have gotten out of the aircraft.
Question: What sort of backup did you use? Say, you were out on a mission, 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, we operated on one, two and three. First up, second up, third up. First up, of course, took the missions as they came. If he could be diverted, if he completed one mission. Of course, this all required complete radio hookups of radio communications 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 in now." He would keep us posted. We knew when he was going in, we expected him up very shortly by the very nature of this mission, we expected a radio call. If something were to develop now, where we would not hear from him for a great length of time, we would assume the worst. Now, if a mission came in, we would give it number two or second up. Let us say, now that number one came back in and reported mission completed, and he was on his way and a mission were called in that he could possibly divert slightly to make this thing. We would then, 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 15 minutes out of your way. Remember, we had 13,000 square miles to cover. It would be much more advantageous to us, from our operational point of view, to divert him these few minutes or few miles rather than launch a second aircraft that would take three or four times as much to complete the mission. This is actually what we did, we would divert. It would be nothing uncommon for a Dust Off helicopter working the Delta to come into a hostile area with 10, 15 patients on board. As a matter of fact, on one occasion I came in with 26 that I had accumulated over a series of, let's say, five or six stops. I don't think that was a record, we did not keep records to that extent. That gives you an idea of how many you could accumulate from a series of missions where the condition of your patients made this possible for you to divert from one location to another as you were coming up to a base hospital area.
Question: What would the reaction be in the operations shop if an aircraft called into an area but not out after a reasonable period of time?
Answer: We would, of course, immediately go through the channels. We had an 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 general headquarters, from their general headquarters to the central operational detachment, which was at Can Tho. They would call us if the mission were MEDEVAC. Now, we would just go back through the line and find out what happened. At the same time, when a mission came in we would just discount number one as being available and we would launch number two. We ourselves did nothing to retrieve number one - even though he may be down and probably was down for this was not our mission. We
would have liked to gone out and helped, certainly, but then we would have been in effect wasting an aircraft and crew. Someone else had to go get this individual.
Question: Who did this? Did the situation arise?
Answer: Oh, yes. I was shot down three times in my tour. I would do my best to make contact by the medium available, the ground force commander, and I usually was with him after my aircraft was incapacitated. I had him make a call to 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 back home. They would know quicker that way that everybody was all right or someone had or had not sustained an injury. We would also let them know whether or not we 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 we first made contact with the American on the ground. Now, there were other means available. If the American was not on the ground for the pickup then we were supposed to pick up a Vietnamese bilingual individual who would then talk to the Vietnamese on the ground and relay to us the information, what the tactical situation 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 a PRC-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 would be totally dependent upon the situation as it existed at that time. These were SOP'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 still there, of course, Dong Tam and the 9th was the first unit to be deactivated under President Nixon's Vietnamization policy. This was about mid '69, I don't know the exact month.
Question: Did you support the riverines?
Answer: Supported them. Supported many Naval operations on the river and in the Gulf of Siam and South China Sea.
Question: Could you describe them at these operations - sort of covering three different phases?
Answer: All right. Well, essentially, if they were water-type, riverine-type operations, they all had their same general aspects. I will just describe the usual Navy method. They had what they called "Tango 'Boat" is one example. A Tango boat is a very, very small craft that is armed with .50 caliber, is able to go on to the shore to allow troops to get off. They also had certain 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. I don't know of anybody else who ever landed on these Tango boats except Dust Off aircraft. Maybe some support or supply aircraft did. In all the time I was there I never saw anyone on them except
Dust Off aircraft. It was quite tricky because the platform that was for each skid was approximately one foot, maybe 18 inches wide. I never did get out to measure them. I knew my skids would fit and that was it. Now, the power of the Huey as against the power of the boat was such that you had to watch because you could overpower the helmsman. He wanted to stay in mid-stream and you wanted him to stay in mid-stream, too, because you didn't want your blades to go hitting trees that were on the shoreline. If you didn't watch yourself, you could actually overpower this individual. That was one aspect of it. The other thing was that usually when we landed on board the tango boats it was an insecure situation as a rule. There was some action going on the vicinity, and this made it quite a touchy situation. A more enjoyable sight would be the big Navy river boats, which were not quite the size of an LST but somewhere approaching that had a helicopter deck and we could operate in and out of there with relative ease. Here, there were never any thoughts of enemy activity in the area. These were quite big. Even bigger than that were the LSTs which we enjoyed setting down on because here we could get refueled. Anytime we needed food or drink they were well supplied and could give it to us. It went to such an extent if they did not have Coke or soft drink, we would get a cold beer. I know Army aviators don'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 treatment capability as well as the landing capability?
