49. 134th Memories By Bowman Roberts

Who's Callin'?

Lots of names and faces have faded over the years, but several linger as though they were just yesterday. Some details, time and dates are still vague but the generalities remain.

I was a newby Peter Pilot in the 2nd Platoon and was assigned to fly with WO Rice for a mission working for the MACV for a 22nd ARVN Division Unit at LZ English. WO Rice was one of the more respected and experienced AC's in the 134th.

We reported to the unit Orderly Room at LZ English only to find that it was totally deserted, must have been a Sunday but for the Demons and Devils, it was just another day. While awaiting for someone to give us our working assignments, WO Rice and I, with the CC and Gunner (don't remember who they were) all sit down in the Orderly/Day Room. I sat down closest to a phone.

Well, as luck would have it, the phone started ringing, and ringing, and ringing. Not having the slightest idea where another phone may be or any arrangements for answering them, I took the path of least resistance and did NOT answer the phone. (Kinda like not answering a pay phone on the street when you walk by.) What should I say and who would I find to answer any question the caller may ask? To me, it made sense NOT to answer it and I might say, WO Rice wasn't breaking his neck to answer it, either.

Shortly after it quit ringing, a LTC came puffing in but obviously too late. He looked around and there was dumb me sitting closest to the phone and yelled at me, Why didn't you answer the phone!!?

Kinda caught off guard and not knowing what to say, all I could think of is I didn't know who could be calling.

The LTC snapped right back and said, If you'd answered the damn thing you'd known who was calling, and stomped out of the room.

The room fell silent again except that WO Rice was rolling on the floor laughin' at me!! Can't say as I blame him, that was NOT a good answer.

Initial AC trial flight

I don't recall what time frame this was but I'm just guessing it was around January or February of 1970, after several new Peter-Pilots were assigned to the 134th. For the longest, I was the last WO to be assigned until, as I recall, January. I think one Lt. came in after me, but that was it.

Anyway, our 2nd Platoon leader, Capt. ????, he was from Oklahoma, said well, Mr. Roberts, it's time to start training you for AC duties. Tomorrow, you'll fly left seat with Mr. Rice.>

Feeling both confident and excited about this new phase of my duty, I reported early and well rested the next day to operations, knowing Mr. Rice was a hard man to please. He was known for his professionalism and skills and was the AC's AC.

I had never really flown a Huey from the left seat except for several times in flight school and over here (in Vietnam) on night missions and that was all straight and level, no hovering'

In those days, we hovered the aircraft into and out of the parallel revetments. WO Rice strapped in the right seat and I in the left for the first time. WO Rice requested takeoff instructions and picked the Huey up in the revetment to hover out. Just as he reached a 3 ft. hover, his right seat fell to the floor. You got it, you got it!!, he shouted over intercom.

I immediately grabbed the controls and hovered the Huey outta the revetment and sit it down while WO Rice re-adjusted his seat.

Must have passed WO Rice's 1st impression test, I made AC shortly afterwards.

The timeframe is February, or so, 1970. I was a fairly new AC and this particular day, I was assigned to the HQ of the 22nd ARVN Division at ????, just east of Lane AAF at the end of Finger Mountain. The senior adviser there was Col. Barth, advising an ARVN Major General.

On this day, I took the Col. and General to the Provincial Headquarters at Tuy Hoa, to prepare for a visit from an American Air Force 4-star general, I think his name was Gen. Rossen. Gen. Rossen was to fly into Tuy Hoa AFB that afternoon and then tour the area where a recent large number of Chu Hoi (NVA troops) had capitulated in that Province.

After arriving at the Provincial Headquarters around 11:00 AM, Col. Barth released us for the day as three brand new VNAF Hueys were coming from Saigon to fly the dignitaries around on this tour. They didn't want our dirty ole 134th 2nd Platoon Huey to fly on such a VIP mission.

During our short flight back to Phu Hiep, we all were somewhat miffed that we weren't going to see a 4-star Air Force general and experience the fun of his tour. Knowing that such a high ranking officer always has more strap-hangers than expected, I suggested and all agreed, to have a early lunch and meet back at the ship and fly back over to Tuy Hoa just to see if we could assist in any way. If they didn't need us, we'd be back at Phu Hiep by 1:00 and have the afternoon off.

We took off as planned and while on short final to the Tuy Hoa Provincial H-Q's, I did NOT see the expected three new VNAF Hueys and thought they were already sitting on the VIP pad at Tuy Hoa AFB awaiting the 4-star. But running down to the helipad was Col. Barth and I though it odd he wasn't with the VNAF Hueys. Even before the blades stopped turning, Col. Barth was soooooo glad to see us I thought he was about to kiss us all!! He said he'd been trying to contact Demon Operations and have us return but with no luck. The VNAF Hueys were NOT going to be here and that this dirty ole 134th 2nd Platoon line Huey was it!!! He asked us to clean as much rice outta it as possible and attempt to make it a fit VIP aircraft, which we did.

The crew-chief, and I can't remember his name, had worked virtually all night getting our Huey mission ready, and he looked it. It looked as though he used his flight suit to wipe up some excess oil. I asked if he would be offended to trade places with the door gunner and let him do all the snappy things General expect. He was more than agreeable and the door gunner, and I can't remember his name either, said I'll impress the hell outta the General and he did!! Me too!

We loaded all the Provincial VIPs on board and flew across the river and positioned on the VIP pad at the AFB. The Air Force topped off our Huey and awaited the 4-star's arrival. His big jet, an Air Force DC-9, arrived on time and parked in the designated spot. Shortly afterward, all boarded our Huey and we were off to the site where all the bad guys surrendered, Chu Hoi, for more rounds of an on-going 'dog and pony' show. While enroute, F-4 Phantoms circled over-head to add security for the General. I thought they might as well put a sign on our Huey saying Big-Shot on board. Shoot this one!

The rest of the day is blurred by time; however, Col. Barth was impressed by our Demon spirit that day, so much so, he requested up through the 1st AVN Brigade that I become his personal pilot, which I did. I flew this mission all the way up unto the time the 22nd ARVN Division invaded Cambodia. I flew on the first lift of ARVNs into the Tri-Border region.

A unit closer to Col. Barth, 22nd ARVN HQ, then took over that assignment.

AM Def Ser Cam

Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022