50. How I Became A Demon By W.O. Bowman Roberts

When I went over to 'Nam in August of '69, of course several of my ole Flight School buddies accompanied me. One in particular was Warrant Officer (WO) Robert Stern from Shreveport, LA. He and I were in the same married Warrant Officer Candidate (WOC) Flight and kinda teamed up together to last out this ordeal of Vietnam. One day while at Cam Ranh Bay, we were awaiting our flight to Nha Trang for assignment, Robert and I happened upon a WO Halverson from the 134th AHC who was returning to Continental United States (CONUS) for an emergency leave. And as predicted, we asked what was it like over here?

WO Halverson began telling us of his experiences and of course what were the bad areas and good areas. He said he was stationed a Phu Heip Army Airfield (AAF) with the 134th Assault Helicopter Company (AHC). Phu Heip, according to Mr. Halverson, was a paradise on earth. White beeches, clear blue water and Robert and I could see ourselves frolicking on those beeches. We were sold, but how does one get such a cushy assignment? Mr. Halverson said it was a done deal if only we'd ask for the 268th Combat Aviation Battalion (CAB) when we arrived at Nha Trang. Keeping this all to ourselves, we didn't want everyone else competing for our outstanding assignment.

Upon arrival at Nha Trang, Robert and I found out where those assignments were handed out and beat-feet there ASAP. We want to be assigned to the 268th CAB.. The Major looked bewildered at us for a moment and said, okay, I'm sending some up there and it might as well be you two. Wow!! We did it!! Days on the beach, just like Frankie Avalon but without Annette. Life is good we thought!

A Demon helicopter picked us up and headed for Phu Heip, the garden spot of 'Nam. Accompanying us was a Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class (CW2) on his second tour and he'd be flying Chinooks with some medium lift company. The Demon helicopter touched down on the ramp in front of 268th CAB Headquarters (HQ) and off we waddled with our bags to meet our fate.

Like everything in this man's Army, it was hurry up and wait. They moved all three of us into the Battalion Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ) room which was just across the street from the officer's club. What a deal, Bob and I thought. The CW2 was kinda quite, not saying a lot and that should have been a sign of one who's been there before.

As we began to settle in and darkness fell, we heard sirens begin to wale. What the f..??? Don't remember anything like this in those Beech Blanket movies!! What to do? Following the lead of the more experienced CW2, we headed for the bunker as mortar rounds began falling all around us. Just as I went into the bunker, a round hit the street between us and the Officer's Club right beside a parked jeep. To this day I can still remember the smell of cordite and wondered, why are they shooting at me??? I'm not mad at anyone!! And besides, WO Halverson didn't mention this!!! Looking around in the bunker to see just how everyone else is reacting to being mortared, I noticed a Chief Warrant Officer 3rd Class (CW3), God, to a Warrant Officer 1st Class (WO1) like me, pulling one of those flimsy field office tables over his head while hitting the undersides with his hand every time a mortar exploded nearby. Seemed to me that this bunker could withstand any little o' mortar round, but I'm new to this all. Maybe I should crawl under the table with the CW3!! (Kinda think he must have been a short timer in retrospect.)

The Demons and Devils helicopters began to scramble looking for Charlie and his mortar tubes. Later, as things clamed down, we watched the Devils working out with rocket and mini-guns, what a sight. Thank you Devils.

The next morning while viewing the damage done the night before, I noticed a hole in our wall where mortar fragments blew through only inches away where my pumpkin head would have been had I not bothered going to the bunker as some did. The jeep that the mortar hit beside had two flat tires and the top was completely riddled. I was sold, when I heard sirens, I headed for the bunker, period.

This was the routine for the next three nights, heading for the bunker and watching Devil gunships do their thing. Robert and I started thinking about the paradise WO Halverson painted and tried to match what's happening to his vision of paradise. We concluded the WO Halverson had struck a deal with the Devils/Demons. If he could get someone to take his place, he wouldn't have to come back here. That had to be it. Robert and I said he would be dead meat if only we could get our hands around his scrawny little neck!!

Robert had enough with this paradise on the beach called Phu Hiep, when the time came for assignments within the 268th CAB, Robert said anywhere but here!! He was sent to the 129th Assault Helicopter Company (AHC) at Lane Army Airfield (AAF) and I was stuck with the Demons and Devils of the 134th AHC. This was gonna be a long year. Some months later when WO Halverson returned, I had long ago settled into the routine of Hells Half Acre and spared him his life, but I said I'm never gonna take your word on anything, ever again!!

Robert Stern became a maintenance officer with the 129th and I cheated death with the 2nd Platoon as a line pilot. We both Date Return from Overseas (DROS)ed together and flew on that big beautiful bird home, exactly one year to the day, almost to the hour, that we started this excellent adventure. I'll never forget how everybody onboard cheered as the airplane broke ground and we knew we'd be home within days. Vietnam was a thing of the past, at least for a while.

AM Def Ser Cam

Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022