Answer: They had it to the same extent, a medical APC would have it. I don't know if you are familiar with those or not - completely rudimentary type
medical facility, no doctors, an aid man who could stabilize a patient depending on how serious he was. It was quite an interesting assignment to be landing on these.
Question: Do you recall any problems in working with the riverine elements of 9th Division?
Answer: No, because we did not have that much work with them, their activity actually was diminishing during this period of time. Also, they had, as you know, their own Dust Off unit that was assigned to them. Whatever help we did was when their own facilities were so taxed they required help from someone else. That was the unit at Dang Tam under the command of Major Murphy at that particular time.
Question: During your second tour, you were engaged in a certain operation for which you received a not at all minor decoration, and I am sure you have been asked to discuss it before. For the purposes of this would you go into details of that operation?
Answer: Talk about Colonel Lindsey. As you know, he was a doctor, a colonel, and occasionally he would go and fly missions with various Dust Off crews. In this particular case he came down to the Delta to fly with me. He spent the day flying with me. Of all the times I can recall when I had something go wrong of a very serious nature, why he was on board. I don't know if Colonel Lindsay was aware of the difficulties, but I certainly was aware of the possible traumatic consequences that could come up. What I am getting is that we have a ship load of wounded and coming south out of Chi Lang for Navy Binh Thuy and the hospital area. Almost immediately my transmission oil pressure goes from its normal reading
down to zero. I am not going to take time at this particular point to analyze what is wrong or right, but I did have time to send out an emergency call to the unit through Paddy Control telling them my transmission oil pressure had zeroed out and I was immediately going for the deck. Luckily, they picked it up, and they knew what my intention was. It was exactly what we did. I went right down to the deck and continued to fly inbound with this load of wounded. Colonel Lindsey, of course, is in the back tending to the wounded, and he has not blinked an eye at this point. He does not seem to care whether we are flying or not. Of course, I am not going to bother him by going into details. The reason I did this was just in case my transmission oil pressure was to go to zero and it was not the gage that I would be in a more favorable position to do something about my predicament. We proceeded to fly at about 10 feet off the ground for Binh Thuy and about one-half way there I picked up one of our own Dust Off aircraft who was sent out to have a look and see if they could spot me. They escorted me back in. I thought it was quite interesting to see Lindsey doing all this 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 that I 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 that area. If you wanted to learn firsthand what the problems of the medic were, this is 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 sizable portion of
the day, I would say two-thirds of the day, working there, doing the work of a medic. I might say doing a terrific job. I suppose, in retrospect, the combined age of that aircraft commander and that medic was probably a record for any part of the Vietnam war.
Two old codgers there, but we did get along. We understood one another, I will say that much.
