41. I Was There Too! By Robert Palmer
When I first came into the country I was assigned to the motor pool, after all I was trained to repair tanks and trucks, and I wasn't there long. As soon as I looked at the slicks, I new that is what I need to do. This was not going to be easy to just move into a new m.o.s. just like that. The first sergeant put me on the shit detail, literally, and I was to drive the truck with the half barrows full of, well, you know what. Next, I was put on the water well. I was taking care of the feeding of chlorine to the water. I finally made it to the Demons, and I was airborne.
I was a door gunner flying and learning how to be a crew chief, cleaning guns, wiping the ship down after each mission, twisting safety wire and finally made it. I was a crew chief. For my next step, I had my eyes on the devil gun ships. Well, there was a sergeant who was a juicer standing in the way. He told me the only way I was going to fly with the guns was to kick his ass. OK, take off the shirt and the strips and let's go. Well, he must have liked me after I got my ass kicked; I was in the guns the next day. On my first day we saw a black bear when we were flying, and the pilot said shoot it. I didn't. He told me that when he said shoot, I had better pull the trigger on anything that moved, and from that day on I did. We escorted the demons in on hot LZ's and we pulled the triggers. I watched trees disappear from the rockets being shot from the pods and bullets fired from the miniguns, that made the fillings in my teeth feel like they were going to vibrate out of my mouth. I was glad I was up there and not down on the ground. I volunteered for Vietnam and have a lot of pride in what we did over there, and for my fellow countrymen. We were young and working long hard hours, so when we got a chance to fly we were happy to get off the ground. Because it was very hot and muggy when we were on the ground, flying with the doors open and the wind in my face was great. I can remember stopping at Qui Nhon at the Strawberry Sunday pad for an ice cream treat.
During the night of August 28, 1970 at Phu Hiep, we were resting in the hooch when we heard the sound of mortars being walked across the compound. The lights on the basketball court were a great target. At that point we were up and out the door and heading for the bunker. I was running when a round landed near the top of the revetments. I was moving really fast and jumped into the bunker. You could smell the gun power in the air; about 30 rounds came in that night. After they stopped, we got our M-60s and ran for the duce and a half trucks to take us out to the flight line. The sergeant stopped me and told me I was hit. I guess I was so pumped I didn't feel it. I looked at my shirt, and it just looked wet, but that is when it started to burn. They took me to the infirmary. I was hit in the neck and back, but not bad. They had to take some shrapnel out leave some in and stop the bleeding, and I went back to work the next day. Although several men were wounded seriously, they all recovered. We found a piece of shrapnel in my buddy's pillow, we were lucky that night.
We went about our days counting down the time we had left over there, on our ‘how short can you be calendar', 3 digits left. On October 14, 1970 we were on a combat assault mission. Parked on a runway at Cheo Reo, the pilots WO Price and Smith were getting ready to move the helicopter from chalk 5 to chalk 7 when # 6 moved, and to avoid a midair he pulled the cyclic back and put the stinger into the ground hard. The tail broke off and the aircraft spun around two times. I held on tight. I was looking at one side of the runway, then the other, then the other side one more time; we hit the ground so hard the skids flattened out. No one was injured. One of the pilots was recording that day so he would be able to send it home to his wife so she would know what it sounded like to be in a helicopter for a day. I wonder if she ever got it.
Around the time I became a two digit midget we packed up and moved to Tuy Hoa air base, and that was like a vacation. Air conditioning, better everything and boy the Air Force had it good. It was ours now. I almost hated to leave and go on R&R. R&R, that was setup just for the GI's: yes, it was Bangkok, Thailand. We had a great time there as short as it was. I think we can keep them guessing about it. Then back to Hell's Half Acre for some more entertainment by the girls at the bar that sang American songs. I didn't like there interpretation but they looked good. More flying, some more time at the beach and before I knew it I was a one digit midget. Yes, I was as short.
Now off to Cameron bay where I missed my freedom flight by three days just to wait for my buddy so we would fly home together. The longest trip I have been on nineteen hours. We landed in Seattle in the middle of winter (mid 20s) still in my jungle fatigues but I was back on US soil at last.
I would like to thank the people who wrote the history of the 134th Assault Helicopter Company for helping me with getting the dates and names right and keeping alive the memories of a time long a go in a land far away.
Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022