40. December 29, 1968 A Bad Day For The 134th by Mike Ogrysko
Some days can be better than other days and some days can be worse than other days. December 29, 1968 was not especially a good day for the 134th flight platoons. Earlier in the day Demon 295 was part of lift combat assault supporting the ROK Tiger Division in the mountains northwest of Phu Cat AFB. The aircraft was the first into the LZ and as the aircraft's skids touched the ground, an explosion rocked the ship. The ship had landed on an extremely large booby trap. And the day wasn't over yet.
I had been the crewchief on Devil 150 since inheriting it from Dave Bittner. It was a good aircraft and had no lingering maintenance problems. She was one of the two Frogs that the 134th had and the M5 system was always reliable and we were hauling 38 rockets on this day (an extremely heavy load). 150 had just completed her 100-hour maintenance and we were scheduled to deploy to An Khe within a day or so. I was scheduled to DEROS in mid-January, so I was getting really short. But yet I felt pretty confident about flying and doing my job. December 29 had started as a lay back day. We had flown to An Khe and back on a mail/supply mission. LT. McNeely and WO1 Djikowski were the pilots and PFC Ernie Smith was filling in as my gunner for Darryl Austin. Later that day around 1830, another Devil gunship and we were scrambled to support the 28th ROK Regiment who had an estimated VC platoon moving into an ambush site in the hills west of Tuy Hoa. A ROK lieutenant was also on board 150 to provide liaison between the ground troops and fire team.
Darkness seemed to come in very quickly that night. As our fire team approached a narrow valley, we spotted a campfire on the side of a hill. The ROK lieutenant advised that the campfire wasn't from his people. We went rolling in hot on the next pass and the VC on the hill opened up with automatic weapons on the right side of the aircraft. We immediately returned fire and continued to fire our M60's until we were out of the valley. The aircraft had taken a hit through the oil cooler and into the battery after passing between Ernie Smith’s legs. The round missed Ernie's family jewels by 5 inches. By this time the Christmas tree was lit up and the aircraft was rapidly loosing oil pressure. LT. McNeely limped the aircraft out of the hills and began a power-on approach to a dry rice paddy. At about 100 feet, the engine quit, and both pilots did a great job of setting the fully loaded Frog down softly without another scratch. We immediately established a perimeter while the other gunship flew cover. It certainly does get lonely and rather eerie in a rice paddy at night, but everyone was cool and luck was certainly with us and also, another time to be thankful that gunships fly in pairs. A Demon slick eventually evacuated us back to Phu Hiep.
Meanwhile back at the company, LT. Benny Doyle quickly established and led a recovery team to bring the aircraft back that night. The 268th Pathfinders and a platoon from the 28th ROK were rapidly shuttled in by our own Demon slicks to provide security for the recovery. The aircraft was successfully recovered and fully repaired with a replacement engine, oil cooler, and battery within three days. I continued to crew 150 for about another week in An Khe and left her in Sterling Petersen's hands Petersen was the crewchief of Demon 295 on the 29th of December 68.
Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022