You asked me about this encounter of the 2d of October 1969. It was quite interesting and certainly at the time it occurred. I nor my crew don't think entertained any thoughts that it would develop into the situation it did. It was a mission that was called while we were airborne, just like all such missions are, except that when we heard the coordinates I knew right away it was quite a ways up north. When I plotted them I did not realize how far up north, because if you check on a map of South Vietnam, you will find out even though we were in the 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 of the 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 and not the Saigon area. At this particular time, which was around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, I had already been flying for seven hours. Of course, I did not know that this mission would take another four hours or a total of 11 hours of flying for that particular day. My co-pilot was Tyrone Chamberlain, a W-l, my medic was SP4 Herbert Heinold, crew chief, Specialist Joe Horvath. In going up to the area, I had to fly through a lot of bad weather, thunderstorms were bad was the main concern at the time, it took me
40 minutes just to reach the area. Of course, the last 15 minutes of flight we were in clear weather by this time. I had a chance to talk to the individual on the scene. He was flying in a C and C ship above the area which was our concern. This was a Captain Harry L. Purdy, an Infantry Officer, assigned to a Special Forces Unit. He let me know what the situation was; it was not good by any measurement. First of all, we had no air cover of any kind except for himself, 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 no Americans on the ground. We could not use the method of picking up a Vietnamese and talking to the people on the ground because all communication had been lost with these people anyhow. These individuals were part of three companies of South Vietnamese who were sent in to clear out an enemy training area wherein they had three forts that simulated South Vietnamese fortifications. One was triangle, the other two were squares. I still remember that.
Question: While you were inbound, what was the enemy situation reported to be?
Answer: Well, it was really undetermined except that the enemy controlled the area. There were an indefinite number of wounded and killed who were down there. The C and C could see them with his binoculars, I suppose, and he reported the location of a few of these to me. Of course, I naturally asked for who 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 had been 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 problem was 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) moving around, and it might be possible to go in and try to locate them. At least do that, and try to make a pickup.
Well, of course, he could not tell what the exact situation on the ground was nor could I, but I said "I will go in and take a look." The place he mentioned 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 area he told me to look for this one friendly wounded or suppressed individual. They could not move about because they were totally surrounded and cut off. When I brought it to a hover over this area, I saw no one, absolutely no one, friendly or enemy. But I sure heard a lot of noise. This was all kind of machine guns that 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, of course, I could not tell for sure. I made an immediate turn to the right and flew out of the area, getting fired at all the time. Of course, I crossed a stream 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 up on me. In the conversation of Captain Purdy, he let me know why the firing had increased on the other side of the river. This is how close it was. That left many doubts at this point in my mind whether or not we could do anything. In talking with Captain Purdy again he insisted there was someone down there in this triangular fort. As near
as I could tell, it was in the area I was hovering. Again, where I saw no one, but said, "Well, I will try it again," so we went in a second time, with the same identical results except that rather than turn to the right to 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 down there to get him out of there. I know these people have been there since 8 o'clock in the morning. This is when they were first cut off, they have lost all their weapons, lost the commo equipment, but they are still down there and are being fired at. They are hugging the rice paddies' dikes, such as they are, 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 the crew, 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 from that triangular fort. No way for us to get them there. First of all, we were totally surrounded by enemy bunkers. I think the one photo shows you 27 of them approximately surrounding the area that is visible in the photo. I am not certain that all these were able to fire at us, but enough were able to fire to make us miserable. So what I did I then went down as close to this area as I could, really low, to look and made many passes back and forth trying to see somebody, but I could not. So then I decided Capt. Purdy does not address himself to the fact I made two or three passes back and forth just to try and locate somebody. Then I decided, "Well, I will circle." This is what I proceeded to do,
circled the four areas where there was relatively clear area and when I see clear, 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 man had nerve enough to stand up in the grass, this is what he did-stood up and waved his shirt. I knew it could not be the VC, no VC is going to take off his shirt 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 method we 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 I am." It seemed as if one success brought on another one. At one time we actually had four people standing up and waving at us. We went right to them-some were able to jump in, some were in a bad way. I think when it was finally done, we picked up 29, I think was what we claim, and I think one of them died later on. To this day I don't know that for sure.
Question: What were the other crew members doing during these walking around the areas?
Answer: Well, we were getting considerable fire. I did not keep track of the number, I had other things on my mind. Capt. Purdy says that in his observation 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 our thoughts, come in from another direction then to try and get these people out. I know that the firing was tough. In one case in going to a man who was making himself visible, for us to pick up, he was shot down. It looked to us he was totally killed. We were not about to stop and investigate his condition. We did come 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 never spotted 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 everything looked good in the cockpit, which I suppose was a good way for him to keep cool and 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 the instruments, I assure you. I was that busy so that was what he was doing. The medic and the crew chief were actually hanging out both sides of the helicopter whenever they saw a wounded man on their side, they would assist him in. We did not stop to put these people on litters, nor was anybody that we could determine needed a litter. One man certainly could use one, he was the one holding his intestines, partly in and partly out. I don't know if he was the one who died or not.
