35. A Crewchief's Recollections of Vietnam By Gene Molek

One of my most vivid memories is the day my door gunner, Danny Flynn, shot me. On February 23rd, 1969 I was the CE on gunship 019 and Danny, who was normally my gunner, had traded places with a slick gunner that day. We were covering a LRRP insertion near An Khe and Danny was gunner on the slick making the insertion.

The insertion went ok and we were on our back to An Khe when we heard on the radio that the LRRPs had run into trouble and needed extraction. We headed back to cover the extraction and things became pretty hot. Danny wasn't used to the butterfly grip on the slick M-60 and had problems with it so he fired his M-16 on automatic to cover the LRRPs. Everyone made it back ok and Danny came over to my ship when we landed. He was very excited and told me he had to use his M-16. He still had the M-16 in his hands and was waving it around. I noticed the clip was still inserted and told him to be careful not to shoot someone. At that point he said not to worry, it was empty, and pointed it at me and pulled the trigger. Two rounds went off. One hit the lower right side of my chicken plate (which I still had on) and the other went in my right forearm just above the wrist and came out at my elbow. The wound was painful but not that serious and I was back on duty in a few days. I think that's about the time I switched gunners.

We stayed on station to cover the slick and a maintenance officer from the 48th (I guess) came in to rig the ship to be hooked out. The fire was getting worse and was near the 105 mm artillery ammo at that point. The maintenance officer had the ship rigged and was standing on top of it to hook the sling up to the Chinook that was hovering overhead when the artillery rounds were set off by the fire. The maintenance officer was killed by an exploding round, and I believe the Chinook was also damaged. I don’t recall other details.

On another occasion, we took off from some airfield (I don't remember where) and were climbing through broken clouds. We were in one cloud for maybe 10-15 seconds and as we broke out we were staring face to face with a Caribou coming right at us at the same altitude. It couldn't have been more than a couple hundred feet away. Instinctively, I guess, the pilot bottomed the collective and the Caribou pulled up. That was the closest call I remember.

Finally, another incident I remember well is when I sank a sailboat with a rock. I normally carried a few large 5-10 lb. rocks on my ship for use as a sort of bomb. We were low leveling up the coast one day to Qui Nhon and about half way up we saw a beautiful sailboat, maybe a 25-30 footer, anchored in a small cove. The pilot was flying on a course straight over the sailboat at maybe 200 feet altitude. I decided to have a little fun and let go 3 of my rocks in quick succession as we passed over. I saw one splash, then another but no third splash. I wasn't sure if I hit the boat or not. We went on up to Qui Nhon and returned later that afternoon. As we came in sight of cove I could see the sailboat low in the water with only portions of the deck above water. I kind of felt bad about it after that.

I was CE of 019 for almost a year. I painted the baby devil on her nose and she was my baby. I lived with her and sometimes I slept with her. I took care of her like you would a baby and I guess I had an emotional attachment. On my last day in country I went out to the flight line and traced the baby devil on her nose onto a sheet of plastic. I still have it.

For the past 30 years I've always wondered what happened to my ship and whether she made it back to the US. Being something of a collector of airplanes, I’ve even toyed with the idea of trying to find 019 to buy it. Unfortunately, I learned only recently (June 2000) that 019 was destroyed in a crash barely a month after I left Vietnam.

AM Def Ser Cam

Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022