Question: How many trips finally in and out did you make?
Answer: What it took was three different series of attempts. What would happen is we would load up, and I don't know exactly how many on each particular series of lifts, but let us say approximately one-third of the 29 we picked up and then proceeded into Moc Hoa to deposit them to the medical station there and also 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 medical people, and we let this situation off to them and any further evacuation they accomplished. This was not our concern at this particular time. As I said, we picked 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 back out. Do it again. This was one of those situations where you never know for certain 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 in order 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 29 people. We figured out on occasion we did pick up three or four when most of the time it was just one. So if you even that out, it came out to about two per extraction, 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 finally then picked up two Cobras, and I don't know where they came from, but we did get two Cobras. The problem was it was now getting dark. Now, the Air Force in the meantime, during my second series of lifts, the Air Force came in, with some F-100s and proceeded to drop four, five, or six bombs onto the area that was giving us the most problems. The area we knew was where the most firing was coming from. The problem was after they finished, I saw absolutely nothing good come of all these wonderful attempts. They dropped a lot of tonnage and made a lot of noise and would not let me in there. Now, in retrospect, I believe, that if I had gone in there while they were bombing, I could have done a much better job. This was the point where I am sure the VC were hiding their heads. The Air Force would not drop the bombs unless I went out of there. I had to let him do his 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 as depicted 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 the bunkers. Where we were flying, we were flying all over. We had an area of concentration and the place he wanted me to set down into was in here. See this line? He said there was a man hugging that. So I hovered, you might say, right about in here - two times. We were getting fired at all the way around - I don't know 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, "How could so many bunkers fire at you and not hit you?" Well, because the damn bunkers can't turn, and I kept moving. So this one might fire a small burst at me, 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 of fire, don't misunderstand me, but they were also hindered, because I kept moving. OK? Now, where did the work happen? Most of the pickups, and I have to guess this is where the F-100 bombs - you can see that - looks like only three but it was more than three, probably two or three exploded in the same area. 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 find it, 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, I can't think of the guy who took the thing. Barfield, I think, I flew him up there on a photo mission. These were all taken with lenses - they would not allow us in the area.
Question: Is this the river you were talking about?
Answer: Yes, that is the river. Somewhere in this area, is this triangular fort, and I went in and turned right, across the damn river and really picked it up. That is Cambodia. On the map, we will show it to you in two perspectives. On the map, it is right here, notice, see this part way up here notice where Cu Chi is, north of Saigon, north of Cu Chi - that is it. Of course, here is that area we are talking about, right here close, three and one-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 to knock out one, you can see by Cobras, flying rockets. Even if they hit it, the ground up there, I don't know what the hell it is made of, see the ridges? That is where these people were hiding. This gives you a much better - see all over that is how they were able to survive.
This wobbly thing here up and down is - it starts about in here - the end of this thing here. OK? This river starts moving down like this - right in here - so the fort then is somewhere here and I made this turn-and I caught it.
Question: Did your aircraft sustain much damage?
Answer: Oh, yea, full of holes. They knocked out my VHF radio, my airspeed indicator - they say I lost control momentarily and the only thing I can say, two things may have caused that. First of all, I took . . . I had two bullets that came in on either side of me, one here and one here, and may have been 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 that is what caused me to go out of control because the damn aircraft went like that and for some reason or other, I don't know what happened, but one of my damn feet went in or out. This last man we picked up, the maneuver was so violent that he was out of the aircraft, except that Horvath had him by the hand, he had already hauled him in and just as he hauled him in, that's when this bastard opened 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 the air by the time we got him back in again. Let's see, what does he say, "I grabbed 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 the ship, and shrapnel in the AC's leg. The wounded man slipped off the ship, but I still had a hold of his hand. Then I started pulling him in. We were 50 or 60 feet in the air when I got the wounded man aboard."
Superficially-the only thing I can figure out that caused that movement of the helicopter and it was violent-was either that bullet that deflected off my sole 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 the aircraft 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 in front - that was the bad thing. There were two bullets that did come on either side of me. How this man missed me, I don't know, because I was hovering. I don't know exactly where I was but this, remember now, it was almost dark, we could just barely see this man silhouetted against the sky. Actually now, I think what it was, he was told by the VC, they already had him, and I am pretty sure this is what happened: they told him "Get up and wave." I was somewhere in here, exactly where I don't know, but I was hovering backward to either this bunker or this . . . one of these . . . I picked up somebody about in here, about 100 yards from the bunker, one of them, said "Hey, we see another one right next to a bunker." He was waving his shirt. I knew damn well we were really going to take some hits, so I backed up into it to put some 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 planted him.
Question: What time did you finally terminate your extractions?
Answer: By the time we got home, well, because of the hits we sustained in this that was our last, we had the Cobras that were circling above us and they 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 Moc Hoa and shut down - that was the first shut down we had after about 10 hours of flying. You know, look at the aircraft and
find out where the holes were. We found a couple in the rotor in addition to the damage to the aircraft up front. We determined it was nothing in the controls that was hit. We had no air speed indicator, but I did not need that anyhow. 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 members receive?
Answer: To the best of my knowledge, as I have been told, and I don't know this for a fact, Chamberlain received the Distinguished Service Cross, but I don't know it for a fact. No one has ever told me. Horvath and Heinold were both put in for the Silver Star, but I don't know if they received it. I know they received an award. I hope it was the Silver Star. I personally recommended to the CO, Major Simmons, that the crew be put in for the Silver Star, this is what I thought. Of course, other people thought otherwise. I am very fortunate they did.
Question: Two tours in Vietnam, what are your thoughts on the enlisted crew members who flew aeromedical evacuation?
Answer: I could never say anything but give them the highest of accolades. I consider them a part of Medical Service Corps, just the same as I consider the warrant who was assigned to the duty, of medical evacuation, Dust Off, if you will. Who trained them, who inspired, them, I don't know. But whoever it was certainly deserves a heck of a lot of credit. I can truthfully say that in two tours, this includes over 2,000 very close and strong combat hours, I never saw one medic or crew chief that ever flinched, that did not do what 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's get out here, this is too much," and they would have been not considered slackers in the least. I am sure it was a tough day. Remember, as I said, I flew 11 hours, and they were with me for all those 11 hours. I certainly was not at the 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 enlisted crew members certainly had to be in my estimation the best the Army ever produced. 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 off to them. Remember, we up front have got the ability to make a choice to go in or not to go in; this man in the back, however, has got to sit there and grin and bear 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. The enlisted 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 Vietnam were the most rewarding that any individual could imagine. It is a strange thing to be a part of a war and honestly say you have not killed anyone. I know that we expect killing. I also think that if you question those who have really seen a lot of war, that that individual, if he is honest with himself and honest to God, will say the one thing he hates the
most is war and the one thing he sees the futility of is war. I personally would like to describe war as nothing more than a state of international anarchy, because that is what it is. You know, if you and I have a disagreement and we get into a fight, there is some element of law that is going to tell you and me to cease and desist. We can carry this on up the chain of command, to say if two towns disagree, there is a bigger law that will tell them to stop to the extent that if two states disagree and if they were to go to war, the country would tell them to stop, would they not? And yet, there is no one when two countries disagree to go to war, we have anarchy because there is no further law to tell them to stop and desist. So, you might say that is a philosophical thought on my part. I think I am entitled to a little philosophical thought at this age of mine.
I will say that this war tended to be quite personal. I think all of us in Dust Off can say that. It was a personal thing. Many of us actually had occasion to see the enemy, for all practical purposes, face-to-face. We saw the individual who was firing at us. I would say that 99 percent heard the enemy's fire that was personally directed at us or our aircraft. This is a strange thing that really not too many people can say. You go to a battle area you can hear a lot 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 Dust Off, when we were there on the ground, alone, insofar as a vehicle was concerned, and we knew our presence on these occasions did meet with the enemy's objection to the extent they would fire at us. That was the reason we were hit so 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 was killed in February 1967. Major Phillips, Major Gandy, I don't know exactly what month it was but it was in '66 [13 August]. As I said before, I recall talking with Major Phillips a couple hours before that. WO1 Vars was killed on a hoist mission in the vicinity of Lai Khe. Mr. Bush flew into Nui Ba Den at night. I always feel somewhat responsible for that. I did not have the time to take him aside and show him how to use the VOR and had I done so, I am sure I would have shown him how not to hit Nui Ba Den. He came into the 283d about three weeks before I was due to go home after my first tour and he specifically asked me to go fly with him and show him instrument procedures. I said I would, but for some reason or other I never had the chance. On a dark, rainy night with these conditions he hit the mountain head on and was killed immediately with his entire 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 used to play bridge with. As a matter of fact, a strange thing one night I played bridge with Father Michael J. Queely and Captain Mickey [Marion G.] Runion, a dentist, and Captain Joe Fulghum and myself at Lai Kai while Joe Fulghum and I were on standby. Inside of about two or three months, the other three gentlemen were 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 who graduated from aviator training in '69, and he joined me as member of the 82d Med Detach in January 1970. We had occasion to fly together and be together in the same unit, a 12-aviator detachment. He and I were together for about three months. I had one of the naval pilots come to me, a Commander Jaburg, a very good personal friend who also flew
combat with me on many occasions, as my co-pilot, I would say for at least 150 hours in one year, that was what he flew with us. We were always short of personnel 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 would give anything to have his son with him (his son was not old enough) to see how he would do in battle. I don't know if he realized all the ramifications that statement entailed because it is quite an experience and quite rewarding to see your son tested in battle found not wanting as I did. My son I know was over there about two weeks when he got shot down for the first time. He came out of the situation laughing. The training system evidently had done its job, because he went on to complete his tour. If I recall correctly, he evacuated in his one year about 2,500 people. He flew approximately 1,000 hours in combat and he had done this by the time he was 20 years old - he did better than I did. I was 21 when I flew my first thousand hours, so he beat me there. My first thousand hours were not in combat yet his were,
I recall one specific incident, that, of course, was picked up by John Ryan of UPI, who was there to witness it. We had the last pickup of the day and everything was going fine. It was one of those quite days when nothing went wrong, except on this pickup which looked so perfect. I am checking out a new aircraft commander, and he was making the run into the pickup site and all hell broke lose. We had a very firmly entrenched and implanted .30 caliber machine gun 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 the missions, and I knew first up that night was my son. What I was trying to do was to get this wounded individual or group out. I wanted to complete the mission during daylight hours rather than have him go on there at night, because it is so much tougher at night and still had this .30 caliber in there. The situation was 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 it feel having to schedule your son. Well, a couple of things happened. First of all, 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 used to do, and as far as I am concerned I ain't your father. We are going to run it that way. The other thing is I scheduled him right down the line - made no exceptions, whether it be night or day time, bad or good weather, he was on the roster. This was the only way I could do it. To have done less would not have been fair to him or more would not have been fair to me or the other people in the unit. He wanted to join me, and I appreciate his loyalty to me - a father and son relationship. It was quite rewarding to have this experience and to 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 young commissioned 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 of writing the history of medical evacuation and as such I am sure you are going to do a good job. When the whole story of Vietnam is told, I am sure they are going to be able to use Winston Churchill's very famous words "Never had so many owed so much to so few," and this is what Dust Off is. They were the few who really will make this Vietnam war, to come out looking good for us. If anything good came out of it, I think it was the good attitude, the good work of men trying to help other men, and this is what Dust Off was doing.